Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life


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Quick and Easy

I often get asked what I kinds of things I regularly eat, and where I buy my food.  People who know my passion for healthy, homemade foods sometime think that always means lots of work and lots of money.  I’ll write a separate post on the money situation- and where I buy my food.  For now, I’ll focus on some tips and ideas to incorporate healthy food into your everyday diet… not just on the weekend when you have some extra time.

First and foremost- PLAN!  I could write a whole post on how I do my meal planning, but just think ahead.  And, when you do your grocery shopping, only buy healthy options- what you have in your house is what you will eat.  If you don’t have any canned soup and Cheetos, you probably won’t eat them!  Check out a previous post on more ideas for planning.

For now, I’ll share some recipes to use after you’ve done your planning.

A few great weeknight meals regularly consumed at our house:

Pasta, with pesto made from pureed kale and olive oil, with random vegetables I needed to use up!

Sweet Potato Tuna Melts

Tilapia with Roasted Garlic, Potato, and Kale Crust (you don’t have to roast the garlic- just microwave potatoes and stir in other ingredients).

Whole Chicken– just put it in the crock pot, and use the leftovers all week.

Greens with Carrots, Feta, and Brown Rice (use any cheese, grains and vegetables)

Learn to use what you have, and don’t pressure yourself by thinking every dinner has to be extravagant.  Make a big salad, and use leftovers as toppings.  Toasted sandwiches.  Breakfast for dinner- make a quiche, homemade pancakes and eggs, or French toast.

And finally- get creative.  Use the following ingredients to mix and create something that your family enjoys, depending on what you have available and what your personal preferences are.

Eggs, beans, lentils, leftover meat/chicken/fish

Grains- barley, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, pasta

Vegetables- onion, garlic, carrots, greens, peppers, broccoli

Use the above Greens with Carrots, Feta, and Brown Rice recipe and play around with it!  Make extra- and use leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.  You could even stir in some raw greens and avocado, sprinkle with some lemon juice- and there’s a hearty, healthy, and delicious salad.

I leave you with my meal from last night- nothing fancy, whatsoever.  But, practical… easy… I think it took 10 minutes

Saute onions and peppers in coconut oil until just cooked, but still crunchy.

Add spinach and garlic and stir together.

In a separate portion of the pan, or a separate pan… cook an egg (or two, or three…).

Serve your greens, with the egg on top.

I had a protein bar before dinner, so I just ate this with some sweet potato chips (from Food Should Taste Good).  However, serve over some grains, with some leftover chicken, or with a side such as sweet potatoes for a more filling meal.

What are your very favorite, busy night meals?  Or, what tips have saved you from running through a drive through after a long day?

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Chicken- it’s what’s for dinner.

Chicken.  Most people concerned about health, but not wanting to go vegetarian, probably consume a lot of this famous white meat.

Not in my household… I can live with or without chicken, but the husband is not a fan.  Say chicken and he’ll think “dry, bland, and not good”.  So for the first 2 years of our marriage, I almost never cooked chicken.

In an attempt to cut back on deli meat, I decided to roast a whole chicken- and use the meat on sandwiches and salads.  The results were fabulous.  Full of flavor, unbelievably moist… even the husband thoroughly enjoyed it!

His wings fell off 😦

When looking into chicken, I was amazed to see all of the health benefits homemade broth has to offer.  There’s actually a reason for this soup of choice when ill!

So, we know it’s really great for your health.  It’s also a great way to be frugal.  The bird I most recently bought was $14 (almost 7 pounds, free range, organic).  That included a dinner for 2, a week’s worth of meat (for leftovers, salads, sandwiches), and lots of broth!

This is one of those dishes you can get really creative with!

Here’s how I cook the bird:

Remove giblets, pat dry, and place in a slow cooker with about 2 inches of water in the bottom.

Season with salt, pepper (I use whole peppercorns), garlic and onion powder, sage, and rosemary.  (the options are endless-try experimenting with orange, cinnamon sticks, fennel, paprika, thyme, and other herbs!)

Cover and cook until done!  My 7-pounder was done in 6 hours on high (maybe sooner).  (Of course this will depend on the size of your bird, so just check with a meat thermometer before taking him out.  And remember, it will continue to cook after you take it out and let it rest.)

When you remove the chicken, be very careful!  I recommend using some tongs and a huge spoon or sturdy spatula for underneath support.  This guy’s meat will literally slide right off the bones.

Now-very important- let the chicken ‘rest’ after you remove it from the slow cooker- for about 30 minutes.  By doing this, you avoid all the juices escaping when you cut it.

When you ‘cut’ it, there is really no ‘cutting’ involved.  You should just be able to pick the meat off with a fork and tongs or your fingers.  Sometimes I just pull the bones out, and then pick through the meat to ensure it’s ‘clean’.

Okay- so now you have your chicken meat.

Eat it, pack it up, freeze it, do whatever you need to do with it.

Now it’s time to make your broth:

Put all the bones and other ‘inedible’ pieces back in your slow cooker (along with the juices).  I throw the skin out, but some people leave it in.

Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, some fresh garlic and peppercorns (and onion, carrots, celery if you’d like).

Cook overnight on low.

Strain the broth.

If you want low-fat, store it in the refrigerator for a few hours and the fat will solidify on top- then just scoop it off!

I usually store some in the fridge for immediate use, and freeze the rest in bags or jars (leaving room for expansion- learned that lesson the hard way!).

Whew- looks like a long post, but it really is incredibly simple and takes little ‘hands on’ time.

This chicken is so moist and flavorful for two main reasons: it’s cooked very slowly, and it’s cooked with the bones in and skin on.  I don’t eat the skin, but leaving it on during cooking produces dramatically different meat!

If I haven’t convinced you- do a little research on chicken broth, and try it for yourself!


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Fascinating Fall: Pumpkin Tea Latte and Kettle Corn

Ahh… the sweet flavor of fall.

Fall is above and beyond, my very favorite season.  I guess it’s the feel of the cool air- a fresh sensation following the dreadful humid heat, the beauty of trees changing colors, the smells, and most importantly- the food. 

As much as I love the fresh produce of summer, I cannot wait to begin seeing pumpkin, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash available!  My favorite seasonings are cinnamon, cocoa, and honey.  I think I was “born this way” (and remember, “God makes no mistakes; I’m on the right track baby…”; sorry- gotta love Gaga!), but I have always loved rich food; dark chocolate; dry, bold red wine; dark, bold coffee; creamy casseroles; and heavy soups.

So naturally, I get giddy when I see orange leaves outside! 

An obsession with rich, heavy foods does not have to mean you can’t be healthy!  I will be sharing all kinds of foods to fit these fancies, and how to keep your health in mind along the way.  Don’t forget that the fundamental principle with living a healthy lifestyle is to keep it real- make it yourself.  So put down that package of hot chocolate loaded with sugar and unknowns, and let’s get into the kitchen!

First in line- the perfect enhancement for my night in last Friday…

 

Pumpkin Tea Latte

adapted from Modern, Christian Woman 

1 tea bag (any kind- I used green) 

1 cup water 

A couple spoonfuls of cooked (or canned) pumpkin 

Honey

 Pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg) 

1 cup milk (I used soymilk)

 

Steep the bag until tea is ready.  Heat the milk, then whisk in other ingredients.  Combine milk mixture with tea.  Feel free to mix it up- add cocoa, vanilla, or whatever else sounds delicious!

 

Have you ever made popcorn on the stove top?  I have always avoided it, thinking I needed that special popcorn popper pan… not true!  I hear you can also do it in the microwave (in a paper sack), but have never tried.  On the stove, just use a heavy bottom pan with a lid.  Add some oil to it (I like sunflower or coconut oil– something that can withstand high heat), and some seasonings.  For my kettle corn, I added salt and brown sugar.  Pour in a couple tablespoons of popcorn.  Note- popcorn explodes way more than you may estimate; so start with a little and add more if you need to!  When it begins to pop, just shake that pan like crazy, so it doesn’t burn.  Once there is a pause between pops, remove from the heat and enjoy (the entire, humongous bowl if you’re like me).

 

What’s your fall favorite?


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Tilapia with Roasted Garlic Potato Crust and Kale

Well, after a long sabbatical (I wish it were actually rest, but instead just rest from blogging!)… I’m back!

I will start off with my delicious meal from this evening… then will share my experience with homemade pasta and the most amazing lasagna ever created!

This dish is probably my favorite tilapia recipe yet.  After eating coastal seafood, what we get in the Midwest is tough to enjoy.  And tilapia, the budget fish, is the worst.  The strong, rich garlic; creamy potatoes; and fresh and crispy kale are the perfect match to bring out the good in this fish!

This recipe is for 1 serving.  Just multiply all ingredients by the number you plan to make!

Tilapia with Roasted Garlic Potato Crust and Kale

  • 1 tilapia fillet
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • EVOO
  • splash of milk
  • 1 russet potato
  • 1 kale leaf
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • tarragon
  • salt
  • pepper

 

  • Roast garlic, tossed in EVOO, in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes; until slightly brown and soft.
  • Meanwhile, cook potatoes (steam or microwave).
  • Puree garlic with milk, add cooked potatoes. Stir in 1/2 of the chopped kale and tarragon.
  • Place tilapia in baking dish (preferably same as garlic dish), season with salt and pepper.
  • Top with mashed potato mixture, sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Broil fish until cooked.
  • Serve with lemon wedge; top with fresh herbs.

Idea: Great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!


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Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Are you a seafood eater?  I used to despise the stuff.  Now, I eat more fish than I do beef and poultry combined.  Unfortunately, the Midwest doesn’t exactly boast of its spectacular seafood.  Understandable.  However, that shouldn’t keep you from eating it.  As long as you prepare it right, with a little seasoning and love, it can be quite tasty.  Without further ado, here’s my new favorite preparation of my all-time favorite fish:

Baked Salmon with Mango-Avocado Salsa

salmon

2 salmon fillets

EVOO

salt

garlic pepper

tarragon

salsa

1/4 mango, peeled and cubed

1 avocado, cubed

orange zest

juice from 1/4 orange

green onions

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Coat salmon with oil and seasonings. Bake at 350 until cooked through.

2. Meanwhile, combine salsa ingredients.

3. Top cooked salmon with salsa and enjoy


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Delicious Juices

First things first; my cleanse is going quite well.  I finished week 1 in one piece; I’m feeling ‘clean’, have more energy, and haven’t felt bloated!  I’ve had a headache or two, but this is supposedly normal; and they’ve not been bad at all.  The only major negative I am experiencing is muscle soreness.  As mentioned earlier, I am continuing to exercise as normal.  Due to the minimal protein I am consuming, I guess my muscles are unable to recover as quickly as normal.  Therefore- I am looking forward to adding seafood, soy and beans/lentils into my diet today!

One of the best things so far has been trying out new recipes.  Here are a few of the items on my week 1 menu: butternut squash soup, tomato soup, various salads including slaws including avocado, bell pepper and arugula, roasted cauliflower and peppers, and sweet potato chips.

I’ll share more details on the best ones later.  In the meantime, I’d like to share some juicing recipes!

I got my juicer for my birthday in February, and have had fun experimenting ever since!  I started out with mostly fruits and a little veg.  Slowly, I’ve added more veggies and less fruit.  Typically, I just put whatever produce I have around and see what the outcome is.

The best results have come from some combination of carrots, apples, pineapple, grapes and oranges.  These all taste nice, and yield a relatively large amount of juice.  I was really excited about juicing greens- but they don’t yield as much juice.  Lettuce and kale seem to do alright; spinach and arugula not so much.  However, I do still use these in addition to other produce.

Okay, now for some recipes.  These are some I’ve tried and enjoyed.

Grapefruit-Carrot

2 grapefruits, peeled

5 carrots

1 inch of ginger

Green Machine

6 leaves romaine

4 leaves kale

½ pineapple

1 mango

Fresh parsley

Fresh ginger

Beet-Carrot-Apple

1 small beet

5 carrots

1 apple

¼ cup fresh mint

(Okay, this one wasn’t great, but I think I could modify it to taste better.)

My goal for this week is to listen to my body.  I plan to stop eating when my body tells me it’s satisfied, instead of stuffing it full.  Be watching for some great vegetarian recipes to come!


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Cleanse Update

Well,  I had to modify.  Here’s how the first day of my cleanse went:

I had some carrot-grapefruit juice for breakfast in place of my typical oatmeal and coffee.  I felt okay, had some blueberries and almonds for a snack.  The headache and fatigue started, which was expected.  Then I ate my lunch: arugula salad with various toppings and lemon juice/EVOO dressing.  During my afternoon class, I started to feel real bad, and it only got worse.  I felt like I had the flu.  Then, I got sick.  I went home and took a nap (which I haven’t done in years)… went to work and got sick again.  I came home… got sick again… and went to bed at 7pm.  My conclusion is that I ate something bad- because I cannot imagine that simply changing my breakfast would’ve had such a detrimental effect (since the rest of the day’s diet was consistent with my normal).

So, I decided that Friday I would start my day off with a small bowl of oatmeal (with only flax, wheat germ and cinnamon added), and a very small cup of coffee.  The oatmeal I’m okay with; I think my body needs a little something in the morning, since I am continuing my exercise (which includes lifting weights).  Plus, I lost the support of my husband once I started getting sick; he is afraid I’m going to lose weight on this cleanse.  The coffee probably would be better to skip, but here’s my reasoning: coffee has lots of benefits and I therefore had full intentions of adding it back in after the cleanse.  So, I determined that it wasn’t worth the excruciating headaches to cut it out for 3 weeks!  Please don’t judge me 🙂

With that being said, I am continuing everything else as originally planned for the remainder of each day.

Yesterday, I made vegetable broth for the first time!  Super-duper easy and I have enough for a few days’ worth of soup.

I used carrots, leeks, celery (mostly the leaves), garlic and onions.  Just chop them up in large chunks and place in a big pot.  Then, fill with water and let it simmer for about an hour.  When ready, just pour through a mesh strainer and there’s your broth!

I used the broth to make tomato soup last night (and aren’t I nice- I made my husband a grilled cheese sandwich).  Tonight or tomorrow, I plan to use it for butternut squash soup.

PS- I will blog with all the juice recipes and how they taste later!  (I’m drinking beet-carrot-apple-mint juice now).