December 1, 2013

The Crock Pot is my Best Friend

So, as I posted earlier, 2013 kinda sucked for us. It started off with about 11 weeks of craziness as I left one job for another. Then it became 35 weeks of stress, craziness, medical appointments, learning the new job, and doing it all without much sick or vacation time accrued.  

(side note, figuring out that I've spent 35 weeks of this year dealing with cancer- yeah - eye opening and sucky!)

Shortly after starting my new job and enduring an hour commute each way instead of 20 minutes, I discovered I would have to learn how to do a better job at preparing meals that were 1. quicker, 2. easier, and 3. could be made ahead of time.

I started breaking out the crock pot more and more and relying on using a roasted chicken for the whole week for meals, or meatloaf, or a roast.  

One of our favorite things we made during that 35 weeks had to be the Crock Pot Picadillo from Skinnytaste. First off, we love Gina's blog - everything we've made from there is delicious and this is no different!  And the Picadillo is the perfect blend of flavors that we just love.

And a plus - this makes a TON of food and gave us two dinners worth and frozen leftovers for lunches later in the month.

I think it's time to put this on the menu again soon!

How we made this in the Realistic Eats kitchen

  • 2 1/2 lbs 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup diced cubanelle pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup alcaparrado (manzanilla olives, pimientos, capers) or green olives - We couldn't find alcaparrado - so we used olives with pimientos and some capers just measured out to make a 1/4 cup.
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste

Here's where I strayed - I didn't brown the meat first - I tossed EVERYTHING in the crock pot and let it go! It was fabulous! And Easy - did I mention EASY!!!



This dish makes you feel like you're dining with Robin Leach

A La Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

However, it's super simple, and really not that expensive to make. But it's truly elegant! One of those that you should make when you're entertaining because it's so special and unique.

Oh, so yeah, I should mention, Ina Garten is my hero. I love her and secretly want to meet up with her and Jeffrey in Paris and have her take me around to the wonderful little shops to eat pastry and bread and cheese and drink wine with them! I'd actually settle for running in to her in CT one day and just watching what she buys in the market and trying to replicate it at home! I love her and just about everything she makes!

When I saw this recipe floating around online a few months back, I decided it would be the perfect excuse to buy some caviar and indulge in something rich and delectable for the night.

Oh Ina, you certainly don't disappoint!!

Make this, especially during this holiday season if you have people coming over - the addition of the caviar to just pasta with lemon makes this a WOW dish. And it's heavenly as well! We purposely saved some leftovers. About 4 hours later - there were no more leftovers. YUM!

Lemon Capellini with Caviar


1 pound dried capellini (angel hair)
olive oil for cooking the pasta
1/2 pound unsalted butter (I did reduce this amount and used just 1 stick and a touch of olive oil)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper to taste
150 grams good black caviar (I found a nice one just at our local market which didn't break the bank)
Zest of lemon for garnish (I skipped this part)

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the capellini, and cook al dente. Drain quickly, leaving a little water with the capellini. Quickly toss the capellini with the melted butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. 
Place one serving of pasta on each plate and top with a large dollop of fresh caviar. Garnish with grated lemon zest. Serve immediately. 
YUM! I could eat a massive bowl of this creamy, salty, deliciousness right now!!

It's like being back in St. Louis

I have a lot of extended family from the St. Louis area - so we visited the area often when I was a kid, even through my time in college. One of my favorite things about visiting family there - aside from actually being WITH my family - were the many, many, restaurants that had toasted ravioli on the menu. Oh, and there was also this Mexican place in the nice mall that made their own tortillas and served that as the munchie instead of chips and salsa - delicious, warm, soft tortillas with this amazing orange butter. OMG!

OK, so back to ravioli. Any time we went out, I had to get toasted ravioli. It was a requirement. And something we just couldn't find in the greater Chicagoland Area. And once I went off to Indiana for college and then moved out east - forget it! Toasted ravioli quickly became a thing of my past. (excuse me while I shed a tear).

Fast Forward to this wonderful day in October of 2012, I was going through my Google Reader (remember when that existed?) and found a recipe for oven toasted ravioli on Six Sisters' Stuff. Could it be - could I make these at home?!

Why yes, yes I could.  So on Christmas Eve of last year, when the hubs and I indulge in lots of sinful and delicious heavy apps for dinner that night, I made the oven toasted ravioli with mushroom ravioli. Oh heavens! They were amazing!! In fact, so amazing, I decided I'll make them again this Christmas Eve as well.



Oven Toasted Ravioli Recipe from Six Sisters' Stuff

Ingredients:
1 (20 ounce) package refrigerated ravioli (found in the deli section) - I used mushroom ravioli - my favorite!
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs - I used plain that I seasoned myself.
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese - um, yeah, Kraft it was!

Nonstick cooking spray
Directions:
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together egg and milk in a small bowl.  In another bowl, combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Dip each ravioli in the egg mixture and coat in the bread crumb mixture.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Spray ravioli with cooking spray.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden grown.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping. *I did bake these on a silicone sheet and I think that helped with any sticking. Although I may try baking them on racks this year. I also did flip them once during the baking process to evenly brown.*
 (Recipe adapted from Plain Chicken)

Do you fry at home?

We aren't big in to making fried foods - we don't fry chicken, or pork chops, or eggplant - everything gets baked. But, a french fry - now that's just different. I'm sorry, baked fries just aren't as good!

So over a year ago now, we tried this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker for Easy Homemade French Fries - and we've probably made them about 6 or more times since then. They don't disappoint!!

And the best thing in the world to make these - this little bad boy from Pampered Chef! I suck at using their French Fry Cutter - but the hubs is great at it - so he's the designated potato cutter for fries!

We've made these fries with just some regular salt on them, seasoned salt, salt and pepper, you name it - they are always delicious. And when you just have that craving for a good burger and fries - it's so easy to make it at home!

The only changes I make to the recipe is we use Canola Oil. And I have used just about any type of potato with this method and it still works great! The key is not stirring them around until that first 15 minutes is up - this will ensure a crispy and firm fry and not just mushed up potato fried in oil.

Happy French Fry Eating!!

November 16, 2013

What did you expect, I've got an adventurous foodie husband!

So the hubs is big in to making things from scratch - bread, cheese, sausages, grinding his own ground turkey and beef, jerkey, canning fruits and vegetables and broths, making and canning his own pie fillings, you name it.

So it should come as no surprise that when he says, "I'm going to learn to make..." he's going to follow through with it.

The last time the hubs said "I'm going to make.." it ended with pickled ginger.

Yes - pickled sushi ginger.

I was certainly not going to fight this one.


Buying this in the markets is so expensive here, and it would go so well with our sushi bowls that we eat on a very regular basis. So I got to work finding the recipe and method and lo-and-behold - we are loyal homemade pickled ginger makers in this house now! And it's so delicious and so flipping easy.

Local folks - FYI, you can find CHEAP ginger at Price Rite. And if you're lucky to have some great Asian markets near you, it's very cheap at those markets too.



Yeah this isn't sideways on my computer - sorry people!
This recipe came to us from About.com and has now been used maybe 4-5 times in our house. It's perfect!!

Ingredients:

2 lb fresh young ginger 
2 tsps salt
3 cups rice vinegar
2 cups sugar

Preparation:
Wash young ginger root and rub off skin. Slice the ginger thinly and salt them (we do this with the mandolin). Leave salted ginger slices in a bowl for about one hour. Dry the ginger slices with paper towels and put them in a sterilized, heat-resistant container/jar. Mix rice vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot mixture of vinegar and sugar over the ginger slices. Cool them. Pickled ginger changes its color to light pink. (If you are using old ginger, it might not turn pink naturally.) Cover the jar and store it in the refrigerator.

I'm Back! Let's have some Mexican food!

At least for today! 

It's been a tumultuous winter, spring, summer and fall here at the Realistic Eats House - a new job, cancer, you name it- we've done it! 

So I'm playing catch up now on the blog - and unfortunately have so many pictures backlogged that I can't begin to remember what they all were! But they were good, I can tell you that! But hey, gotta start somewhere - so I'll just make my way through the pictures that I remember what the recipes were. 

Hope you are all well and will check back in on the blog - are people even blogging anymore?? HA! . . . 

So apparently I made these September 12 - the sad thing is, I think that was 2012 - not 2013, because I know I didn't eat these in the past 60 days! Damn' that's a long time ago. 

These were delicious, but I think I enjoyed them more than the hubs did. But I'll make these when he travels for work for me! I did tweak - because you know, I have to! 

Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Gina's Skinny Recipes


Realistic Eats Version
6 good size green zucchini cut in half and hallowed out
1 tsp oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
16 oz. ground turkey
2 T Realistic Eats Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
1/4 cup water

For the Topping:
1 Large can enchilada sauce3/4 cup reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar
chopped scallions, cheese and cilantro for garnish

Cut the zucchini in half length-wise and gently scoop out the middle portion of each - reserve for another use if you choose or compost it.

Place zucchini halves in a sprayed 13x9 casserole dish which has a light layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom.

Brown the ground turkey, onion and garlic over medium/high heat. When it's done, add in the taco seasoning, water and cilantro.

Gently place the filling in the zucchini boats - overflow them if you want!

Top with enchilada sauce and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes and top with more scallions, cilantro and cheese. Avocado is great on this too!


February 3, 2013

BLT Pasta Salad

We made this for dinner over the summer and it was just delicious. Since we're still watching our carbs at dinner and not eating more than 3oz. at a dinner, I have to admit it wasn't that much and I wish we could have had more pasta - but it was still delicious! In order to make it a complete meal for us with our protein, I also added some shredded chicken to this. I have to say, having that chicken really helped us not feel so deprived from having less pasta.


This will be a great recipe you'll want to make this upcoming spring or summer for your cookouts and parties. Thanks to Skinny Taste for this great recipe!
4 oz. dry ditalini, boiled and drained
4 slices bacon
10 oz. cooked, shredded chicken
12-16 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 tbsp Mayo
Pepper
1 bag baby spinach



BLT Macaroni Salad with Realistic Eat Changes


Cook your bacon on the stove top and drain on paper towel.

When the pasta is boiled and drained, the bacon is done, and the chicken is shredded, toss all ingredients together and plate. In order to ensure the proper amount on each plate, we prepped this in two separate bowls with the proper oz. of pasta and chicken. So each serving got 2 T of the low fat mayo, 2 slices of bacon, 3 oz. pasta, 5 oz. chicken and half a bag of spinach and half the tomatoes.

So yummy!

So Simple, yet so Delicious!

One of the things we love to eat for dinner in our house is salads. But when we do salads, we always mix it up. Most of the time, it ends up being a bed of mixed greens with our entree on top. It bulks up dinner, adds some veggies, and is really a filling meal.

We made this dish this past summer and it was so fresh and flavorful and good that we keep talking about making it again.

This dish will certainly get your taste buds ready for spring/summer!

Green Bean Salad with Egg

1 pound of green beans trimmed and cleaned
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced
2 tomatoes chopped
6 oz. cooked Yukon gold potato or other potato
homemade vinaigrette
green onion or chives

Steam your green beans and let cool a bit. Plate the beans with the hard boiled egg - two per dish - 3 oz. of potato, tomato and drizzle with your dressing.Sprinkle green onion or chives on top. ENJOY!


Karena's Irish Soda Bread

Two years ago at my office we had a young lady, Karena, on our AmeriCorps staff who had Irish roots through and through.

For St. Patty's day that year she brought in a loaf of her Irish Soda Bread, a recipe she grew up with and has been made in her family for years.

I have never found a good Irish Soda Bread recipe, and it's one of my favorite things! After some begging, I convinced Karena to share the recipe with me - which she gladly did.

I'm so happy she did - it's just fantastic - it makes a ton, but that just means you get lots so eat and share with other people.

And yes, being how far behind I am in blogging, I made this last St. Patty's day - and it's almost that time again - so figured I should share it with all of you!

Karena’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Ingredients:
4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup white sugar
2 ½ Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Caraway Seeds
¼ cup butter (melted)
2 cups raisins
2 cups Buttermilk
1 egg
(1 ½ cup Milk and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice can be substituted for buttermilk-pour milk in separate bowl and add lemon juice—let sit for 10 minutes and allow curdling.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar, and caraway seeds. Mix buttermilk with egg and pour in with dry ingredients. Mix well—add up to ½ cup more flour if needed for bread like consistency. Knead in raisins and melted butter. Let rise for 15 minutes and shape on baking pan.
Bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 until center is cooked and top is browned.

A Side Dish Transformed to an Entree

First off, I want to apologize for neglecting my blog since August.  But between work, working many weekends, a hurricane, some vacations, and the winding down of one job to start another, things have been a little chaotic - leaving very little time for blogging. Or let's be honest, very little interest in blogging.

But I have a folder filled to the brim on my computer with pictures of dishes we've made that I'm just dying to share.

For Christmas a year ago, my mom gave us the Guy Fieri Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It book. She sent it because that fall (in the fall of 2011) we road tripped and made a point to visit as many as the DDDs we could.

Really, everything we've made out of this cookbook as been fantastic. But this is one of my favorites. It's actually meant to be a side dish, but we turn it in to an entree by lightening up the cooking process a bit and then adding some tofu to make it a full meal.

The recipe that Guy uses calls for frying the beans in oil, 2 cups of oil. I just can't imagine using that much for a dinner, so instead of deep frying the beans in oil, we just pan sauteed them. So I'm writing the recipe below how we make it. But the recipe as Guy makes it can be found on the Food Network site here.

Szechuan Green Beans with Realistic Eats Changes to make it dinner!
  • 1 T canola oil1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger1 tablespoon minced garlic1/4 cup soy sauce1/2 T Siracha1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    1 tablespoon mirin or white wine1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
    1 - 2 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 container mushrooms1 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
  • 1 brick extra firm lite tofu
  • 1 avocado sliced or diced
Directions
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Dice your tofu in to small cubes and place on the lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 350 for approx. 30 minutes - or until the tofu is dry and has a light brown color.
While the tofu is baking...
In a large skillet, add 1 T canola oil and heat it up.  When the oil is hot, add in the green beans and mushrooms and cook them until they are tender but start to brown a bit.  
In another skillet or a small pot, spray with PAM, then add in the ginger and saute until you can start to smell it. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until it turns light brown; add soy sauce, siracha, rice wine vinegar, hoisin, mirin, sesame oil. I let this simmer a bit to get the flavors blended then turned it off..
When the green beans are done, and the tofu is done, place in a big bowl or pot and toss with the sauce that you made.  Then toss with some fresh chopped cilantro and the chopped peanuts, which I admit I did toast up first.  Plate that and top with the avocado. 
While I know the meal has enough fat between the peanuts and fried green beans, the avocado makes this recipe with the cool creaminess in contrast to the great salty flavors in the dish.
I did serve this with a 3oz. side of rice noodles as well.