Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Garlic-Roasted Chicken Breasts + Happy New Year!


Um, what? When did we go through a whole 'nother year???

And two-thousand fourteen... doesn't that just seem so far in the future? Not like it is the end of today's date... yet it is. Weren't we just all stocking up on extra supplies just in case the Y2K bug destroyed life as we knew it?


However we got here, Happy New Year! I am glad we all made it through another year -- and hopefully thrived. 


I, for one, had a ridiculously busy and crazy (crazy-good) year. Work, travel, extra responsibilities that take extra time, precious moments spent with loved ones...


You may have noticed blog posts dwindling over time... it was not because I didn't care to keep up with it. Rather, it was because I was juggling many balls at a time, and sometimes you just have to let a ball drop here or there. It happens. But I miss blogging. My hope is that I will be able to pick that ball up more, but if it means another ball must drop, I cannot let that happen. We shall what this year has in store!


I hope you are looking forward to wonderful things ahead of you, and that you were able to leave 2013 behind with a smile. Here's to new adventures waiting for us... CHEERS!


GARLIC-ROASTED CHICKEN BREASTS
WITH LEMONY BROCCOLI & PINE NUTS
Recipe slightly adapted from Everyday Food, September 2003

SERVES 6  •  PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR 10 MINUTES

ingredients:
  • 4 heads garlic
  • 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head of broccoli, stalk removed
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the tops from garlic heads, reserving the bottoms; arrange the tops, cut sides down, in the center of an 11-by-17-inch roasting pan. Place 1 sprig of the rosemary over each garlic top, and arrange the chicken breasts over the garlic.
  2. Place the reserved garlic bottoms, cut sides up, next to the chicken in the pan. Drizzle the chicken and garlic bottoms with the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper; place the remaining 4 sprigs of rosemary on top.
  3. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes; turn the garlic bottoms cut sides down, and rotate the pan. Continue roasting the chicken until the skin is browned, the juices run clear, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes more.
  4. While chicken is roasting, prepare broccoli: heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Add broccoli and pin nuts. Squeeze juice from lemon. Add salt. Cook until tender and remove from heat.
  5. Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup; skim the fat from the top. Serve the juices with chicken and roasted garlic.

The roasted garlic makes an excellent topping for toast. Just squeeze cooked garlic cloves out of paper skin and use a fork to mash on top of sourdough or other rustic bread. Sprinkle lightly with salt.



COST: $14.42      COST PER SERVING (6): $2.40

Unprocessed    //    Gluten Free    //   Dairy Free

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cream Cheese Hummus Pita Bites


Our neighborhood is pretty awesome. It is December 22 and there are people out BBQing together. The other day one neighbor came over with a plate of cookies and a chat by the Christmas tree. The next day another neighbor called to ask if we needed some extra lights as they had leftovers. And last night we all got together to do a Progressive Party up and down the block.

Yup, we are pretty rockin'.


I know there are many neighborhoods like this -- I grew up in one -- but it seems to be less and less common. At least in my adult years. People are busy, schedules are full, lives are different from one house to the next.  But I am grateful that today I get to be a part of a place that celebrates community.


My contribution during the stop at our house? Sparkling cider and this: cream cheese hummus. Everyone else ooh'ed and ahh'ed, and I smiled because I know it took me five minutes. I mean, really, do I have time during the holiday season to make something time consuming? No, I do not. Which is why this is perfect. Perfectly simple, perfectly delicious. And will go perfectly with our Christmas dinner in a few days... one less thing I have to stress over. That's a holiday win.

(This hummus is great for the usual "dip" and also spread on pita crackers topped with green onions. Both taste fabulous, one looks a little more fancy... you choose :) )


CREAM CHEESE HUMMUS PITA BITES


YIELDS 1½ CUP HUMMUS  •  PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 5 MINUTES PLUS ASSEMBLING PITA BITES

ingredients:
  • 2 cans Garbanzo beans, one fully drained, one still with liquid
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of pita crackers, plus any item for dipping
 directions
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth.  Either spread on pita crackers and top with green onion garnish, or serve as dip.

COST: $7.42

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peppermint Joe-Joe Ice Cream (No ice cream maker required)



I am a lover of peppermint.  Not just at Christmas time, either.  It isn't unusual to hear me order a peppermint hot chocolate at Startbucks in July.  And they comply, albeit with a slight shake of the head. I know -- I am breaking the peppermint rule: it is a Christmas treat, and that's that.

But who says so?  Not me.  I say give me peppermint all year long, and I will show you a happy girl.

My favorite peppermint thing?  Peppermint Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's.  Crazy goodness, right there. Like an Oreo (but better!) with real pieces of candy cane crushed into the cream.  Um, HELLO.  Could they have created anything better?  No, definitely not.

Except... I did :)

I took my favorite cookie (which we stock up on around Christmas so they can last until about April when they expire -- smart, right?!) and turned it into my favorite type of dessert: ICE CREAM.

Best part is that you don't even need an ice cream maker, just a blender or food processor, and mixer of some sort, and a freezer.  SHEZAM!  Pepperminty deliciousness in a bowl.

Merry Christmas!


PEPPERMINT JOE-JOE’S ICE CREAM

SERVES 6  •  PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 10 MINUTES + FREEZING

ingredients:
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 5-6 Peppermint Joe-Joe’s cookies from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

directions
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend sweetened condensed milk with cookies.
  2. Combine whipping cream and peppermint extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat cream/extract with a mixer on medium-high speed until whipped cream is formed. 
  3. Combine sweetened condensed milk mixture with whipped cream and pour into airtight plastic container, such as a larger-sized Ziploc Smart-Snap container.  Freeze eight hours or overnight.


COST: $6.23        COST PER SERVING (6): $1.04

Ice Cream    //    Dessert    //   Peppermint


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great FB Cookie Swap: Peppermint Sugar Cookies



It's the most wonderful time of the year... COOKIE SWAP TIME!

I know that sounds a little exaggerated, but seriously, this tradition (now three years in the making) has become one of my favorite things about the holiday season.  Not only do I get to look for the best cookie recipe to add to my collection, and not only do we all get to connect with other food bloggers, but by working/baking/shipping together, we raise money for causes that are worth all that effort.

$13,778.40

That beautiful number right there (so pretty, isn't it?) is the amount that was raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a non-profit that works to help fund research that can help children live a full, long, and healthy life.  




This year I chose a simple recipe, straight from Martha: Peppermint sugar cookies.  I must confess, the cookies in these pictures are the old, rejected ones. The weather was so gloomy and I kept saying I would take pictures later, later, later, and this is what I would up with.  But oh!  Oh oh oh.  (Not to be confused with ho ho ho ;) )  I could NOT stop eating these.  Peppermint cookie, peppermint glaze, topped with (you guessed it!) peppermint pieces! The recipe said it made two dozen so I doubled it: 1 dozen for each of my matches, 1 dozen for us... except it made about six dozen.

And I did not share.

Not very Christmassy of me, but if you make these you will understand why.  At least I did share with my cookie recipients.  In the baggies and boxes they went, off to Utah, Arkansas, and another part of California, while I received three batches of delicious cookies from across the map. That is what makes this fun -- bake, raise money, and connect with people you have never met before.  It's a triple win.

A big shout out to the companies that sponsored the cookie swap (by giving in addition to what we bloggers donated): OXO, Pure Cane Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma's Molasses. Their contributions stretched our dollars -- and hopefully bring us one step closer to a cure for cancer!

If you would like to find out about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (and maybe participate next year!), click on their logo below.






PEPPERMINT SUGAR COOKIES
Recipe from Everyday Food, Dec. 2012

YIELDS 2 DOZEN  •  PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES

ingredients:
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 candy canes, crushed, for decorating

directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, use mixer to beat butter, granulated sugar, and ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract on medium-high until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in egg, then flour mixture on low.  Stir in chocolate chips if you are using them.
  2. Roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until edges are lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer to racks and let cool completely.
  3. Stir together confectioners’ sugar and enough cream to make a spreadable glaze (if you like a strong mint flavor, stir in up to ¼ teaspoon extract).  Spread a thin layer of glaze on top of each cookie and sprinkle with candies.  Let dry completely on racks.

Can be stored in an airtight container, three days.


COST: $4.79        COST PER COOKIE (24): 20 cents

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cost of Eating Healthy (and my two cents)

//source//

After a busy two weeks, I was getting ready to put something on my blog.  No, not the amazing peppermint cookies I have been chowing down on (because I have yet to take pictures of them -- blame it on the minimal hours of daylight), but something to say, "Hey, I'm here!  Don't forget me!" Something fun. Something cute.

But then I saw this article pop up in my newsfeed on Facebook.  And after reading through it, and then reading through the comments, I changed my plan.

Fun and cute can wait for another day.

Today we need to talk about eating healthy (yes) and the cost of it (yes).  But most importantly, we need to talk about perceptions of this.

I am not going to sit here and give you figures about the cost of eating a healthier diet, because you can find that information quite easily.  I am also not going to share how eating more fruits and vegetables costs more money than packaged food because, at least in the USA, we all know this to be a general truth. My eyes were really opened to this when I took a master's level class on how health impacts a student's ability to learn, and how income impacts health. As you may be aware if you have followed this blog for awhile, that class combined with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution were the main reasons I set out to learn to cook. That is why this blog is here -- because I wanted to be able to eat healthy food that I could afford and still tasted great.

We get it. Eating a healthy diet is more expensive. It is unfortunate, but it is a reality.

I also get that food deserts exist. For the 7-10% of Americans who live in these areas, that is a real problem, and I am not here to offer a solution, because I do not have one. I wish I did...

What I am going to say is this: for those many, many people who instantly commented on NPR's article saying that it costs on average $600 a month PER PERSON to eat healthy, or all those people who clearly commented without reading the article as the examples shared in the comments don't fit with what the article said at all but then rattled on reason after reason why this article is full of BS (with all caps here and there)... let's all just stop and breathe. 

And then, let's read the information, look at where their findings are coming from, see if we agree with it or not, and then move on with our lives.

As for me, I agree. Why? Because I have been pricing out food for the past three years. That was the whole reason I started this blog: to keep a record of what we ate, how much it cost, and then use that information to make wise decisions while planning for what we are going to eat next week. Through this, and finding out tricks like shopping at the Farmers' Market or making beans from scratch, I have learned to keep our food costs quite low.

I get that there are a lot of variables in this equation, and that many things (location, time, availability of products, etc.) can change what is possible. Maybe your shopping style is different than mine. Maybe you don't enjoy cooking and you need something fast.  Maybe you really just want to eat a Big Mac. Go ahead. That's OK, that's your decision. I've been there, I get it. But people, we've got to stop attacking the messenger just because we don't like the message. And please, please, please, let's stop ganging up on people (fellow commentors) because they have a different experience than us.

Maybe you really do spend $600 per month for one person to eat healthy without ever going out to eat.  I am sorry for you, and I hope you find ways to cut back on that. But either way, that's OK. It's your money.

Maybe you really struggle to just make ends meet. I grew up in that reality, and I know a lot of people live in that daily. My heart goes out to you, for I know it is a challenge.

For most of us, though, we probably fall somewhere in the middle. Let's take ownership of our decisions. Heck, when I want a McChicken, I am going to get a McChicken. Yes, even me with a blog on finding healthy food. And that's alright. As long as I don't yell at NPR for it.

What are some ways you have found to keep the cost of food down?


(Looking for some low cost meal ideas? Click for $1 meal ideas and $2 meal ideas (per serving).  Cheaper than a Big Mac :) )

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Give Thanks + Curried Pumpkin Soup


Is there anything more perfect at this time of year than a bowl of fresh, rich soup? I think not. Yesterday as the rain was coming down and there was a chill in the air I sent a message to my aunt: "Quick!  I need your pumpkin soup recipe!"  She quickly obliged and my rainy day was turned into perfection. 

This is one of those soups that tastes like it takes forever but in reality is quite quick. Perfect for when you have someone coming over that you need to impress and you don't have all day... or when you are by yourself and you just want to impress yourself. Why shouldn't we want to impress ourselves sometimes? I think I am going to prioritize impressing myself a little more and trying to impress others a little less... and then I am going to enjoy my soup with slippers on my feet and my hair in an uncombed ponytail. That, too, sounds like perfection.


And now time to give thanks...

You know a village raises a child, right? A village also makes a wedding...

Thank you to my friends who took over the music side of it (and ROCKED IT!), the two ladies who made sure the church was decorated (and did much more, too!), my mother-in-law who made all of the table cloths (and gave me the best person to marry ), our friend in Brazil who made the bridesmaid dresses, family friends who came early from afar to set of the reception, students' mothers for helping me to get food for cheap through the Catholic convent (hehehe) and putting together the fruit kabobs, another students' mom for doing my hair, my former landlord for doing all of the flowers, my friends from work who worked hard to help in all ways, another student's mom for being a fabulous coordinator, and to all of our attendants for being the best support! A super special thank you to Pastor Sam, who made everybody laugh and cry, and set the standard in wedding homilies (everyone still talks about it!), and another huge thank you to Dan and Gina who gifted us with a beautiful reception.

I am grateful for all these people above (and I am sure there are more!) for helping us have the best day ever. Because of you, we ALL pulled off an amazing wedding that was far beyond what we could have imagined. Thank you, thank you!





CURRIED PUMPKIN SOUP
SERVES 6 •  PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES

ingredients:
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. of cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin (or cooked and mashed pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup evaporated milk

directions
  1. Saute mushrooms and onion in butter until onion is soft. Sprinkle with flour. Add salt, pepper and curry powder. Stir in chicken broth, pumpkin and honey. Simmer 15 minutes. Add milk and heat thoroughly. Serve sprinkled with croutons. (Note: can take part out and blend for smoother texture.)
(Tastes best served the next day.  But really tastes great whenever.)

COST: $7.72        COST PER SERVING (6): $1.29

Friday, November 15, 2013

Give Thanks + Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Rosemary, and Lemon


When Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners come around, I am still one of the kids.  Nobody really expects me to roast a turkey or prepare something, because all of the 'real adults' do that.  And when I insist that I am perfectly capable of contributing, the reply is something like, "Well, you can bring a side of something if you want.  Or cookies."  While at work and among friends I am the go-to recipe girl, with family I am still just Tiffany, who is really good at peeling potatoes.

Which really, is fine. I don't mind peeling potatoes.  Honestly.

And for the turkey?  I am glad to not have that responsibility.

But this year is the year.  I am going to bust out real food and put it right in the middle of the amazing dishes that are always present and nobody wants to give up their hold on them.  Not something simple like cookies, but not stealing somebody's life-long claim to green bean casserole or stuffing.

Here is a good one: Brussels sprouts with turkey bacon (to keep it a little less fattening), cooked with rosemary and lemon juice. I know it is really a side, but we took this and served it for dinner with beans and rice (how we do) and it was fantastic. I know not many people like brussels spouts, but this is one of those dishes that nobody will deny.  Bacon?  Yum.  Rosemary?  Flavorful.  Lemon juice?  The perfect amount of zing.  Combined, this makes one tempting side, and those who have claim on the mashed potatoes or candied yams (yuck!) can keep their signature dish theirs ;)

And now, let me share some "thanks"...

Day 11:  It's not just my grandpa, my father, and my brother I am thankful for... I am thankful for ALL veterans and their families, who serve us by serving our country.

Day 12:  I am thankful for my girlfriends. Whether making plans to grab a bite to eat with girl talk, chatting on the phone, nights in jammies watching chick flicks with munchies, or laughing about this or that every day at work, life would be very lonesome with them. It doesn't matter if we have been friends for 20 years or 2, THANK YOU for all the joy and laughter you bring into my life!

Day 13: I am very grateful for my friend Alex, who really, truly "gets" me. We're both a little loud, like to talk, have crazy ideas, and have a habit of forgetting to call people back. It is a rare friend that you can carry on a 32 hour conversation with (with a 4 1/2 hour nap pause in the middle) and not get bored one bit. Like I said, she gets me, and I am thankful that I get to have a friend like that.

Day 14: I am grateful for all the 'unnamed' people in my life who do so much for me -- the one's whose names I might not ever know, but without them my life would be a whole lot harder: the garbage collectors, UPS delivery guys, Cal-Trans people who keep the roads clear... it may sound a little trite, but it's true. I am thankful for all that they do, without much glory or honor, but they do it and they do it well.

What/Who are YOU thankful for today??? 



BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON, ROSEMARY, AND LEMON
Recipe adapted from Everyday Food, Oct.2011

SERVES 4 •  PREP TIME: 25 MINUTES   TOTAL TIME: 45 MINUTES

ingredients:
  • 8 slices of bacon of your choice (I used turkey)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, if needed
  • 1 pound of brussels sprouts, shredded in food processor (use slicing blade)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste

directions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium until crisp.  If using turkey bacon, you will need to add some olive oil to fry the bacon well.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.  Cut/break into small pieces.
  2. Keeping the bacon drippings/oil in pan, add brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender.  Add rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Stir in bacon.  Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Can be served warm or at room temperature.

COST: $6.57        COST PER SERVING (4): $1.64
WITH BEANS & RICE (FULL MEAL): $1.89

Unprocessed    //    Gluten Free    //   Dairy Free
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