Monday, January 30, 2012

I love my grocery store!

This afternoon when I was checking out at Ken's Fruit Market (KFA) the [person I presume to be the] owner's wife asked me, with no other lead-in, if I was still doing my blog.
Now, I know it's a small store, and The H and I are in there *several* times a week, but I haven't mentioned my blog to her for over a year, since SHE asked ME if I was the "Clean Eating Machine." That interaction came about when I was purchasing leeks for a soup; she asked what in the world someone did with those, so I told her I was trying a new recipe for my blog.

So anyway, today. I was a little bit speechless for a second, but recovered quickly and told her that yes, I am still blogging, and actually recently linked to their website with my post about spilled flour.

And as I stand here in the kitchen, blogging and cooking all at once, I have to mention all the ingredients in tonight's dinner (Artichoke Lemon Chicken Pasta) that came from Ken's:


The only non-KFA items are white wine, chicken broth (I had already gotten it at Costco), artichoke hearts (thank you, Trader Joe's), and gluten-free pasta.

Lemon Artichoke Chicken Pasta
from "So Tasty, So Yummy"
serves 4-6

12 ounces pasta
2 strips of bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omitted)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (half a bag of TJ's frozen ones worked beautifully)
2 teaspoons capers, drained (omitted)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter (omitted)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnishing

**Looking back on this list, it seems I omitted quite a bit--but I don't feel that my changes negatively altered the overall product. It was still creamy and completely flavorful, just with slightly less fat, sodium, and calories. The instructions below reflect how I cooked this meal.**

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Cook pasta as directed; drain and set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven, cook bacon slices over medium heat. Remove to a paper towel and let cool. Chop into bits when cooled.

3. Cook chicken in bacon grease until lightly browned on each side, and cooked through. Remove to a cutting board lined with paper towel.

4. Add mushrooms and artichokes to Dutch oven; saute until mushrooms are tender. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to loosen all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook two minutes, then add chicken broth and lemon juice. Cook two more minutes, then add cream and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Slice chicken into strips and add to mushroom-artichoke mixture. Stir in bacon bits and a handful of fresh chopped parsley. Serve hot.

Post-dinner update: This was a hit! Even the little guy had more than one serving, and bravely tried the artichokes. I loved the lemony sauce over the pasta and artichokes, though The H thought he would've enjoyed it more with less lemon. (I have a "thing" for lots of lemon. Ask The H sometime.)

Either way, I look forward to making this again. We did not flour the chicken (for somewhat obvious reasons, I hope) but did add salt and pepper as it cooked. I omitted the butter but left the heavy cream as is, since it's such a small amount anyway. The box of GF pasta I had was only 8oz instead of the 12oz called for, so we had a lot of soupy sauce that we ended up thickening with an arrowroot slurry.

After watching the little guy pick out all the pieces of bacon that had the nerve to end up in his mouth, and tasting the bacony-flavored chicken as I sliced it, I realized I could probably omit the crumbled bacon at the end. Mine turned out crispier than I would've liked anyway, but the flavor was a nice base to start with. We served this with (not seasonal) fresh roasted asparagus.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly menu

It's finally looking like a true Michigan winter outside my window. We've gotten over 6 inches of snow since yesterday, on top of the few that fell Friday night.

While we're WAY behind where the snowfall typically is for this time of year, and I'm thrilled about that, it still doesn't really make me like it any more. Drivers around here are terrible in the snow (or any change of weather, for that matter). It makes me very grumpy. Since we *usually* have it on the ground for roughly half the year, November through April, one might imagine they'd get used to it. But no. Grr.

With that, I give you my Comfort Foods Extraordinaire menu:

Sunday lunch - grilled cheese and tomato soup

Sunday dinner - caramel apple pork chops with brown rice and kale chips

Monday - lemon artichoke chicken pasta with GF pasta

Tuesday - lentil and black bean soup

Wednesday - beef stew

Thursday - visiting my parents for the weekend

Lunches: roasted garlic cauliflower soup, clean eating egg salad, leftovers from dinner, maybe a frittata or Spanish omelet. The little guy asked for an "eggza" today... eggza = egg pizza, or what we called the aforementioned foods when he refused them at first.  :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No use crying over spilt gluten-free flour...

because Amazon has a great refund policy, and I'm getting my money back. Good thing, too; that stuff is not cheap. Lucky for The H I just made a loaf of bread last week! I guess my Babycakes NYC experiments will have to wait until next week, unless I stop into Ken's Fruit Market and grab a bag there... 

Monday, January 23, 2012

New year, new house

OK, not exactly. "New year, new roof, new furnace" is much more accurate. Yes indeed; just a few short weeks after we roofed our house and garage, our furnace decided it wanted to be upgraded, too. Why does stuff like that always seem to happen on a (winter) weekend or holiday?

Thanks to a good recommendation from friends, we are getting taken care of as I type... wearing two pair of running tights, winter boots, and three top layers, including one with a hood and thumbholes. The little guy spent the (cold!) night at my in-laws with the dog while DH and I roughed it here with a few space heaters and loads of blankets. I also escaped to hot yoga for a few hours last night. A girl's gotta take care of herself.

The fact that I can't feel my nose makes me think "comfort food" for dinner tonight. The fact that it's close to 50* and thunderstorming outside is messing with my head. Either way, two-bean chili may very well be in order. And unless the new furnace kicks in soon, I'll be making some bread or cornbread to go with it. Or maybe just seasoning my cast iron skillets. Probably both.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vegetarian coconut black bean soup

This is another recipe from my favorite meatless book, "OK, So Now You're a Vegetarian." It's a recipe that didn't catch my eye until this month, despite owning the book for over ten years. Funny how tastes can change; I literally never gave it a second glance until now.

The little guy and I took this soup to share with friends when they invited us to dinner a few weeks ago. Meals with this particular family are usually a cooperative effort--a little of what we have available combined with whatever they have on the menu--and although a bit chaotic considering their three kids and our mini monster, always leave me with a sense of peace and satisfaction. Good friends and real, wholesome, hearty food has that effect on me. We agreed this soup was a great base for future inspiration. The picture below shows it as my leftovers for lunch, with shelled edamame and cooked cilantro-lime shrimp added.
Coconut Black Bean Soup
by Lauren Butts
serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups water
1 (14oz) can lite coconut milk
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, with the juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 (14.5oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed (I used beans I'd cooked myself, about 3 cups)
1 cup cooked corn kernels (I used frozen white corn)
1 cup cooked white rice (brown rice or quinoa would work fine, too)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a large heavy pot, combine water, coconut milk, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often.

2. Add black beans, corn, rice, and salt. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5-10 minutes. Stir well and serve. This soup is best if served the next day, so flavors can thoroughly mingle, but it's still fine to make and eat at once.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekly meal plan

What a gorgeous weekend it's been here! Lots of sun, no snow, very little wind. Perfect for running or working in the garage and yard (anyone else a little behind in taking down the Christmas lights?). Here's what's on our meal plan this week...

Sunday lunch - gluten free pancakes with pumpkin puree and chia seeds

Sunday dinner - sesame chicken with broccoli, from Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Monday - Spanish Tortilla from a gluten-free cookbook The H got as a gift

Tuesday - tacos with corn shells after running group (keep meat warm in CrockPot)

Wednesday - buffalo chicken sweet potato bites (didn't get to make them last week)

Thursday - pizza for my boys while I'm running and attending a jewelry party

Friday - chili in the CrockPot

Saturday - out/TBA

I also plan to try a new GF sandwich bread recipe for The H; my goal is to have that made for Friday's chili. Lunches will be leftovers--I'm still working through that minestrone soup--and things from my list that didn't get made last week. I did err on the side of over-prepared, which is just how I like it. Have a great week!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Minestrone Monday

Monday marked Day 6 of our roofing job, and unfortunately not the last. Our house isn't all that big, folks, and the weather wasn't bad until Sunday. Big sigh. And is it a requirement that all construction workers must smoke? Yuck.

On a brighter note, since I was home anyway, I decided to make my planned dinner, minestrone soup, for lunch--much more time to putter when the little guy is at daycare! It made a giant batch, so I stuck one in the fridge and three more in the freezer. One of those is a "family size" portion that we'll have for lunch one day when The H is working from home. Even though I've been eating lots of fruits and vegetables for a number of years now, it still tickles me to know that I've eaten a giant portion like this in one sitting. Nerdy, right?

This recipe is from a book I bought in college, during my stint as a vegetarian. It's a very down-to-earth book; the author was a teenager when she wrote it as a result of the research she did to convince her parents to let her adopt a vegetarian diet. When I was flipping through it last weekend I was reminded how many great-sounding recipes there are in it! I've made this soup many times, but today was the first time I made it gluten-free by using corn pasta.

Minestrone Soup
from OK, So Now You're a Vegetarian by Lauren Butts
serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery (including the leaves, if you have them), chopped
2 carrots, chopped (I used about 12 baby carrots)
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic (I used two fresh cloves, minced)
1 potato, diced
3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (a little more is ok)
1 can (14-16oz) diced tomatoes, plus the juice
1 cup water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (20oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup orzo, alphabet noodles, or other small pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and potato, stirring often until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add rosemary and cook for a few seconds.

2. Add water and tomatoes and their juice; bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add broth and beans. Return to boil and sprinkle pasta over the surface.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with grated cheese before serving (optional).

I also added zucchini, yellow squash, and fresh mushrooms when adding the beans, plus a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after I tasted it. The pasta I used was Sam Mills lasagna corte, and it held up remarkably well for a GF pasta. The picture above is a reheated portion, served with gluten-free dinner rolls--recipe forthcoming!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First 2012 meal plan

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were delightful. We had a lovely time celebrating with friends and family. The little guy was thrilled to receive his very own play kitchen for Christmas, thanks to my in laws' Craigslist-stalking skills. He is adamant that he is going to be "a cook" when he grows up!
I took a few days of rest to recuperate from a spill that inconveniently occurred mere days before my final 5K of 2011. I ran/walked/trudged it anyway, with a friend and her 9-year-old (his first race!), clocking my second-slowest 5K time ever. We had a blast!
And to keep life really interesting, we decided to take advantage of our (previously) uncharacteristically warm and snow-free winter to do some much-needed work on the house and garage. You can see that as soon as work began, our nice-weather luck pretty much ran out.
Now it's time to get back on the proverbial track (that is, if you, like me, indulged more than normal throughout the past month). The best way for me to do that is to go into a week with a solid meal plan--not just for dinner, but also breakfast, lunch, and snacks. This is especially important for me this week, as The H is braving the elements and heading to Wisconsin for work. I find it much easier to stick with a plan when there actually IS a plan, funnily enough. I'll keep this list posted on my refrigerator for easy reference.

Sunday - GF pizza topped with a conglomeration of leftover odds and ends from the week's events (marinara sauce, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, onion)
Monday - minestrone soup from my favorite vegetarian cookbook
Tuesday - coconut black bean soup from the same book, a new recipe for me
Wednesday - local beef burgers and oven-roasted potato wedges
Thursday - homemade version of the little guy's favorite Chipotle meal, "rice and beans and cheese"
Friday - chicken and artichoke flatbread pizzas on garlic naan

Breakfasts - Better Oats apple cinnamon oatmeal with added chia seeds, green smoothies (post-run), leftover baked oatmeal, hardboiled eggs and wheat toast, homemade granola with almond milk

Lunches - leftover pizza, leftover soups (I may freeze portions of minestrone in order to get a jump on next week, too), shrimp and orzo, lentils and brown rice, leftover chili on top of sweet potato, Cara's sweet potato buffalo bites