Monday, March 18, 2013

Refrigerator Roundup

Seem to be a decent pinch hitter
     While I normally have Mondays off to menu plan and grocery shop, today was not one of those days. After working 8 hours I drove home to to have a cup of coffee with my Mom and get my daughter off the bus and I was honestly too tired to bother going to the grocery store and putting together much of anything. Thankfully I keep a small stash of fake meat options in my fridge and other pantry staples for such occasions. So I chose the 'hot dogs' my daughter wanted to try a week ago and started staring within my fridge for a side dish.

     It didn't take too long for a bowl of leftover mashed potatoes to catch my eye. Whipped those up last night with butter, sour cream, and salt and pepper for St. Patrick's Day. Certainly a solid side dish on their own, but I decided to instead make them into potato pancakes... of a sort. I started by sauteing 1/4 of a leftover onion, about 1 stalk of celery, and 1 clove of garlic. Once sauteed, I mix into my mashed 'taters along with 2 small handfuls of flour (That's a valid for of measurement, right?), and a heaping handful of shredded pepper jack cheese. Finally I formed some patties, pan fried those suckers up, and tossed them in a 250 degree to keep warm while using the pan to fry up the hot dogs. Dinner made in under 30 minutes (for once!).
I'd venture these are not that "good for you", but they sure are good!

     Dinner was overall a success tonight. The 'hot dogs' were a bit spongier than I'm used to, but the last time I had a hot dog it was more than likely a Hebrew National or Nathan's, which tend to be denser and meatier in texture anyway. My daughter didn't seem to notice though and she's had hot dogs far more recently than me. The potato pancakes were awesome, nice crust on the outside and creamy and flavorful on the inside. All they needed was a sprinkle of salt on top, though ketchup or sour cream would certainly be tasty as well. The girl gave me two thumbs up and was sad that I cut her off after 3 potato pancakes. As for me... I'm excited for potato pancake leftovers, and while I wouldn't dread eating another one of those hot dogs, I think I'll be leaving the rest of those to her to finish off.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tacos! Olé!

     Want to start this post off with a bit of bragging, it may be minimal but I did break through my plateau from last month. Lost 2 ¼ inches overall and a fraction of body fat percent! As I close in on my “ideal” weight and fat percent progress seems to be slowing, but it is progressing at least. And in immeasurable ways I’ve seen progress as well. I fill up faster, I have more energy, my tastes are changing, I feel more confident, and I’m overall more comfortable with myself. I even managed to get myself to the gym without an appointment last night. It felt pretty good too, I may make it a Tuesday habit. We’ll have to see about that though J.

     On to the food... Tacos still remain a favorite in my household, and the spices allow me a lot of room to play around with protein options. This time around I used straight up tofu and lentils instead of going the fake beef soy protein route. Once again I pressed my tofu dry and sliced up real thin. This time I used Trader Joe’s Enchilada Sauce as a marinade.

     A few hours later my daughter came home, we spent an hour jumping on our new trampoline, and then I meandered inside to get started on dinner. I strategically had my mom and daughter stay outside so I could sneak the tofu past my daughter and the lentils past my mom.

Using these guys!
     I didn't go for the broiling option this time with my tofu, I chose to crisp these suckers up in the frying pan with a drizzle of Peruvian lime olive oil. Even sliced thin and on high heat it took longer than expected to get a good crisp on both sides. Which was fine, I just used the extra time to chop my peppers, onion, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, and lettuce. I also got our tortilla bowls ready. Handy tip, spray with Pam or brush with oil and then season your tortillas before placing in the molds... so much tastier!

     After the tofu was done pan searing, I cut each strip in thirds length wise and then 5-6 more times in the opposite direction. Just to make smaller pieces that would get lost in the taco filling mix. While cutting those down I put all my veggies (less the lettuce) in to the fry pan with some homemade taco seasoning. I used to buy the stuff in stores and packets, but I'm also trying to watch sodium intake... when I remember... so I've been mixing my own seasonings recently. Most have turned out well, this one included. But this is the only one I have a recipe for! Anyway, once everything was near done I put in half of a leftover pouch of Trader Joe's precooked lentils and half a bag of frozen roasted corn. Once those were warm, in went the tofu for a quick reheat. Just as I was finishing up, the girls came back inside looking for dinner.

     As with burgers, I've learned that taco topping are incredibly personal, so we assemble the bases at the stove top and final touches were performed at the table. We had black olives, sour cream, Mexican cheese, pepper jack cheese, and fresh tomatoes to garnish our taco salads with. We have guacamole in house too... but we forgot to get it on the table. Ooops!

I tend to skip the sour cream and fresh tomatoes

     These tacos went over without a hitch. Mom enjoyed them, my daughter enjoyed them, I enjoyed them. That's six thumbs up around Monday night's table. The smaller sized tortillas make a perfect sized salad bowl. Enough to make a meal, not so much that you are tempted to over eat. Get the whole wheat, reduced carb ones and you have a huge winner all around! 

     As for leftovers... that's what we had tonight! I did add a little salsa to the mix as I was reheating to provide some moisture. I suppose water could have worked, but why be plain when you can be flavorful? Even reheated, these tacos are a winner. I think I may see tomorrow's lunch in my fridge.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Not So Fast Fast Food

     A few weeks back, I was shopping the aisles of Trader Joe's with my mom looking at all of the, sometimes strange, offerings. One such item that caught our eyes was the Tri-Colored Quinoa. We like rice and cous-cous so why not try something else?

     Weeks went by and the bag got pushed around in the cupboard and near forgotten about. On a Monday off with my daughter she and I were grocery shopping and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. In the bakery section we found a bag of mini burger buns, so we settled on mini veggie burgers. And then instead of fries I would make oven roasted potatoes. TJ's didn't have fake beef product that I was comfortable making into burger patties, so we planned to get that at another grocery store.

     Back at the house, it was confirmed that I was going to be making diner for my parents as well. When I mentioned mini burgers, Mom got all excited and asked if I wanted to use the quinoa to make black bean burgers. Oh yeah! There was a recipe for that on the back of that bag! Dinner plans were finally set. Couple condiment purchases later and the kitchen counter looked like this:
It's not even all in the picture!
     As the quinoa boils away on the stove, I get to chopping, slicing, and sauteing. The recipe is fairly straight forward and easy to follow. I did omit the egg, since it was optional anyway, and made them slider sized instead of a full burger. Other than that I stuck with the directions for once!

     The recipe made A LOT of 'burger' mix. I made enough to fill all the burger buns, plus 6 patties to enjoy at work for lunch, and I have enough mix to make 12 more sliders hanging out in my freezer. But I'm grateful to have those extras because it took over an hour to get these suckers made! So much more labor intensive than a beef burger for sure.
Two sliders, a serving of asparagus, and roasted potatoes
     I left condiments up to personal preferences, so mine have guacamole, fried red onions, and Mexican cheese. My daughter had cheese and ketchup. Mom had hers like mine. Dad had cheese and maybe that's it? I only have one teeny tiny regret... I wish I had toasted those buns... it would have made them perfect. Other than that though, everyone really enjoyed their black bean burgers. Mom enjoyed them so much she split the final burger with me, Dad said he would eat them again, and my daughter gave them "all the thumbs up in the whole world!" The leftovers at work attracted quite a bit of positive attention, but no way was I sharing! I put the time in, I'm enjoying my burgers. Speaking of time... I'm glad everyone enjoyed these and they made so much mix... made me feel the time in the kitchen was worth it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Oh Hi....

     Where did the last month get to? Oh yeah, Girl Scout cookie sales... taking care of Mom... work... daughter... life in general. I also hit a bit of a funk I suppose. I had measurements with my trainer a few days after my last post and while not bad... they weren't what I was hoping for either. Lost a few pounds, down another percent body fat, but didn't lose any inches.... not a single one. Ouch. All that work and very little to show for it. But! I did keep up with the vegetarian diet. And with the picture taking.

We call it "Button Soup"

This was a happy sort of accident. My mom bought me a vegetarian slow cooker recipe book and I was aiming to make a French Alpine Cheese, Tomato and Onion Soup. But... I was cooking for not only my daughter and myself but my parents as well and my dad can be a picky eater. So I blended the tomatoes instead of chopping them. And it just snowballed from there. I added Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo, some mushrooms, italian seasoning, and a few odds and ends left over in my fridge. Soon it was nothing like what I had planned to make for dinner, but it was really pretty good. The soy chorizo added a bit too much of a kick for my daughter and mom, but Dad and I enjoyed it well enough. I later heard that maybe it would be good served over rice, but by then it was all gone.

     A few nights(?) later I was cooking for just us three girls, and started playing around with Phyllo dough. If you've never worked with it before, just carefully follow the instructions about keeping it covered and what not. This stuff can dry out seriously fast. To fill my phyllo cups, I made something similar to Trader Joe's guilt free spinach and kale dip and added the chicken-less strips. The dip was pretty good cold, I could have eaten it like that anytime. Once hot though... still darn tasty, but the texture wasn't exactly as I would have hoped. Still, we ate all the cups from that night and reheated the filling a few nights later as part of our quest to kill off some leftovers.

     The following week I tried my hand at making curry for the first time. I searched and search for a recipe that I thought would work for three distinct personalities. I like spicy, no one else does though so I was outvoted for a milder curry. I also went for lentils over tofu just to avoid another tofu disaster for my daughter. This dish was made simple with the addition of pre-chopped vegetables. Just sautee, season, add lentils, add coconut milk, cook down until you're ready to eat, and toss the naan into the oven in a foil packet to make it over the top awesome. The texture of the lentils was distracting at first, but over time I began to appreciate them more. The leftovers from this dish were amazing, even fresh from the fridge cold. I had a few days worth to provide me with lunch at work for a change. My coworkers were a bit jealous.
     Other than that it's been vegetarian tacos, meat-less chicken stir fry (don't tell my daughter though, she thinks it was real chicken!), waffles one night, spinach cheese pie, vegetarian sushi with my mom on Wednesdays... stuff like that.

     It's been a far more time consuming adventure than I thought it would be. Some nights take 2 hours to starting dinner to serving time. Most take about 1 though. This sort of cooking has also made so many more dishes to be washed! My time in the kitchen has easily doubled, maybe tripled. That sort of work can keep me away from the computer at times, so I apologize to those that have missed my stories into vegetarian cook, I'm working on getting caught up. But hey, check back again soon and I can tell you about the third vegetarian meal I made my my father.