Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Turkey, Sweet Potato, & Kale Soup

November 21, 2017

I gave the kiddos options of either homemade pizza or soup for dinner. I went to grab the ingredients to make soup and couldn't believe I was completely out of carrots. What?! I always have carrots. How do you even make soup without carrots?! I wanted to make do with what I had so I got creative. You may want to keep this soup in mind for after Thanksgiving. It would be a perfect soup for using up those leftovers. I may rename it Thanksgiving Soup. Ha!

To start, I chopped up onion, celery, sweet potato, kale, and garlic. I sautéed the veggies in a little bit of olive oil. I added in chicken broth, chopped turkey (you could use chicken), and corn. I seasoned the soup with salt, pepper, sage, and basil from Young Living's Vitality Essential Oil line. I added in a couple handfuls of pasta and let it simmer until the pasta was tender.

Oh. My. Gosh. I think I just came up with my new favorite soup! It is so much more flavorful than just a traditional chicken soup. I love the sage and basil. It really kicks the soup up a notch.

From now on, I'll be buying an extra sweet potato anytime I am cooking up a turkey because I know what I'll be doing with the leftovers!

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality line of Essential Oils.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Chicken Gumbo & Apple Crisp

November 7, 2017

I've been trying to get our restaurant spending back on track. If you've followed my challenge, you know that I use our savings on groceries/restaurants for special events. Right now I am saving up for a vacation. My tip to you is to find your weakness. I know that I am our family's weakness. If I want to go out to eat, we go out. If I suggest a certain recipe at home, we eat at home. So it's on me to make us stick with it! I got groceries today and loaded us up in hopes that we stick around home for the upcoming four day weekend.

While getting groceries today, I saw really nice looking okra. I love okra, even though I really only use it one way. Gumbo. We fell in love with it when we were living in Louisiana. I play around with the recipe and tonight I used chicken. I have made it with shrimp, fish, chicken, sausage, and a combo of them.

Saute 1 cup each of green pepper, celery, and onion along with two cloves of garlic (chopped or through a press). I like to use olive oil to saute the veggies. Once they are tender, add two 14.5 ounce cans of beef broth, 16 ounces of tomatoes (I used home canned but stewed would be ok too), 1 teaspoon salt, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and 1 bay leaf. I used to add 1/2 teaspoon each of oregano and thyme. However, now I use Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line. You get a huge burst of flavor plus all the benefits of supporting your body's systems. I wanted to use my oils to help boost our immune systems. They are pretty strong so you don't even need a drop of each. I think I dipped three toothpicks into the bottle and then swirled it into the tomatoes before adding it into the pot. I'd start with two and see if you want a third. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. If you are using fish, add that next and let it cook for 10 minutes. I used a rotisserie chicken tonight so it didn't need extra cooking time. Next add chopped okra. The pack of fresh okra that I found was about 12 ounces. I cut the top and the tip off of them, then sliced. If it feels a little harder to cut and you can hear it sounding "crispy", don't use that one. It was allowed to grow too long and will be tough. Ok, so add your sliced okra and let it simmer 5 minutes. Remove your bay leaf. I like to serve the gumbo with rice. My favorite rice is Jasmine. I also sprinkle a little bit of Tony  Chachere's gumbo file on top. I don't know what it is about this gumbo recipe, but man, I just love it! So flavorful. Each bite makes me want to say mmmmm. Ha!

Now on to dessert! Seeing as dinner was a little homage to our time living in Louisiana, I figured we could do a little homage to our current home in New York. It's fall in NY and that means one thing: apples! I wanted to kick up apple crisp so that it would not only have more flavor but also give our immune system another boost. I started out with a store bought package of the dry ingredients for the crisp. I softened the butter for it and stirred in 4 drops of Young Living's lemon essential oil and 1 drop of their Cinnamon Bark essential oil. Then mix the butter with the dry ingredients, sprinkle on top of sliced apples and bake. Easy peasy. I think it's fair to say that dessert was a hit. There's hardly any left!

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Caldillo and Mexican Rice

October 26, 2017

I have two life lessons for you tonight. But first, a little back story. It was probably about 8 years ago and we were traveling across the country. We decided to make a pit stop at a friends house for a couple of days. It just so happened that they had some family staying with them at the same time and man did she know how to cook! So while we were there, we were treated to some home cooked Mexican meals. It was amazing. What was even more amazing was that she taught me a few of her recipes as she was cooking for us. Life lesson number one: always plan your visits around when deliciousness will happen. Ha!

Tonight's dinner is two of her recipes: Caldillo and Mexican Rice. She was very particular about the order that ingredients were added. She wasn't sure why it would make a difference, but to her it did. So, to me it does too. She didn't have measurements for a lot of it so it is based a lot off of taste. Here we go...

I had never heard of Caldillo before. Just imagine a hamburger soup with a Mexican kick. Start off by browning a pound of ground beef, along with some chopped onions. Season it with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. When you think you put enough seasonings, add more. And maybe add more again. You really want that cumin to pop. When the beef is about half way cooked, add 2 medium potatoes that are chopped into bite size pieces. Continue cooking until the beef is cooked through. Add 3 cups of water and heat to boiling. Then turn down the heat and keep it simmering, covered, until the potatoes are tender. Add 1 can of tomato sauce and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn and green beans). Cook for another ten minutes.

Heat up 2 cups of water and add 5 chicken bouillon cubes to it. Set it aside. Add some olive oil to a pan. Heat the oil and then brown one cup of Mahatma rice in the oil. Carefully add 1 can of tomato sauce. It is going to splash up so be prepared! Then stir in the bouillon water. This was one thing she was very particular on. She said that you had to add the tomato sauce first! Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. There is no need to stir. Once it is done, add some cumin and chopped fresh cilantro. Stir. Let the rice sit for 10 minutes without the lid.

To serve: Put rice and caldillo into a bowl. You can then top it with your choice of sour cream, mixed shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. We love to eat tortilla chips with it. My hubby crushed some up into his bowl. I used them as a scoop and ate some of my dinner like a dip. Yum!

Life lesson number two: learn to make do. I had to make a few adjustments to the recipes tonight. The only potatoes that I had on hand were purple potatoes. Hmmm. Ok. The recipe called for a mix of carrots, corn, and green beans. The only bag I had also included peas. Ok. I normally have a bag of Mahatma white rice. I buy this rice only for when I make this dish. I was out of it so tonight I used Jasmine rice. I didn't feel like running up to the store and didn't think these minor changes would make much of a difference.

Simple recipes but I hope you are prepared for how delicious they are!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Four Years of Savings and Cilantro Lime Chicken

October 25, 2017

Today is a super exciting day for me. Let me back up. Four years ago, I heard about a challenge. You know how every time you walk into a grocery store you end up getting way more than what you went in there to buy? The challenge was to stock up on groceries and then stay out of the store for 30 days. You wouldn't be tempted with impulse buys. I knew there was no way that I could do that so I put my own spin on the challenge. I figured out the average that I was spending at the grocery store each week. I added up four weeks and then divided by four. I did the same with how much we were spending at restaurants each week. My plan was to shop smarter, use up leftovers, cut down on impulse buys, and eat at restaurants less often. If I spent less than my average that week then I would actually transfer that money into a separate account. Watching the balance grow is so motivating! We would only use that money for special things. We used it for a couple vacations, to buy our puppy, and when the military moved us and we had to pay for two houses for over a year we used it to pay our mortgage. If I spent more than the average, I just counted that week as a zero. I planned on doing the challenge for 30 days.

Today was the final day in my 4th year!! I can't believe I have stuck with it so long. We certainly have not been as strict as the first year but I'm still pretty impressed with how well we did. When we moved again this year (thanks again military), we spent just over 30 days traveling. That is a lot of meals on the go. I packed our slow cooker and rice cooker. I knew that I could use the steamer tray in the rice cooker to steam up vegetables but I also found out that you could use the rice cooker to make pasta! Yes! It really cut down on how many meals we had to go to restaurants for. This past weekend was our 19th anniversary but we didn't hit up any restaurants. I planned out two meals that I LOVE that we make and it was so much tastier than going out anyway!

Ok, so are you ready for some numbers? The first year we saved $5,036.79. I was really getting creative with leftovers though. If you scroll back to some of those posts, you will probably laugh. The second year we saved $4,096.29. That year we had a move too. The third year we saved $1,518. Ok, clearly we slacked off. However, that is still over $125 a month! Today ended our fourth year and we saved $2,310.55. That is with moving and spending several weeks in a hotel! This is an average of saving just under $200 a month! What would you do with an extra couple hundred dollars a month?! This challenge really opened my eyes as to where our money was going. Need wiggle room in your budget? Try out this challenge. You will be amazed at what you can save. Ok, one more number just because I'm excited..... ready for this? So, in four years of just shopping smarter, recreating leftovers, sticking to my grocery list (I've loosened up on that one some), and eating at restaurants a little less (we do still go out), I saved a grand total of $12,961.63. WHAT?! All I can say is thank you Katie for doing your own challenge and inspiring me!!

Now on to dinner. I ended up combining two recipes for chicken thighs. They had similar seasonings and I figured they would mesh well. I started out by making a marinade for some chicken thighs. I mixed 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 large garlic cloves (through my garlic press), and about 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro. I added in some of Young Living's essential oils from their Vitality line. I added 8 drops of Lime and 1 drop of Oregano. I also stirred in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I put the marinade all over the chicken thighs and then decided to sprinkle them with a little bit of cumin too. You could just add it to the marinade. Refrigerate the chicken and let them marinate for 15 minutes to 2 hours. I let them sit for probably close to 2 hours. I used a ceramic dish so that I could sear the thighs on the stovetop and then cover them and move them to the oven. I seared the chicken on one side in a little bit of olive oil. I flipped the chicken over then put the dish into the oven preheated to 375 for 20 minutes. Let the chicken rest for at least five minutes before you slice into it. The juices will redistribute and it will be so delicious.

Have you tried Rice a Roni's Cilantro Lime rice? I have a slight addiction to rice/pasta. Ok, maybe not so slight. Ha! I cooked the rice according to package directions. Once it was done, I wanted to kick it up a bit. I added two drops of Young Living's Lime essential oil from their vitality line to about a half teaspoon of olive oil and then drizzled it over the rice and stirred it in.

For the veggies, I sautéed onion, baby portabella mushrooms, and pea pods in a little bit of coconut oil. I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Dinner was a hit. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. The combo of recipes totally worked together! The rice had just the right kick. I should write to Rice a Roni and tell them to add more lime!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Turkey Burgers and Crab Ravioli

October 22, 2017

Today was such a great food day! It is our 19th wedding anniversary today. My hubby asked if I wanted to go out for lunch or dinner. Um. Nope. We make things that taste so much better than the average restaurant. I wanted deliciousness.

We started out by making turkey burgers for lunch. We don't really follow a recipe. Start with a pound of ground turkey. I think we use 95% lean. Mix in a palmful of chopped cilantro, salt, chili powder, and lime juice. Sorry, no real measurements. He grilled the burgers for around 8 minutes. Top it with provolone cheese and guacamole. We made our guacamole with 2 avocados, a tomato, a palmful of red onion, palmful of cilantro, salt, pepper, and 6 drops of Young Living's Lime Essential Oil from their vitality line. I had my burger on butter lettuce but you could use a bun if you prefer. Yum. So much flavor.

Ah. Now on to the part of the day that I have been waiting for. Last year, we watched Master Chef and Gordon Ramsey made a dish that looked incredible- crab tortellini. We recreated it and had it last year when we caught blue crab in the Gulf of Mexico. Tonight we made a couple changes again.

For the crab stock: My hubby sautéed snow crab shells in coconut oil. He added in carrots, celery, and green onion. Once the veggies were carmelized, he added in white wine, chicken stock, and 2 drops of Young Living's Fennel Essential Oil from their vitality line. He seasoned the stock with a little salt and pepper. You could substitute Anise extract if you don't have fennel oil.

For the Filling: My hubby mixed up the cooked snow crab, chive and onion cream cheese, lemon juice/zest, and salt and pepper.

We made up some pasta dough and used our ravioli pan to shape them. Make sure that you use an egg wash for where the layers of dough need to stick together. The ravioli only need to simmer about 4-5 minutes. We served our crab ravioli with some crusty Artisan bread.

Oh my goodness. Crab ravioli is so good. I love crab. I love homemade pasta. I really couldn't have asked for a better anniversary dinner. Next up, dessert. All the dessert. We may or may not have bought 5 different desserts (sample size). But hey, we only get an anniversary once a year. Bring on the sweets!

*I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's essential oils from their vitality line.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

October 12, 2017

I ran a few errands with my son and when we got back home a craving hit me. Dessert. Any kind of dessert. I looked through the cupboards to see what I could come up with. I struck out on a few ideas and then I thought of doing my take on a Mexican chocolate brownie. Only problem is I didn't have quite everything that I needed. But if you know me, you know I don't let much come between me and my sweets! I found a way to make do with what I had.

I knew that to make my version of Mexican chocolate that I would need cinnamon, cayenne pepper,  and almond extract. I didn't have the extract. Hmmmm. I searched until I came up with something that would work. I grabbed a can of mixed nuts and dried fruit. I pulled out all of the almonds and put them into my food processor until they were pretty small pieces. That'll do.

For the brownies:
Mix 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. For the cinnamon, I added two drops of Young Living's Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil from their Vitality line. Beat in two eggs. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple dashes of cayenne pepper. I didn't measure it but I went extremely light on the cayenne. I didn't want the heat to overtake the brownies but if you like heat, add a couple more shakes. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. I then stirred in about 1/4 cup of the chopped almonds.

Prepare a 8x8 or 9x9 cake pan by spraying it with cooking spray. Spread the brownie batter into the pan and then top with a little more of the almonds. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. It should just be pulling away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick should come out clean.

You will end up with a light, cake-like brownie with a nice cinnamon kick to it. I wouldn't be offended if you drizzled it with caramel. Oh, caramel. I may need to dive back in for another round!

*Note- I can only speak to the safety of ingesting Young Living's Vitality oils.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall Pizza

October 5, 2017

I'm all about making leftovers not taste like leftovers. Yesterday, I made carmelized onions for our tacos and made sure that there would be leftovers. So, I planned tonight's meal around my leftover onions. Man, that sounds weird. But trust me. Those onions are so delicious. My first thought for tonight was pizza.

The easiest way to make your pizza taste better is to step up your crust game. You can buy dough from a pizzeria or from some grocery stores. I like to make pizza dough in our bread machine. It's as easy as dumping in a few ingredients and letting the bread machine do the work. You get fluffy, delicious crust with minimal effort. Score!

I tried coming up with ingredients that would go well with the carmelized onions. This is what I came up with: sautéed mushrooms, spinach, roasted butternut squash (also leftover from yesterday), and meatballs (leftovers that I just cut into quarters). I decided to go with a white sauce so I used alfredo sauce. I wanted the toppings to show through the cheese so I put thin slices of swiss cheese onto the sauce, layered the toppings, and then finished it off with mozzarella and asiago cheese.

The kiddos wanted just plain ol' cheese pizza. I popped open a can of my homemade pizza sauce, threw some mozzarella cheese on, and called it good. All I could hear in my head was "my pizza is better than your pizza". Ha! I didn't even take a picture of their pizza, because, well, cheese pizza.