Monday, August 27, 2012

Cleaning out the pantry

Today begins a couple week of trying to clean out the freezer and pantry of all the various items I've bought but never got around to using.

I read last week that Americans waste as much as 40% of their food. That's crazy. I don't want to be a waster. So I'm going to get back into planning meals again and buying for those meals specifically. I hope to shop one big trip once a month, little produce runs once a week (with a strict list) and the last week of the month will be "pantry creations."

Yesterday I listed everything in our pantry, fridge and freezer, then found meals that use those items. I'll probably have to pick up a couple things here or there - I might need more spinach later this week - but for the most part, we have plenty to eat.

Tonight's meal is Thai Curry Soup. It uses chicken stock I had frozen, frozen chicken breasts, spinach leftover from the salad I made this weekend, rice noodles I've had too long and some red curry paste I bought on clearance at Kroger a while back but hadn't opened. I'll try to come back and post the soup recipe later...after I eat it!

This weekend I made some chipotle cashews that were awesome too. I'll post that recipe below:

Chipotle Cashews

1 lb cashews - unsalted
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp oil (I used olive)
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chipotle pepper powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300. Mix all ingredients except the cashews in a small bowl until well blended. Toss cashews with the spice mixture. Spread cashews in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes - Keep an eye on the cashews, at first I put them in at too high of a temperature and they started to burn, so I might be a little off on the time.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, pack in an airtight container. Try not to eat all of them at once!

Thai Curry Soup

2 oz thai rice noodles
1 tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp red curry paste

32 oz chicken broth
2 tbsp tamari sauce
1 tbsp sugar (I used agave nectar)
1 (13.5 oz) can lite coconut milk
8 oz cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 10-oz bag baby spinach leaves
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rice noodles and cook following noodle instructions. Drain and rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking; set aside. 

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and ginger; cook and stir until aromatic, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the curry paste, and cook 30 seconds more. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and stir until the curry paste has dissolved, then pour in the remaining chicken stock along with the soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.Stir in coconut milk, chicken, mushrooms, spinach, lime juice, and cilantro and simmer 20 minutes.   

To serve, place some rice noodles into each serving bowl and ladle soup on top of them. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of sliced green onion. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A quick review - what I avoid

I’ve shared my blog with a few new readers lately, so I’m going to quickly review the foods that I avoid so you understand what is and is not in the recipes I post. My list of sensitivities are the result of a blood test done under the supervision of a doctor in January 2012. And before I get started, GF = Gluten Free and V = vegan. 

Gluten – wheat, barley, malt, rye, spelt, regular oats (I buy GF oats). I also avoid maltodextrin and monosodium glutamate as much as I can. This means I have to carefully check anything with seasoning – sausages, seasoned chips and crackers, spice mixes, marinades, boxed meals and soups. I stocked up on almond flour, oat flour, quinoa and rice pasta to replace many of the gluten-full items in my pantry. We eat a lot of rice (mostly brown) as well. 

Casein – I am more sensitive to mozzarella cheese than other dairy products, but casein and swiss cheese are also on the second tier of sensitivities. On the third tier (not as bad) sensitivities are yogurt and cottage cheese.  So as a result, I avoid all dairy products. I’m really struggling with not being able to use plain greek-style yogurt in cooking Mediterranean and Asian foods, so I may consider trying to add that back in sparingly. I’ve also considered adding in butter on occasion because I’m not a fan of using margarine. I only use one brand of margarine – BestLife. The rest of the time I use coconut oil or olive oil depending on what I’m making. I use almond milk or coconut milk in place of dairy milk in most recipes. Coconut milk will whip up nicely for mousse or whipped cream topping. Be careful with cheese substitutes (soy cheese, etc) – they usually have casein in them. 

Eggs – I am sensitive to egg whites, so many gluten-free products on the market (eggs, baked goods, etc) are not an option for me. I often buy GF/vegan products for that reason. 

Yeast – I am sensitive to both kinds of yeast – bakers and brewers – so even if GF breads are vegan, I still have to make sure they don’t have yeast in them. Yeast is also used as a seasoning in many items. 

Peanuts – My daughter and I are both sensitive to peanuts so we have a lot of cashews, pecans, walnuts and almonds around instead. I’ve tried various PB substitutes (sunbutter, soynut butter and almond butter) and almond butter is my favorite. I also like sunbutter as the occasionally snack on crackers (soooo good with honey), but its harder to find. 

Peppermint, oysters, and kidney beans – on my list, but not too difficult to avoid. 

The most time-consuming thing for me was figuring out how to make my own seasonings and sauces. I stocked up on:
  •  vinegars (red wine, white wine, rice, apple cider)
  •  oils (coconut, sesame, olive, walnut, grapeseed)
  •  juices (lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate)
  •  spices/herbs (cumin, cilantro, garlic, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, parsley, dill, curry)
Once I had the seasonings down, it was just an issue of adding those to basic vegetable, meat, grain dishes. 

In the last several months, I’ve also drastically reduced the amount of meat we eat at home. I’ve replaced a lot of that meat with quinoa, nuts and beans so you will see vegan recipes on my site as well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quinoa Taco Salad to the Rescue

To continue the theme of way too busy evenings, last night we had a Team in Training event to attend from 6- 6:45, so dinner was another quick one. We got a GREEN Bean Delivery - complete with locally grown green beans - so I thought it made sense to have some of those. The easy thing to go with it was the frozen Angus burgers we had in the freezer. So Annyka and Scott had burgers and green beans (well, Scott did, Annyka just picked at hers and complained that it was too hot) and I had green beans and an artichoke-cashew patty (it's better than it sounds).

Tonight, I had to get a swim in - I had to prove to myself I could do 500 m breaststroke just in case I have to use breaststroke a lot Saturday in my triathlon. So again, we weren't home until 7:15. Tonight the quick recipe was quinoa taco salad.

I love using quinoa. It cooks in about 15 minutes total so it's easy to use as a protein and/or carb source. I made it tonight to replace meat in taco salad.

Quinoa Taco Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 head lettuce, shredded

Combine first seven ingredients (quinoa through lime juice) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 12 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Fold black beans into quinoa and re-cover pan for about 5 minutes.

Mix corn, tomato, onion and jalapeno together into a salsa.

Layer salads on plate: handful of lettuce, fritos, quinoa-bean mixture, salsa. Top with cheese if desired. Serves about 5.

Constant Rush Hour

Every night around here seems like a rush. On the nights we don't have sports practice, fundraising meetings or chiropractic appointments, we end up having to run errands. Monday night was no different. Sunday we got home from camping on Lake Michigan, got bathed and crashed. Sleeping in a tent, being woken up at 6 am on a Sunday and swimming and running on the beach all day is exhausting!

Monday I had to run up to REI to get a new pump for my bike and also Target to get baby shower and bachelorette gifts. We didn't get home until after 7 so I had to throw something together quickly before I was forced to eat my firstborn for dinner. Mexi-rice rose to the occasion. Normally I would make this with brown rice since we all know that is better for us, but white rice cooks so much faster, so I used white. These instructions will be for white. If you did this with brown, it would pretty much be the same, but cook it for the amount of time your brown rice requires.


1.5 cups white rice
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 4 oz can diced green chiles
1 cup water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 lb chorizo
1/2 onion, diced
 1-2 tsp coconut oil

Bring all ingredients, except chorizo and onions, to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed - about 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, heat oil and onions until onions are soft. Remove chorizo from casing and crumble into pan with onions.
Once rice is done. Remove from heat and leave covered for 5 minutes.
Fold chorizo and onions into rice mixture. Serve hot. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sudden Change of Plans

Do you plan your dinners in advance, or is it more of a what looks good in the fridge? kind of plan?

I plan. I come up with a list of several meals that we'll have over the next several days or weeks then shop accordingly. Then each 3 or 4 days I look at the list and decide what we're having the next few nights. Since I'm often not home until 6 or 6:30, prepping the night before is almost a necessity.

Yesterday I mentioned I had made the coconut rice in preparation for tonight's Thai stir-fry. Didn't happen. : /

Scott called when I was on the way home to tell me friends were coming over for dinner. Thankfully our neighbors had given us a bag of frozen Angus burgers so I had Scott grab buns and sides and I heated up the grill. I didn't have enough rice & stirfry to share.

But while Scott was manning the grill I did have time to make the bean & chorizo soup for another night. So tomorrow will be stir-fry for Scott and I and probably leftovers for the kids.

Black beans with chorizo

2 cups dry black beans (or 2 cans of black beans, drained)
a lot of water (sorry I didn't measure)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 package of Trader Joe's Chorizo

Soak beans about 8 hours in enough water to cover.
Drain and rinse beans.
Fill large stock pot about 2/3-3/4 full of water. Add beans. Bring to boil.
Add garlic, onion, peppers, tomatoes and celery.
Stir in cumin and salt.
Remove casing from chorizo and crumble into pot.
Reduce heat to medium and cover pot. Cook beans for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until beans are soft.
Drain extra liquid if you want a less soupy dish. Using an immersion blender, blend some of the beans to thick the mixture. Serve with rice or tortillas.

I added some leftover corn to my "soup" at the last minute too, but that wasn't officially part of the recipe. Of course, we haven't actually eaten this dinner so hopefully its tasty. It smelled good!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Giddy for Thai food

I love Asian food and Thai is one of my favorites. I love the coconut milk, the curries, the cilantro, lime, basil, lemongrass...are you picking up what I'm putting down. Sadly I haven't found a really good Thai restaurant that is within a few miles of my house. Boooo. I'm craving the curry I had in Bozeman, MT at Sweet Chili, but that's not going to do me any good, is it?

So instead I'm all geeked out about the dinner I'm going to make tomorrow. I made coconut basmati rice tonight in preparation. Super duper easy and I can't wait to eat it. I'll make a stir-fry of peppers, onions and zucchini with cilantro and chili-lime sauce to go with it. I'll probably throw in some cashews too.

Then the next day I'll be making black bean soup with chorizo (soy chorizo from Trader's Joe's). I'm excited about that one too.

Coconut Rice
1 cup basmati rice
1 can lite coconut milk
1/4 cup water

Stir coconut milk and water together in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice. Bring to a soft boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

That's it. If I wasn't having it with stir-fry and I just wanted rice, I'd probably stir a little curry in with it, but this time I didn't.

Do you ever get excited about a meal you plan to make?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back home again in Indiana

I'm back from an 11-day break in the gorgeous greater Yellowstone area of Montana/Wyoming. My sister lives and works out there so I went out to hike and camp with her. We packed a lot into the time I was there - We camped at two separate locations (one a campground, one in the backcountry), I hiked or ran about 40 miles, went whitewater rafting and did a zipline course. I also drove the entire Grand Loop of Yellowstone, saw the Tetons for the first time and got to see some new animals - a golden eagle, pikas, a badger, otters and a grizzly close enough that I didn't need binoculars.

I didn't eat quite as well as I usually do at home - especially with red meat - but I only ate outside of my restictions a couple times. We had a dehydrated potato soup in the backcountry that had some dry milk products in it and I did have a couple bites of Leigh Ann's tiramisu at our last dinner. I'm fine, but to make up for any negative effects, I'm eating mostly vegan (I might have fish) for the next two weeks.

I introduced Leigh Ann to at least one recipe she really liked - the Thai Lettuce Wraps. We made them with chicken instead of tuna, but they were yummy. I should have some new recipes to post soon. I came across some good deli salads at a co-op in Bozeman, Montana. One was a chipotle potato salad and the other was a orange and curry quinoa salad that was excellent on a bed of spinach.