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Monday, January 26, 2009

replicating a favorite

do you have a dish from a restaurant that you absolutely love? i know i do. eating out is expensive, but sometimes you really just want that delicious, professional, mouth-watering restaurant taste... can you have it at home?

i think you can! the trick is just finding, or creating, the right recipe. here are a few tips:
  • check the restaurant's website. some restaurants, like olive garden for example, posts recipes on their website. easy as that!
  • google it. chances are there is a recipe online for it somewhere! caution: this doesn't mean it will be fabulous, but if you find it somewhere reputable, it's bound to be good!
  • check your favorite food blogs. or your friends blogs for that matter. my friend amy recently posted her mom's recreated cafe rio salads and pf changs lettuce wraps. jenny at picky palate recreated one of her restaurant favorites - the pizza pie - and it looked delicious!
  • recreate it yourself. check the menu at the restaurant for ingredients first. what is that flavor you just can't identify? it might just say it on the menu - i.e. "a hint of lime", "drizzled with garlic and olive oil", etc. don't forget to share it with the rest of us when it's fabulous!

enough with tips... on to the food. i got really hungry the other day for a favorite from our favorite family restaurant - macayo. not the best mexican food, but for some reason tradition always makes it taste better than it probably actually is. :) either way, i was totally craving albondigas soup, spanish for "meatball" and a macayo specialty, so i googled it and it turns out one of my favorite food bloggers - elise at simply recipes - had a recipe for it. a few skinny bovine modifications and mmmm.... we had delicious albondigas soup for dinner. check it out!

albondigas soup

adapted from simply recipes

serves 6-8

yes... my camera captured the steam coming off of the soup. way cool.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small/medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 - 1 cup of tomato sauce (i want to use 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes next time)
10 cups beef broth (or chicken, i used beef though) (elise said: "we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock" - i used 8 cups broth 2 cups water since the ground turkey doens't create as strong a broth as ground beef)
2 large carrots, sliced
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup of raw white rice + an extra handful
1 raw egg
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dried oregano
salt and pepper

4 large handfuls fresh baby spinach
chopped fresh cilantro

1. heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. add onion and minced garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. add tomato sauce and broth mixture. bring to boil and simmer. add carrots.
2. prepare meatballs. mix rice into meat, adding parsley, salt and pepper. add raw egg. form beef into 1-inch meatballs (i used a small cookie scoop - worked like magic!).
3. return soup to gentle simmer. add meatballs to soup, one at a time. cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. add spinach towards the end of the 1/2 hour. add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. garnish soup with chopped fresh cilantro.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

recipe of the week: black bean tortilla casserole

mmm... this is always a yummy meatless option in our house! adapted from the better homes and gardens red checker cookbook, your baby should like this one too. mine loved it. she even licked her plate (see below)!

black bean tortilla casserole

8 servings

1/2 a large onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups green pepper, chopped (remember the cheap way to do these? read here.)

1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup green enchilada sauce

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained

tortillas of your choice - i used whole wheat (you may need to cut flour ones in half)

grated cheese

toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.)

1. in a large skillet, combine onions, peppers, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, cumin and garlic. bring to a boil, reduce heat. simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. stir in beans.

2. in a 13x9 inch baking dish, layer bean mixture, cheese and and a layer of tortillas (in that order) until bean mixture all gone. end with bean mixture and cheese.

3. bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Friday, January 16, 2009

feeding healthy babies

my friend kelli has an adorable 1 year old, about 1 1/2 weeks older than mine. she requested a post on feeding our little people healthy foods, so here's what i have learned in 1 year of trying to feed healthy foods to my highly-opinionated munchkin.

my spaghetti monster. yes, those are peas she's so happy about. read more under "be sneaky" below.

  • make your own. this is my one budgeting tip. when mine was tiny i used this website to make pureed foods. now that she's older i still make everything i feed her. and don't buy expensive baby-brand snacks. they love cheerios... and don't forget to wait for sales! :)
  • start with veggies, then move to fruits. it may help them develop a like for the non-sweet stuff first.
  • try, try again. don’t let a bad reaction to a specific good food keep you from trying the food again. wait a week or two and then try it again. their bad short term memory may mean they forgot they didn't like it!
  • try different consistencies or serving styles. for example, my daughter wouldn't touch mashed bananas, but she loves feeding chunks of bananas to herself. same goes for other typical baby foods - carrots, peas, green beans, pears, peaches, apples - maybe they don't like it mushed, but they may like it in little chunks later.
  • wait on things you feel strongly about. since tiny ones aren't supposed to have whole wheat yet, i waited to give emery bread with any consistency until she was almost one. that way, she didn't get hooked on white before she tried the good stuff.
  • strive for variation. you wouldn't like a whole meal of just pears would you? neither does baby. :) change from day-to-day as well so they don't get bored of the good things they like.
  • if they have a good favorite - work it. i know i can always get in at least 1 fruit a day because em loves bananas. that's fine - a banana a day is great for her so work it!
  • be sneaky. i recently discovered emery loves noodles with pasta sauce... and that she doesn't notice if it's actually 1/2 pasta and 1/2 peas under that sauce. see the happy spaghetti monster above. she also loves cheese, so i'll melt cheese on stuff so she'll eat it.
  • feed them new things first, when they are hungry. if they really won't eat it, give them something else.
  • steer clear of sweets. the sooner they realize they are around, the sooner they'll want to eat just sweets... just like their moms. :)
  • have their eating influence yours. make things that are baby-friendly for dinner that you can all benefit from. cook so that they are getting the nutrients they need and your get yours too. they love being "big" and having what you have for dinner and you'll love not having to cook something else. ex. pasta and sauce (sneak in peas and/or spinach), quick cream cheese and spinach pasta, shepherd's pie, chicken noodles and mashed potatoes and my next recipe of the week - black bean tortilla casserole. em scarfed it down. stay tuned!

and yes, here's me... the skinny bovine, herself, actually making an appearance on her own blog. i got bored with my hair last week and cut my bangs. i haven't had many comments from friends... i'll assume the worst. any feedback??... anyone?? :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

recipe of the week: shepherd's pie

shepherd's pie is a classic. easy, warm and delicious. but this one is done the skinny bovine way. soooo yummy, lots of veggies, lower-fat substitutes and it's another great way to use all of those potatoes left over from the holidays. (i am the only one with some left still?? that's what happens when potatoes go on sale, i guess... i go crazy!!!) try this one out on your kids too. they should love it!

shepherd's pie
8 servings

mashed potatoes (try mine or make your own)
1 box stuffing mix
1 lb ground turkey
1/3 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups corn (or one can, drained)
1 1/2 to 2 cups green beans (or one can, drained)
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
grated cheese (i use cheddar jack)
1. brown ground turkey with onions and garlic in skillet until done, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
2. make stuffing according to box directions, but with no butter (yes, just use the water).
3. spread mashed potatoes 1/2 inch to 1 inch (adjust for how many potatoes you have!) at the bottom of a 13x9 in glass baking dish. spread ground turkey mixture over the top, then stuffing, then corn and green beans. spread cream of chicken soup over the top then top with grated cheese as desired.
4. bake at 350 F for 30 to 40 min or until hot throughout (sometimes i make mine ahead and put it in the fridge so i have to bake it a little longer).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

comfort food

we had 48 straight hours of snow here this week. i'm kind of a sunshine girl, so all of that dreariness put me in the mood for some comfort food. here's what comes to mind when i say comfort food:
  • it's warm - there's no such thing as a cold comfort food.
  • it's delicious - duh.
  • it reminds me of home - comfort foods are often something my mom or grandma made.
  • it feels good - texture, flavor, nutrition - its the perfect balance and when a ton of it is sitting in your belly it just feels good!
here's my version of something my mom used to make. my husband thought i was crazy the first time i made it - until he tasted it, of course! the chicken noodle soup is perfect and simple (and even better with homemade noodles if you want to go to the effort) and the mashed potatoes push it to that next level of comfort food fabulous!

also, if you still have a big bag of potatoes from the holidays like i do this is a great way to use some of them. it's also perfect if you ever have leftover mashed potatoes from a previous meal.

comforting chicken noodles over mashed potatoes
6+ servings

7 cups chicken broth (use 9-10 cups if you just want to eat soup with no potatoes)
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
1 heaping cup sliced carrots
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon pepper (+ more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt (+ more to taste)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces
4 cups uncooked egg noodles
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (or use baby spinach)
1. bring broth to a boil. add onion, carrots, bay leaf, salt, pepper and raw chicken. turn down heat and simmer (you can let it boil hard if you're in a hurry, but if you let it simmer really low the chicken will be more tender).
2. when chicken is done, add noodles and pull chicken out to shred. add back to soup after shredding.
3. when noodles are almost done, add spinach and continue simmering until spinach is soft.
4. spread a few mashed potatoes (from here or your own recipe) into the bottom of your bowl, top with chicken noodles. enjoy!
what is your favorite comfort food?

adventures in tofu

so i decided to be an adult. i've always been a bit afraid of tofu, but you can't really say you don't like it unless you've tried it, right? well, i found it on sale really cheap and now i've tried it.

the result: two skinny bovine thumbs down! yuck! i even marinated it ahead and it was still slimy and gooey and icky. it may look pretty yummy below, but don't let it fool you.

do you like tofu? if so, what is your trick?

Monday, January 5, 2009

recipe of the week: trifle

my family-in-law got me hooked on trifle. it is one of my favorite desserts because it's so yummy and so easy... and you can get totally creative with it and its always divine. then again, i think anything with pudding is delicious. :) we don't always make trifles that are skinny bovine approved (sometimes real whipping cream or oil-filled brownies sneak in there), but this one is.

banana cream trifle
makes as much as you'd like!

layer the following ingredients in any order and quantity you'd like (the amounts i used for this size trifle in parentheses):

sliced bananas (5)

vanilla wafers (2 cups maybe)

cubes of yellow cake (baked with applesauce instead of oil) (1/2 a 13 x 9 cake)

vanilla pudding (made with skim milk) (2 small boxes)

fat free whipped topping (generic cool whip - cheaper!) (1 regular size container)

some other fun ingredient combinations to try (not as healthy or cheap as the above, but absolutely delicious):

berries (strawberries, raspberries, etc.), vanilla pudding, cool whip, yellow or angel food cake

chocolate cake, pudding of your choice, cool whip, cookie and/or brownie pieces, chocolate syrup, caramel

try different combinations of goodies with fruit or other toppings. mmmm... so easy and it's beautiful so it's always impressive to dessert guests!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

new years resolutions

if your holiday season went anything like mine, you ate like a crazy person for the last 8 weeks and feel like eating nothing but veggie soup for the next 8. don't get me wrong - the food was wonderful and it was more than worth it, but i'm not particularly fond of waking up with a stomach ache or not being hungry for 1 meal a day (or any snacks in between) because i've gorged myself on the other 2. yikes.

so here we find ourselves in a new year once again, making resolutions for healthier eating and even for weight loss. we can definitely go overboard in these goals, leaving us stymied to accomplish them at all. when making your resolutions for healthier eating or losing weight, here are some principles to go by:
  • be realistic. if you eat dessert every night, it may be hard for you to eliminate all sugar from your 2009 diet. instead, give yourself 2 nights a week you can eat dessert and try to make healthier desserts so you don't feel so bad about it.
  • make small changes that matter. for example - make a goal that you will no longer buy white bread, only wheat. if you don't have white bread around you certainly can't eat it and your waistline will thank you. other good ideas here - no more fried foods, eat better snacks, use egg whites instead of whole eggs whenever possible, etc.
  • be accountable. have a buddy (a friend, spouse, etc.) to report back to or to report progress to - or even to vent to when you'd really rather eat fried chicken than a salad.
  • don't eliminate anything you love. this is a good way to stop your goal before it starts. if you love it, you're going to splurge and eat it at some point. i, for example, could never go on a no-carb diet. i love anything with carbs - bread, pasta, rice, cake.... mmm. no atkins for me.
  • exercise. this is the most important change you can make in 2009. your overall quality of life will improve if you do. you will feel better, have more energy, stave off depression and burn calories all at the same time. it feels good to exercise because you know you're keeping your body healthy and you won't be decrepit by the time you're 50, but you also have more eating flexibility if you do. my dad, who loves to cook bacon fried rice, eat ice cream and cookies but is also an avid biker, has a simple equation he uses: calories eaten - calories burned = fat on body.
  • reward yourself. if you've been doing great and you're really craving those fried, rolled tacos at the greasy mexican food joint around the corner - reward yourself!! just don't do it too often and don't let it send your eating into a downward spiral. you may even want to set a limit for how often you reward yourself as part of your goal. and have 3 rolled tacos instead of 5. :)

and this should make you feel better. i made 4 of the 6 pies for Christmas eve dinner. yes - even the skinny bovine loses control during the holidays.

healthy cooking on a budget

disclaimer: i don't claim to be an expert on cooking, weight loss or even healthy eating, but i do love to cook, find healthy, taste bud-friendly tricks and most of all, i love to eat!

qualifications: what qualifies me to blog on cooking healthy on a small budget? well, as my husband is still a student, my budget is not what you'd call large. and as for the healthy part, when i was 10 i was diagnosed with pancreatitus - a disease that doesn't effect me much anymore unless i eat food that is too greasy or has too much fat (in which case, well, let's just say i get really sick). this had steered my experience and limited cooking expertise in a health-conscious direction.

please feel free to comment, criticise, rate recipes, try ideas and make requests for future posts!