Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 44 - Magic with Canned Potatoes

Chicken breast, Brussels sprouts, slow cooked Dijon potatoes.

 Alright, I have a confession, but first...let's cover lunch today.

Dijon potatoes, pan seared Brussels sprouts, pan chicken with a dijon glaze.  I will likely be remaking the chicken and sprouts later and sharing the recipe (they just didn't come out very pretty this time, for some reason), but I think it's time that I first come clean about the potatoes.

I do, from time to time, eat canned potatoes.

I know, I know.  It's horrible, it's awful, they're so gross.  I hear you!  Nothing makes me happier than a fresh Yukon gold roasted to perfection with some clarified butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.  I promise, I do cook those things!

I also go to the ballet and enjoy a nice art exhibit.  But sometimes, friends, I just want to watch trashy reality TV and eat something out of a can.  It happens.

I have found that, at least to my palette, freshly cooked potatoes do not taste good once they're cold, and they taste even worse once refrigerated.  Canned potatoes, however, can be manipulated to taste OK and they do MUCH better for transport and reheating.

I first met canned potatoes at summer camp.   They were always swimming in butter and served with Salisbury steak.  So, to me, they taste nostalgic.  I've found that the trick to making them myself is to not even try to go low fat...they need some flavor injected into them.  They're not as good as cooking your own, ever, but I will use them for  lunch occasionally when I get a hankering.

Yeah, I said it.  A hankering.

Edible Canned Potatoes

2 15-oz cans of whole new potatoes (I use Del Monte)
1/2 cup water
1 T chicken boullion
2 T dijon mustard
4 T butter
2 t onion salt

Drain and rinse potatoes and place in a medium sized pot.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over potatoes.  Cover and cook over medium heat until just barely simmering; continue to barely simmer for 15 minutes  before serving.  Alternately, you can place the ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 2 hours. Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 43 - Roasted Chick Peas

Red bell pepper, dijon and lemon potatoes, broccoli, and roasted chick peas!
This lunch is, clearly, very inspired on the Greek style lunch I had a few days ago.  I had lots of ingredients leftover, so I tried to use some of them up this week.  Dijon and lemon potatoes, steamed broccoli and red bell pepper, and roasted chick peas.

If you haven't discovered roasting as a way of having delicious chick peas, then you're missing out.  Roasted lightly, they are chewing and flavorful...roasted a little longer, they get crunchy and crisp and delicious.  They handle a lot of flavors well, so feel free to experiment!  Here's my usual method...

Roasted Chick Peas

1 15-oz can Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
2 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t dried sage
1 t dried rosemary
1 t dried dill
1 t onion salt
1/4 t cayenne pepper

Whisk oil, vinegar, and spices together in a small bowl (I usually use a large soup bowl for this).  Gently fold in chick peas and allow to marinate at room temperature while oven is pre-heating.  When ready to roast, evenly spread chick peas on a parchment lined baking sheet, pouring any leftover marinade over the peas.  For soft, entree style peas, roast for 15-20 minutes.  For a crunchier version, roast 30-35 minutes.  Enjoy hot or cold!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 42 - Fried Rice Leftovers

Leftover fried rice, edamame, mandarin oranges
I had Asian delivery last night.  I don't usually order delivery because it's so expensive, but sometimes I just can't resist.  Sometimes, you just need to sit on your couch while it rains outside and pay someone else to bring you food.  And it's awesome!

So, lunch today was leftover fried rice, along with some frozen edamame I had from last week and another orange cup.

I love lunches that take 2 minutes to pull together! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 41 - Tortellini Salad

Tortellini Salad, apples, strawberries.

Today!  Today was delicious...cold tortellini salad with fruit on the side.  Not much to say about this one except you need to make it!  It's great hot or cold, and not too unhealthy.

Tortellini Salad

9 oz refrigerated tortellini (any kind - I used Butoni chicken tortelloni)
2 cups fresh spinach, firmly packed
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T capers
1 T whole grain or dijon mustard
1 t onion salt

Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Set aside.  In a warm skillet, sautee  spinach until just wilted - you may wish to add cooking spray to aid this process.  Once wilted, stir spinach and bell pepper into tortellini.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over tortellini mixture.  Serve hot or cold.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 40 - Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice

Slow Cooker Chicken and wild rice, green peas, red grapes.

Forty days, y'all.  Forty days.  That's more than a month!  We could have sailed the ark by now!  But no, cooking is much more fun.

I'm a little shocked I've kept this up so long.  I can't usually even make it all the way through the 40 days of this is like a miracle!

Ahem, anyway...lunch...

I had great hopes for this chicken.  Anyone who eats at my house will tell you that chicken and rice is a staple in my kitchen...I have at least 10 variations on it, and they're all fairly different.  Let's see, I make...

  1. Grilled chicken and rice with black beans in tomato sauce
  2. Chicken and black beans in a paprika cream sauce over saffron rice
  3. Baked chicken stuffed with rice and goat cheese
  4. Chicken Stir Fry on rice
  5. Chicken jambalaya (which necessarily includes rice..although I prefer seafood jambalaya)
  6. Chicken in a white wine cream sauce over rice
  7. Cheesy chicken casserole with rice and broccoli
  8. Ranch chicken casserole with rice and assorted vegetables
  9. Chicken and rice casserole with mushroom soup (my mom's version)
  10. Chicken and rice soup (again, mom)

...And that's just off the top of my head.  Yeah, I realize some people might call  this a "problem," but really, I just see chicken as my go-to meat and rice as an easy carb staple.  And yes, about half the time I'm using brown rice (which I hate and think tastes like boiled cardboard, but it's good for me).  I don't eat all of these every week, but they come up all the time.  You'll definitely be seeing a few of these on the blog...especially once we start to get cold and comfort-food-weather.

No surprises that this article on the arsenic levels in rice has me worried.

Mom, don't read the article above.  Just trust me. You'll be happier.

Anyhoo, I'm eating rice anyway but I don't have a good chicken and wild rice recipe,  and the few I've tried have been only eh.  But I love a good wild rice blend, so I made this one up based on a number of different internet recipes.

This was better than eh, but only so much.  If you're a foodie, don't try this.  If you're just trying to crank out larger quantities of good, filling food for your kids/roommates/siblings/friends/neighbors/football team, then you might really like this.

I may do some tweaking and let you know what I find. 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Wild Rice

1-2 lb package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or a thigh/breast mix)
1 6oz pkg of long grain and wild rice mix (NOT instant or "quick cook" - I used Uncle Ben's original recipe)
1 can cream of chicken soup + 1 can water
8 oz sour cream
1 onion, chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
2 t tarragon
3 slices  of bacon

In a 4 quart slow cooker, stir together cream of chicken soup, water, and sour cream.  Stir in rice (including spice packet), remaining spices, and mushrooms.  Set heat on low.

In a large pan, cook bacon until crisp and fat rendered.  Remove from pan with slotted spoon; crumble and add to slow cooker.  In the remaining bacon renderings, saute onion for about 5 minutes, or until it becomes translucent; transfer with slotted spoon into slow cooker  In the remaining bacon renderings (if none are left, feel free to add oil or cooking spray), brown the chicken on each side on medium high heat until just golden; transfer to slow cooker, and fold in the entire mixture gently.  Replace lid of slow cooker and continue to cook on low for 5 hours.  Serve immediately. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 39 - Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken

TJ's Kung Pao Chicken over steamed jasmine rice, shelled edamame, mandarin oranges.

Another Trader Joe's frozen dinner.  Trader Joe's Kung Pao Chicken served over jasmine rice, with shelled edamame and a mandarin orange cup.  Yes, a fruit cup.  Like a little kid.  It was delicious.  But seriously, about the chicken...

The Kung Pao chicken is good, but not nearly as good as TJ's Mandarin chicken.  It could use a few more vegetables, too...I'd recommend adding a cup of chopped bell pepper, onion, snow peas, or something similar to add some more flavor.  Regardless, I'll be buying it again.  Like all the TJ frozen meals I've had so far, it was easy to make and good.  That's all I want out of my frozen meals. :)

It also looks better in real life than in the picture...promise! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 38 - Greek Chicken

Greek grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, potatoes, and chick peas.  All bathed in a warm afternoon sun!

I all in one, undivided container.  Shocking!

Ok, for real though, all my other containers were in the dishwasher.  And these flavors all mingled well, so it was actually pretty delicious!

Leftovers from  last night include roasted asparagus, pan roasted potatoes in yogurt sauce, marinated and roasted chick peas, and grilled Greek chicken. I've gone back and forth over which recipe from this lunch to share, and I've decided to go with the chicken for two reasons.

1.  It's really easy, and everyone likes it.

2.  It's the chicken I use for my gyros, so that might help you create past recipes!

This microwaved beautifully at work.  I wish I had thrown in some more chick peas, though, because I got real hungry around 3:00.  So, learn from my example and always pack extra protein!

Marinated Greek Chicken

1 two pound package of chicken breasts
1 cup plain Greek style yogurt, any fat  content (the more fat, the less yogurt-y the taste after cooking.  Your preference).
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 T marjoram or oregano
1 t black pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, and spices.  Gently fold in chicken breasts.  Cover and let sit in refrigerator at least overnight.  When ready to cook, let the chicken lose it's chill by sitting at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

I grill mine on my George Foreman grill for about 3 minutes each; cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your chicken and the heat of your grill.

Alternately, you can bread and bake these at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Serve hot or cold.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 37 - Asian Ginger Salad

Asian Ginger Salad

I can't really take credit for this lunch, even though I'm going to share the recipe.  The boyfriend made dinner last night, and he made this great Asian Ginger Salad.  Yeah, that's right.  He cooks and enjoys a nice entree salad.  Get in line.

All I did was enjoy it, then pack the leftovers for lunch!

Anyway, one of the things I liked about it so much was how simple it looked to throw together.  I may have stalked his ingredient list while I was cleaning up, so I'm posting on his behalf.  These were all pre-made, pick up at the store last minute kind of ingredients, which could be super convenient on a busy night.

Super easy, super delicious, super versatile.

Asian Ginger Salad

10 oz bag romaine lettuce, washed
9 oz pre-cooked grilled chicken (can be found in the freezer or meat section of the grocery store)
3 oz chow mein noodles
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup canned mandarin oranges
6 oz pre-bottled ginger dressing

Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately.  You may wish to add in the dressing slowly in order to control how "dressed" your salad becomes.  Feel free to throw in extra ingredients - edamame, bell pepper, onion, almonds, and tofu would all be delicious! Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 36 - Fajita Leftovers

Fajita chicken with peppers and onions, Spanish rice, red grapes.

I had this great plan to make a sausage quiche with leftovers from this week with a fruit salad.  I had it all planned out, groceries purchased, even knew how many leftovers I'd have for lunch.

But y'all, I am beat this week.  I could barely keep my eyes open last night at 8:30.  I'm either getting old, or working too hard.

Anyway, I threw my cooking plans out the window and went out to eat.  So for lunch  today I had some delicoius fajita leftovers -  chicken, peppers, rice, and grapes.

Seriously, sometimes slacking off is so much better than being responsible. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 35 - Sandwich of Average Sandwichness

Ham and cheese sandwich, pretzels, raspberries.
I'll never know how I can cook a piece of tilapia for myself so perfectly, and then when I cook one when I have company over it's limp and watery.

Harumph, I say!

So, anyway, after last night's blah tilapia, I just wasn't in the mood for much cooking this morning.  So I had a normal ham and cheddar sandwich on multigrain bread.  With dijon.  Because dijon makes even the more boring of sandwiches a little tastier.

Raspberries, pretzels, you know the drill.  Nothing earth shattering today. :) Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 34 - Cold Sausage Kabobs

Sausage and cheese kabobs, sugar snap peas, grapes, wheat thins.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is sausage and cheese on a cracker.  I made a slightly healthier version for lunch today, with kabobs of low fat colby jack cheese and turkey kielbasa.  Added some sugar snap peas, red grapes, and wheat thins.  The only thing I'd change is that I'd have longer to eat it...that good.

I was asked recently why I only do four days of lunches.  No, my work week is not four days.  In fact, I usually end up working 6 days a week.  I do four lunches as a compromise.  I have access at work to a good cafeteria and some department money for lunch (to compensate for that 6th day overtime).  The easiest thing is to just eat at work every day, but that's not at all the healthiest thing.  So, I make myself at least four lunches a week, all somewhat healthy (she says, as she eats more kielbasa and cheese). Then I let myself eat at the cafeteria once or twice a week, and I usually let myself eat whatever sounds good if I've been healthy enough the rest of the week.

Clear as mud?  It works for me, might not work for you.  Everyone's gotta take care of themselves the way that works best! Pin It Now!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 33 - Classic Lasagna

Lasagna, red grapes, sugar snap peas.

Mmmmmm, lasagna!  Last night was a definite Sunday-night-lasagna kind of dinner, so today was a leftover-lasagna kind of lunch!

It's sort of funny looking, you might say.  Well, that's because those are super thin slices turned on their sides.  Not only was the actual lasagna too tall to fit upright in my container, but the thinness makes it microwave easier.  So, that's why it's funny looking. :)

I have the benefit of having a great farmer's market with fresh pasta, sauce better than I can make myself, and lots of meat options.  You may not be so lucky, but the recipe below allows for a lot of exceptions.  I would make sure to do at least half and half beef/pork, if you can - beef is the more traditional flavor, but the pork sausage gives it great flavor and texture.

It looks complicated, but I promise once you get used to this recipe you'll breeze through it!

Classic Lasagna

1/3 lb ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground spicy pork sausage
1 onion,  chopped
8 oz  fresh  mushrooms, chopped
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
32 oz marinara or spaghetti sauce (store bought or homemade)
1pkg lasagna noodles, cooked or fresh
16 oz ricotta cheese (go for the expensive stuff - makes all the difference)
16 oz fresh mozzarella

Brown meats in a large skillet; drain when browned.  Stir in onion and mushrooms, cooking on medium heat until tender.  Pour in tomatoes and tomato sauce, stirring occasionally, and heat until bubbling gently.

In a 9x13 greased casserole dish, spread about 1 cup of the sauce (this helps keep the bottom layer of pasta from sticking).  Make one layer of pasta.  Spread half of the riccotta on top.  Then add about 1/3 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat pasta-ricotta-sauce layer.  Add one more layer of pasta and pour remaining sauce over.

Slice mozzarella into thin pieces and layer over the top of the casserole.
They even sell fresh mozzarella in logs for easy slicing.  Some people think of everything!

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray on one side.  Place greased side down on casserole dish to cover.  Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Enjoy!

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 32 - And Ode to Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzel, strawberries, broccoli, creamy tomato soup.
Are soft pretzels healthy?  Probably not.  But dang I love them!  They're so salty and chewy and good.  They're my favorite guilty late nigh snack (I know, carbs after dinner, I  know).  I tend to buy the Super Pretzel brand when it goes on sale and keep it in the freezer for carb emergencies..or unexpected company!

This morning, I just didn't feel  like putting out much effort.  It's rainy and dreary outside (I believe the Scots refer to days like this as "dreek,") and I was just too tired to put forth much food effort.  So, after prepping the crock pot for tonight's dinner, I was done cooking.  I threw in a Super Pretzel, and pulled broccoli and strawberries, and grabbed a microwavable soup from the back of the pantry.  Honestly, for as little effort as I put forth, this was a good comforting meal, with some healthy elements that gave me lots of energy.  Not bad at all! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 31 - Potato and Green Bean Salad

Potato and Green Bean Salad, Greek green salad, red plum.

Still eating leftovers from gyro night!  Had a little of the green salad left, and included a plum from the farmers' market.  But the main dish was a delicious Potato and Green Bean Salad.  I got this recipe from some magazine quite a while ago, but I can't remember which magazine.  I've made my own edits over time, and  it's one of my favorites at a party.  It's good cold,  melt-in-your-mouth delicious when hot.  It's also fairly cheap and good other words, the perfect potluck dish.  Had it cold for lunch today and loved it! 

Potato and Green Bean Salad

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp whole grain Dijon
1 Tbs parsley
Salt and  Pepper to taste
1 lb small red and/or Yukon gold  potatoes
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed.

Whisk together first 6 ingredients; set aside.  Simmer green beans in salted water until barely tender and bright green, 2-3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water.  Drain and pat dry.  Add potatoes to the same pot and simmer until tender, 10-20 minutes.  Drain potatoes and halve them.  Add in green beans and gently toss with olive oil mixture.  Serve hot or cold. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 30 - Greek Salad Dressing.

Greek Salad, hummus, pretzels.

Remember those gyros I made the other day?  I decided to make some for company last night, along with a hot potato salad and this delicious Greek green salad.  Romaine, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese with a great Greek Salad Dressing.  Threw in some pretzels and homemade hummus and it was an extremely quick lunch to put together.

Salad dressings are so easy to whisk up, and way cheaper than store bought.  I usually keep olive oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, and a variety of vinegars on hand...that way, I can make up a number of dressings at the last minute!  Some recipes, though, are standards in my house.

Greek Salad Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup  red wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 T  fresh oregano, chopped
1 t dried dill
1 t  onion salt
1 t minced garlic
dash of black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together.  This can sit on the counter for a couple of hours while you're cooking, which allows the flavors to mingle. You can also serve it immediately, if you're in a hurry.  Just make sure it's freshly whisked when you pour it on your salad!

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 29 - More Trader Joe's Goodness

Trader Joe's Tarte d'Alsace, cucumbers, orange slices.
Woohoo, in the office for Labor Day!  Anyone else working today?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

At least I get an extra day off for working today. :)

Anyway, lunch was leftovers from last night - probably my all time favorite product from Trader Joe's.  It's called a Tarte d'Alsace, and it's the most delicious frozen thing I've ever had.  It's raw pastry with what I *think* is bechemel sauce, Gruyere, ham, and caramelized onions.  You bake it for 10 measly minutes and it's awesome.  It's crispy and sweet and salty and just a little chewy.

I didn't quite make a full grocery trip this weekend, so I just pulled this out of the freezer and enjoyed the heck out of it with a mixed green salad.  Had it with some cucumbers and oranges for lunch today, and it was super easy and delightful.

For those of you who don't have a Trader Joe's in town, I'm so sorry.  It's worth a trip when you're in a larger city.  For  me, though, I enjoy it every time I'm too lazy to cook something on my own. :)  I should cook something good tonight...
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