Dinner every night – Getting in the veggies

This week was totally overwhelming. We are in the process of refinancing our house and were waiting on pins and needles at the beginning of the week on the appraisal, I headed into the city to meet with someone up close and personal about an exciting work adventure, there was preschool with the tot, and then two conference calls on Friday.

We had high hopes of getting a sitter for a friend’s party on Saturday night, but things just didn’t work out and the husband went solo. As much as I would have enjoyed hanging out and enjoying much needed adult time, I was exhausted, so spent a few hours with a book and some silence.

This week’s dinners started out with a bang and then kind of lost momentum. Our stuffed chicken breasts didn’t look nearly as appealing as they tasted, and frozen pizza dough saved me on Saturday evening.

But we did have two vegetarian dinners this week and I tried to keep going with our plans to ditch the carbs. By adding additional veggies to our meals we still had full plates – and full tummies.

What was your favorite meal this week at your house? Link up a recipe to share, or leave a comment telling me which recipe from our meals this week you would like me to share tomorrow!

*Top row from left to right: Mushroom stuffing stuffed chicken breasts with roasted celery and white beans, healthy beef stroganoff made with plain yogurt over spinach and egg noodles, noodle free eggplant lasagna. Bottom row from left to right: Pounded boneless chicken things over veggie filled rice with a green onion pan sauce, lean cheeseburgers with baked zucchini fries, mushroom and garlic cheese pizza with fresh ricotta.

 


 

 

Peanut butter popcorn

When I found out this morning that it was National Popcorn Day, everything changed. I love popcorn and it’s turned into my new super-healthy and crunchy snack sans butter but with a sprinkling of salt and a dusting of sugar. It hits the spot and is also pretty low on the calorie front. But, Thursdays are preschool days, so we headed out and my popcorn plans were put on hold until our return home.

After getting home and finishing a conference call, I got to work. I had been craving peanut butter all day, so munched down a sandwich while planning my popcorn making – and then it happened.

Why not make peanut butter popcorn?

It would either be deathly addictive or super horrid – or maybe a bit of both making it wonderfully delicious. I got to popping some popcorn and making the creaming peanut butter sauce.

Um.

Wonderfully delicious.

And this tasty and healthy snack is really easy to make and perfect for a mid-day treat or while watching late night movies – or for game day! I thought I was the original creator of this amazing concoction, but discovered there are a couple of other phenomenally smart people that came up with the combination also. This is my original recipe, but feel free to check out others and adjust as you’d like. My recipe is a bit on the healthy side, ensuring you won’t feel horrid about snarfing down the whole bowl.

Ingredients

4-6 cups fresh popped plain popcorn (1 c dry kernels popped results in about that much)

1/4 c creamy peanut butter

1 tsp honey

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp water

1 tbsp butter

Salt

What you do

Pop up your popcorn. If you’re using a microwave kind, select a plain style free of butter or salt. I popped up my own in a big stockpot using 1c dry kernels and a drizzle of vegetable oil.

While things are popping away, melt the butter, honey, brown sugar, and water in a small saucepan – or toss it in the microwave when your popcorn is finished. Once things are all bubbly, smooth in the peanut butter and warm until everything is all gooey.

Dump that popcorn in a big bowl and then drizzle the peanut butter sauce over the popcorn. Use a big spoon to toss the popcorn with the peanut butter mixture until everything is coated. I left my freshly popped popcorn in the stockpot, dumped in the sauce, and then held the lid in place while shaking that popcorn like crazy.

That popcorn is HOT so let it cool in your bowl before shoving a big hand full in your mouth. Give things a good dash or two of salt and then snack away!

*You know what else would make this amazing? A dash of cinnamon, or even a dash of paprika! Have fun 🙂

Dinner every night

The other day I posted a pic of our dinner before we ate on Facebook and got so many remarks I joked around later with the husband that I should post a picture of our dinner every night along with a very brief recipe. Then, if I really like the creation, I’ll share with a full blown recipe and photo shoot on my blog. Along with having this spot for sharing, I also put up randomness on Tumblr and figured that would be the perfect spot for this experiment. I’ll also share on Facebook and Twitter every once in awhile too.

I can’t guarantee the pictures are always going to be amazing or the creations totally delish – but they will all be homemade. Yes, I might use a bit of a boxed or canned here and there, but, for the most part, these dishes will be cooked up in my kitchen with fresh and healthy ingredients that you can re-create.

Think of it as inspiration for making your own homemade dinners every night.

And if I eat out or or order in, I’ll share the goods too.

So head on over to Tumblr to check out what we had last night!

 

 

Mini deep dish pizzas

 

I love pizza. It doesn’t matter if it’s deep dish, thin crust, expensive, frozen, or from the place on the corner, I love it. There’s nothing like the crisp, crunch, and chew of the crust and then the flavor burst of the sauce and then the finishing goo of the cheese.

Perfect.

The other day I wanted to make pizza, but also wanted leftovers for the tot’s lunch the next day. So, what to do?

Mini deep dish pizzas!

Whether you brave making your dough on your own or go the quick and easy way with store bought, this recipe is versatile to fit your friend’s and family’s favorite toppings. All you need is a muffin tin, a few ingredients, and you’re good to go.

If you want to make your own crust, it’s really easier than you think – it just needs a bit of time.

Ingredients for the dough

1 package of yeast

1 cup warm water (about 100F)

2 tablespoons oil (any kind is fine)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Big dash of salt

2+ cups flour (you can even use whole wheat!)

Dough making

Place the yeast in a medium sized mixing bowl along with the sugar and then cover gently with the warm water. Let things hang out until things get a bit frothy, which takes about 5-minutes or so.

Now you can mix in the salt and flour. So, yeah, you could really healthy-up this dough by using whole wheat – or going half and half. The day I put my mini deep dish pizzas together I used 1 cup white flour and 1 cup whole wheat and they were totally YUM.

Once the dough starts coming together, dump it out onto onto a flour dusted work surface and knead for a couple of minutes, adding additional flour as needed so things don’t stick like crazy to your hands.

Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean towel. Put the dough in a quiet corner and let it hang out for about an hour or so.

The fillings and assembly….

Get out the muffin tin and lightly grease with a bit of oil. Now pinch off small golf ball sized bits of dough and gently roll with a rolling pin or press flat with your hand. Pop the round into a muffin tin and keep going until all the tins have a round of pizza dough. You should have enough dough to make 9-12 mini pizzas.

Preheat your oven to 425F and let the muffin tin rest while getting together your ingredients. This would be an awesome kid’s party or family night or game night or any night activity! Each kid can pick a tin and create his or her own perfect mini deep dish pizza, starting with a spoonful of pizza sauce.

Now fill the tins with pizza toppings such as chopped mushrooms, chopped pepperoni, crumbled pre-cooked sausage, spinach, olives…. Whatever you want! We even scooped in some homemade ricotta and then another dollop of pizza sauce.

Top each mini deep dish pizza with some shredded mozzarella and place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the tops are bubbling and golden brown. The pizzas might ooze a bit while baking, so placing the muffin tin on a sheet tray will save your oven for any needed post-pizza cleaning.

Let your pizzas rest for a couple of minutes before attacking them with a butter knife to help ease each out of it’s tin. Enjoy alongside a big salad or eat them all in one sitting!

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Simple poached eggs

 

Some mornings all I want is a simple poached egg on an English muffin. It’s the most comforting breakfast, and really so much easier than you think. There are no fancy gadgets involved, no unusual cooking techniques, and only a few ingredients.

Start by bringing about 4 cups of water to a simmer in a deep saucepan. I like to add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and a couple of good shakes of salt to the water.

Now go pop your English muffin in the toaster and grab your eggs.

Use a spoon to stir the water in a circle, creating a spinning vortex of hot happy water ready for your eggs. The moving water helps hold your eggies together when you plop them in.

Crack one of your eggs right into the center of the saucepan and then add another. If you’re doing more than two eggs, you can gently stir the water again and add up to two more eggs without crowding the hot tub. Things aren’t going to look too sexy right now, but that’s okay.

Go ahead and use a spoon to gently prod the eggs, making sure they aren’t stuck to the bottom of your pan.

Oh – your English muffin is ready! Give it a slather of butter and place on a plate.

Your eggs have been happily simmering for about a minute or so. You may have noticed some floaty bits of egg in the water, which you can remove with a spoon if you’d like. Gently lift out an egg with a slotted spoon to test its doneness. If the egg is still a bit jiggly in the middle, you’ve got nice runny yolks. If you prefer a less runny egg, let things simmer for another 20-seconds or so.

Place your finished eggs on your English muffin, dust with salt and pepper, and have at them.

Sure, you could whip up a sauce to ladle over the top or put some perfectly cooked bacon under those eggs, but I’m a purist.

I just want perfectly poached eggs.

And these are just about absolutely perfect.

Crispy chocolate treats

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

We’ve been diligently working on potty training at our house, and some days are definitely better than others. So when we had a pretty good day yesterday I figured the tot and I could toss together a tasty treat as a reward for her hard work. I made some no-bake cookies not so long ago and thought I’d do a little experiment.

Crispy chocolate treats.

Instead of using oats, I wanted some snap-crackle-and pop. With a few simple ingredients and some adjustments on the original no-bake cookie recipe, we made something really yummy to reward us both.

This is a great recipe to make with your kids – it’s so simple!

Ingredients

1/2 c butter

1 c sugar

3/4 c cocoa

1/4 c milk

1 c peanut butter

1/2 t vanilla

3 1/2 c puffed rice cereal

1/2 c powdered sugar

How to make them

Place the butter, peanut butter, milk, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla in a sauce pan and begin melting the ingredients together. While things are warming up, measure the puffed rice cereal and powdered sugar into a big bowl. Give things a good toss ensuring all those itty-bitty cereals are coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Give the cocoa mixture a stir and continue to let things get happy over low heat. While you’re waiting for the butter to melt and come together with the rest of the stuff, cover two sheet pans with a couple of lengths of tinfoil for putting your scooped goodies.

Now add a bit of heat to the cocoa coating and stir until things come to a low boil. Let the mixture simmer for about a minute and then take off the heat.

Pour the hot cocoa goo over the puffed rice and stir until everything is coated. This part is best left to the adults because melted stuff is hot! Once things have cooled down for a minute or two, invite the kiddies to help scoop using a melon baller, spoon, or ice cream scoop onto the tin foil covered sheet pans. Keep scooping until there’s none left and then make some major room in the fridge for the treats to firm up.

After a few hours of chilling, pop half of those treats into a zip top plastic bag and keep happy in the freezer. The other half can stay in the fridge, also in a zip top plastic bag, in easy reach for treat time.

*Good luck eating only one.

 

Sunday spectacular: The Pine Cone Diner

Last night we had an overnight guest and, after staying up a bit later than normal, decided going out for breakfast would be quite nice. We headed to one of our favorite restaurants in the area, The Pine Cone Diner, and enjoyed the drive there and back. The food is really good (just a bit pricey) and service comes with a bit of snark. The inside is warm and cozy with tons of fun stuff to check out while waiting for your food.

And they’ve got a couple of buckets of goodies to occupy the kids.

Perfect.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Homemade ricotta cheese

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day I didn’t really feel like leaving the house. The tot was sick and we needed something for lunch. I had a few lame-o things hanging out in the fridge – but I wanted to make something fun. My daughter is in love with making pizza and we had a few toppings but they were pretty boring, cheese, sauce, spinach…

Then remembered a recipe I had found for homemade ricotta.

I came across this recipe the other day from Smitten Kitchen and had fallen desperately in love. I just hadn’t found the perfect reason to make it – and this was it. Supposedly I could make the tasty stuff in 15 minutes, so I thought I’d put it to the test. I made a few adjustments to the original recipe with awesome results.

Super yum.

Ingredients

2 1/2 c whole milk

1/2 c cream

1/2 t salt

1 Tbsp plus 1 t white vinegar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

How to make it

Pour the milk and cream into a sauce pan along with the salt and bring to an almost simmer – around 180 F. If you don’t have any cream hanging around, you can use 3 c whole milk and it will still be good.

Turn off the heat and add the vinegar and lemon juice. Let the mixture hang for a minute or so.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth – but if you don’t have any (I didn’t) use a couple of sheets of heavy-duty paper towel. Place the strainer over a bowl and then gently pour the milk into the strainer.

Set the timer for 15 minutes and let your ricotta strain. Sure, it doesn’t look like much right now, but, patience pays off.

Now gently fold over your cheesecloth (or paper towels) and press on the ricotta, releasing a bit more liquid. Use a spoon to scoop the ricotta into a container or use right away.

I dolloped some on top of our pizza and the tot and I enjoyed our special lunch.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

DEEEE-licious.

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Sunday Spectacular – Candied Bacon

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While cleaning out the fridge the other day, I happened upon the last dredges of some home-grown maple syrup that had been neglected during the warm summer. The weather had started to cool down, so that maple syrup imprinted on my brain pretty serious.

So much that I spent a couple of hours (which should’ve been spent working or enjoying the new sentence-structure abilities of the tot) looking for maple syrup recipes.

I had to dig a bit, but then, there it was.

Candied Bacon.

The recipes I found mostly called for brown sugar and fancy, schmancy cooking equipment. I made it my way – and it turned out amazingly good.

Ingredients

8-10 thick slices of bacon (about 1 pound)

1/2 c brown sugar

1 Tbsp maple syrup

(that’s it)

What you do

Preheat the oven to 400 F. While things are cranking up, line a sheet pan with heavy-duty tinfoil (or a few layer of the regular stuff) and get out your bacon.

Line those slices of lovely ham on the sheet pan so they are just about touching, but have some room to grow.

Now, mix together the brown sugar and maple syrup in a bowl. Please, do one thing for me. Don’t use maple syrup out of a plastic squeezie container. Use the yummy, good stuff. Sure, I know it costs more in glass bottle, but, chances are, you’re paying for the real stuff. Not color-added high-fructose corn syrup…

Get your hands in the brown sugar maple syrup goodness and crumble half the mixture over the bacon.

After you (lick your fingers clean) wipe off your hands, pop that bacon in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes.

Ding.

Turn the bacon and sprinkle the fresh sides with the remaining brown sugar/maple syrup mixture. Pop back into the oven for another 8-10 minutes.

It’s up to you how crispy you want your candied bacon. If you like things a bit browner, let that bacon hang out. You can even give things a flip to keep the total goo-factor going. Once you’re happy with how things are looking, remove the pan and let the candied bacon rest for about 10-minutes.

Remove the slices from the pan and place on a nice, clean plate. DON’T put it on a paper towel – think bits o-paper all over that yummo bacon.

Depending on how you plan on using your candied bacon (sure, you can eat it all now), place in a plastic zippy-top bag and in the fridge. Or, chop it up and add to dinner. I did….

© Dean Lipoff 2011

Want to put a spin on things? Add a couple dashes of one or all of the following:

Paprika

Cinnamon

Ground Ginger

Fresh Ground Pepper

Dried Mustard

or

Pumpkin Pie Spice

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Pumpkin whoopie pies

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I don’t know about you, but fall has totally arrived at my house and with it a big craving for pumpkin goodies. While searching around for something fun to make, I came across a recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies that inspired me. But I wanted to put my own spin on things and maybe healthy them up a bit.

We love plain yogurt at our house and always have a ton of it around. With a bit of patience, I knew I could turn that yogurt into a fluffy, delicate filling for a couple of flavorful pumpkin cakes with a bit less sugar and butter than the other recipes called for.

The results were totally fantastic.

(We ate them all up)

Ingredients

1 ½ c pumpkin puree

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 t vanilla

¼ t ground ginger

1 egg

½ c vegetable oil

1 c packed brown sugar

½ t baking soda

½ t baking powder

Dash of salt

1 c whole-wheat flour

1 c white flour

*For the filling…

1 c plain yogurt strained overnight (This is simple, but takes time. Line a strainer with paper towel and then plop that yogurt on top and pop in the fridge for eight hours or so. It’s helpful to place that strainer on a plate so you don’t end up with yogurt goo all over the bottom of your fridge….)

½ t vanilla

½ c powdered sugar

1 Tbsp butter

Here’s how you make them

Start by prepping your yogurt. Really, you can’t rush this step, so just succumb to the fact you can’t saunter into your kitchen right now and make these tasty goodies. Seriously, you’ll be thinking about tossing these babies together all night, which will make them even tastier tomorrow. So place your yogurt in the paper towel lined colander, put it in the fridge, and go hang out on Pinterest or something.

The next day that yogurt will have released lots of liquid and have a similar texture to cream cheese. If you’re there, it’s time to make some pumpkin cakes!

Place the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, ginger, egg, vegetable oil, and brown sugar in a big mixing bowl and whisk until everything is all happy. Now you can add the salt, baking soda and baking powder, along with the flours, and mix everything together.

Heat up your oven to 350 F and line your baking trays with parchment or give them a light oil. Once your oven is ready, spoon your batter on the pans in 2-inch rounds. If you want mega-huge whoopie pies, go crazy. But, I found the smaller ones were lovely and didn’t make you feel all guilty after devouring one.

Place the rounds in the oven and bake for 12 minutes – give or take. When you see the tops of the cookie/cakes turning brown and cracking, it’s time to pull them.

LET THEM COOL BEFORE THE NEXT STEP.

Seriously.

While your cakes are cooling, whip together the filling by placing your now strained yogurt in a small mixing bowl, adding the vanilla, sugar, and butter, and fluffing with a hand mixer.

Sure, you could use a knife to slather that filling between two cakes, but it’s so much more fun to use a pastry bag. What? No pastry bag? Yeah, I don’t have one either. But, a nice plastic baggie does wonders! Spoon that filling into a plastic bag, squeeze everything to one corner, and snip the end (just a little bit) with a scissors. Voilà! Pastry bag!

Grab a (COOL) cookie and swirl on some filling. Simply top with another cookie and eat.

Enjoy!

This recipe makes about 20+ finished pumpkin whoopie pies, depending on how big you make your cakes. Don’t expect them to last….

*Don’t feel like going through all that yogurt-straining work? Pick up a container of cream cheese frosting and pretend you made it yourself.

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