Posts filed under ‘Healthy Eating’

Frugal Friday: Bakery-Style Breakfast from the Freezer

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with building menus that will help me stock my freezer with quick meals when I don’t have time to cook. And while I’ve been largely focused on main dishes for dinners, I’ve also been taking the time to fill the freezer with easy and healthy breakfasts. Breakfast is sometimes our Achilles heel because:

  • It can get lost in the weekday morning fray. I love (and I mean love with a passion) to sleep, so I tend to want to stay in bed as long as possible on any given day. During the week this means there isn’t a lot of wiggle room in our morning routine. One little thing like a too-long shower, a forgotten homework crisis, or a missing favorite shirt can mean I barely get everyone out the door on time.
  • We get tired of the same old options. Toast and cereal only go so far, and if those are our main choices for too many mornings running everyone gets tired of them. I try to mix it up a bit with bagels and English muffins, but in the end those can get old as well. Even when there is time for breakfast (but not enough for me to cook eggs, bacon, or pancakes) the options aren’t always appealing.

When we don’t eat breakfast at home, some or all of us sacrifice a healthy breakfast. From a kid perspective that means grabbing breakfast at school, which can be fun every now and again. For the adults, it means grabbing fast food or a muffin at the local bakery. The costs (and calories) can add up quickly. While there are plenty of frozen breakfast options at the grocery store, they aren’t inexpensive and the ingredient lists aren’t necessarily inspiring.

As part of my freezer filling fun, I’ve been stocking up on breakfast foods as well. Waffles are a family favorite. I make extras on the weekends and freeze them individually. A quick toss into the toaster and they are ready. It’s much less expensive than buying Eggo or even store brand waffles, and I know exactly what is in them.And while waffles are great, my favorite freezer-friendly breakfast is muffins.

I used to make muffins from a boxed mix, but I became concerned about the processed ingredients and the cost. Also, when I make muffins at home, I can use fresh fruit and even sneak in a bit of whole wheat flour or wheat germ to up the nutritional count. I’ve tried a variety of muffins and some freeze better than others. After much experimentation, a Lemon Blueberry Muffin recipe from My Recipes has proven to be the best option. The muffins are low in calories and fat, and the recipe is a great base for many variations on a theme. I’ve made the muffins with orange and blackberry and even lime and raspberry. When peaches are in season I’m going to try those as well. To make these freezer-friendly I:

  • Double or even triple the recipe.
  • Skip the glaze because it doesn’t freeze well.
  • Use my food processor to cut the butter into the flour to speed up the mixing process.
  • Make the muffins with whatever berries are in season so the price is lower and the fruit is sweeter.
  • Wrap them individually in sheets of aluminum foil (I buy the pre-cut boxes of foil at SAMs) and freeze them in a zip-top bag.

To warm a muffin, heat it still wrapped in foil in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Sometimes I’ll toss a muffin into the oven right when I turn it on and then heat it for 25 minutes or so. Muffins are imminently portable, so I can set them to reheat in the midst of our morning routine and everyone can take them to go as they are on their way to work or school.

April 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment

Healthy and Freezer Friendly: Vegetarian Chili

Have you looked at the labels on canned chili recently? 26 grams of fat per serving, and they think that there are two servings in that tiny can! Skip the fat and the preservatives and make your own chili. It freezes well, it’s easy, and best of all, it’s delicious.

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili

Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30+ minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 8 carrots, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and chopped into ½ in cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin (more or less to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 2-3 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 16 oz. cans kidney beans
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly golden and the onions are translucent.
  2. Roll mushrooms in flour then add to the pot, and stir to combine. After the mushrooms lightly brown, add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and chili powder to the pot. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the beans with their juice and the tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, but more if you have time. The longer it goes, the richer the taste.
  5. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • You can add just about anything to this chili: zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, even meat if you don’t want to make it strictly vegetarian.
  • This recipe freezes extremely well, so once you’ve tweaked the recipe to how you like it you can make huge batches of it and freeze portions for later.
  • Because you know what is in the pot you can control the fat, sodium and cholesterol levels, making this a very healthy recipe that doesn’t skimp on taste.

March 3, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

Simple and Tasty Trout Meuniere

I’ve been on a steady campaign to get more fish dishes into my menus and onto our table. In a perfect world we’d have fish twice a week, but for now I’ll settle for once every couple of weeks until I find a collection of recipes that my family truly enjoys. This recipe is a classic French preparation for fish and while it’s very simple, it’s also very tasty. Of course, anything with lots of butter is always tasty. One of the points of adding fish dishes to the menu is to lighten our plates, but first I have to get my family over the fish hurdle, so I’ll settle for the healthy fish plus the decadence of butter as a starting point.

Recipe: Trout Meuniere

Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 large trout fillets
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz. all purpose flour
  • 4 oz. clarified butter, canola, or safflower oil
  • 2 lemons, sliced in half
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. In a small pot over low heat, melt the stick of butter until melted. Stir occasionally and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper.
  3. Put the flour in a shallow dish or plate and dredge the fillets on both sides until lightly coated.
  4. Heat the clarified butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Place the fillets skin side down (if your fillets still have the skin) into the oil. Sauté for about three minutes, ladling the oil over the fillets continuously to help cook the fish through.
  6. When the fish no longer sticks to the pan, flip the fish. Increase the temperature on the pot of butter to medium-high and heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty, about 5 minutes.
  7. When the fish is golden brown on both sides, remove it from the pan and drain quickly on paper towels.
  8. To serve, put the fish on the plate (a bed of rice is a perfect accompaniment) and squeeze the juice one of the lemon halves down the length of the fillet. Sprinkle a generous amount of parsley on the fish, followed immediately by the boiling hot browned butter.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

  • Clarified butter is butter that has been melted and had the milk solids and water removed so only the butter fat remains. The main benefit of clarified butter in this recipe is that it has a higher smoke point which is necessary to sauté the fish. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own clarified butter, check the ethnic food section of your grocery store dairy case for ghee. It’s the same thing and you don’t have to do anything other than scoop it out of the jar.
  • Depending on the size of your fish and the size of your skillet, you may have to sauté the fish in two batches. Be careful not to over-crowd the pan or you won’t get a good crust on the fish.
  • Be ready to serve this fish as soon as it’s cooked, so choose a no-fuss side dish like steamed broccoli so you can focus on finishing the fish.
  • For the adults on a special evening, a nice white wine without too much oak is a nice pairing with this fish.

February 23, 2010 at 7:22 pm Leave a comment

Frugal Friday: Making My Own Bread

Home Made Whole Wheat Bread

This year I took on a new personal challenge: baking the majority of the bread my family eats in a given week. It’s been an interesting learning experience thus far and I’m glad that I decided to do it. I decided to embark on this adventure for a variety of reasons. When I make my own bread I can:

  • Save money The total price tag for the ingredients that go into a loaf of bread is lower than the actual price of a loaf of bread, particularly when it comes to buying interesting breads like artisan loaves and brioche rolls. To reduce my costs even further, I keep an eye out for flours and other bread ingredients and buy them in bulk when they go on sale. I have a collection of inexpensive storage bins that I bought at an office supply store that keep the ingredients fresh for many months and a bay leaf or two in my flour keeps the bugs away.
  • Reduce waste. We don’t always need 20 dinner rolls or even 8 hamburger or hot dog buns, but when I buy pre-made bread we’re stuck with what’s in the package. I try to be smart about using leftover bread for bread crumbs, croutons, French toast, and other applications, but sometimes I really just want 4 buns. When I make the bread, I can easily control the quantity I make.
  • Know what’s in my family’s food. I carefully read the label of every pre-made and packaged food that I buy, and you’d be amazed at how many bread products include corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives in their ingredient lists. The best way I know to be sure my family eats whole and natural foods is to combine whole and natural ingredients myself. When I make the bread, I know exactly what’s in it.

However, adding bread baking to a busy family schedule isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. After all, it takes time to make, knead, form, and rest bread, and the dough typically doesn’t last for long. It was the time commitment that really kept me from taking up bread baking. Last year I started to hear about a book called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes at Day. I paid attention to what bloggers were saying about the book and added the authors’ site to my feed reader because, honestly, I felt like great bread in 5 minutes a day seemed too good to be true. It seemed that many folks were enjoying this method and found success with it. I still didn’t run out and buy the book because my family has been focused for a while on eating more whole grains and moving away from white flour, and many of the recipes were for white bread. I was excited when I found out that the authors were publishing a second book, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and I pre-ordered a copy. I’m happy to report that I’ve made several batches of dough, and while I need to practice my dough shaping skills, I’ve been very pleased with the results.

The general premise of the authors’ approach to bread baking is that you make a no-knead dough that will hold for 5-10 days in the refrigerator. On the days you want to make bread, you spend 5 minutes shaping it, let it rest, and then bake it off. All of the dough I’ve made thus far really did take less than 5 minutes to put together, largely due to not having to knead them, and I’ve been able to shape basic loaves together in 5-7 minutes. With more practice I expect to be even quicker. Stuffed breads and cinnamon rolls have taken longer, but not much. I’ve experimented with whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour, and found that my family really likes the results. The favorite breads thus far have been the homemade hamburger buns, the cinnamon rolls, and the cranberry challa. Here are a few pictures of the bread I’ve been particularly happy with.

Homemade whole wheat bunsHomemade sandwich breadHomemade cranberry challa

If you’re curious about this method, try a couple of these recipes from authors’ site before you decide if the book is worth the investment:

You can also watch videos on the site to see how the method works. And, if you decide to give this approach a whirl, you can ask the author’s a question on their blog and they’ll get back to you quickly – they really want to make us all successful bread bakers!

Do you make your own bread? If so, I’d love to know what method you use (traditional or a new method like this one) and how you think it helps you save money.

February 19, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Menu Plan Monday ~ February 1

Menu Plan Monday logo

I’m giving away a copy of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook as part of my first Frugal Friday post. Pop on over to that post to share a tip on how you save money at the grocery store and enter to win.

Wow, January has flown by! It seems like it was Christmas just yesterday, but here we are staring right at Valentine’s Day. Before we know it spring will be here. I have to say that being good about planning and following menus made this January a much better transition into a new year than my family has had before. We’ve also done a good job of keeping our grocery bills down and eating a healthier diet all around.

This week is a bit of an oddity for us because school is out for three days of teacher training. I’ve never been exactly sure why they take these three days off so close to the winter break, but I’m sure there’s a method to the madness. Thanks to the school-free days, the grandparents have kid duty, so for a couple of nights this week it will just be the hubby and I. Times like this are fun for us because we get a couple of date nights in a row, and I get a little more leeway in my menu selection because I’m only planning for the two of us. This week both steak and salmon are on sale, so they’ll be making an appearance on our date night menus. Later in the week we’ll enjoy chicken, pork chops, and some fried rice. This Sunday is the Super Bowl, and in celebration on that, we’ll be having an extra-easy jambalaya that leaves me free to enjoy the game and time with my family.

Have a great week and thanks again for taking the time to read about my meal plan:

  • Monday: Blue Cheese Strip Steaks With Seasoned Grilled Potatoes
    and steamed artichokes
    This dinner is the first of our two “date night” menus. While we could go out to a steak house, I can make a great steak dinner at home that will be infused with only the love that I can give it. I’ll use leftover steak for lunches on Tuesday.
  • Tuesday: Honey-Ginger Grilled Salmon with lemon risotto and roasted Brussels sprouts
    Salmon isn’t just good for us, we truly enjoy it. Usually salmon is a restaurant dish, but because it’s on sale, we’ll be having it at home this week. Because the salmon recipe is easy I’m taking a little extra time to make lemon risotto to round out this special menu.
  • Wednesday: On the way home from the airport
    It’s become a family tradition to stop somewhere on the way home and enjoy a meal together after someone has returned from a trip. This week will be no exception. It allows us to have some quality family time together and not feel rushed trying to get home to get dinner on the table.
  • Thursday: Lemon-Lime Soda Marinated Chicken Breasts (Freezer Stash) with white rice and sautéed broccoli
    I marinated extra chicken breasts a few weeks ago and froze them to use later. Later is officially this week, and the chicken will cook up quickly on the first evening after a return to school and our regular routines. I like to put quick, no-fail dinners on the table on days when we’re getting back into our groove so I’m not tempted to get take out because I’m tired.
  • Friday: Grilled Jamaican Pork Loin Chops with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots
    After a long week the whole family will enjoy sitting down to a hearty meal together. According to the weather man it’s probably going to be a bit chilly outside for grilling, so I’ll use my grill pan to start the chops and finish them in a 425 degree oven.
  • Saturday: Pork Fried Rice
    The rice and pork I made earlier this week will turn quickly into fried rice with the help of some frozen edamame, some sliced green onions, and a bit of soy sauce. This is one of my go-to dishes for a quick meal that tastes like takeout but is easy on the wallet and the calories.
  • Sunday: Quick and Hearty Jambalaya with brown rice
    A quick one-pot dish like jambalaya is great for Super Bowl Sunday. We’ll eat it around the TV as we cheer on our favorite teams. I’ll freeze the leftovers to have for another meal later in the month.

January 31, 2010 at 8:00 pm 1 comment

Low Calorie & Kid Friendly Recipe: Tasty Turkey Burgers

Burgers are a family favorite but they do carry with them their fair share of calories and fat. When I want to give my family a healthier alternative to the trusty burger, I turn to turkey as a beef substitute. Turkey works beautifully in burgers, just like it does in meatloaf, with the help of some bread crumbs to hold the patties together. I like to serve my turkey burgers on whole wheat buns with oven fries on the side and everyone’s favorite fresh fixin’s.

Recipe: Tasty Turkey Burgers

Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. finely diced onion
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Add all of the ingredients except for the cooking spray to a large bowl. Use clean hands to gently combine them.
  2. Form the mixture into 4 equally sized patties.
  3. Heat a medium skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray.
  4. Cook the patties over medium heat, turning once, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.
  5. Remove the burgers from the pan and let rest for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Serve on hamburger buns with all of your favorite toppings.

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks

  • For a beefier flavor, add a few drops of hickory seasoning liquid smoke, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, and a teaspoon of soy sauce to the turkey mix.
  • Instead of dicing the onion, finely shred it on a box grater. You’ll get all of the onion flavor without the onion texture, in case your kids (or you) don’t like the crunch of an onion inside the patty.
  • Make 12 small patties instead of four from the mixture and serve these up as sliders.

January 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Simple Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Recipe: Chicken with Avocado Salsa

New Year’s resolutions. We all make them and losing weight or eating healthier is often near the top of everyone’s list. We all make them with the noblest of intentions, but by February most of us are staring at a juicy burger or a chocolate dessert. The hustle and bustle of everyday life, missed favorite foods, and a whole host of other factors make it hard to stick with our resolution. But, when you have a collection of easy and healthy recipes in your dinner arsenal, it’s easier to stick with your resolutions and turn them into reality. This recipe is one of my favorite light and healthy main dishes. It cooks quickly is a tasty twist on the typical healthy chicken breast.

Recipe: Marinated Cilantro Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

For the salsa

  • 1 c. chopped plum tomatoes (about 2)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and diced

Instructions

  1. Combine the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil and chicken in a large bowl.
  2. Toss and let stand for 3-5 minutes while you prepare the ingredients for the salsa.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.
  4. Sprinkle chicken evenly on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  5. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.
  6. Add the chicken to pan and cook for 6 minutes on each side or until a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 160 degrees.
  7. Remove the chicken from the pan, tent with foil, and let sit for 5 minutes while you finish the salsa.
  8. To prepare salsa, combine all of the ingredients except the avocado in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
  9. Add the avocado and stir gently to combine.

Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks

  • While 3-5 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, the acid in the lime juice is strong enough to quickly penetrate the chicken and infuse it with flavor.
  • You can serve the salsa as a topping on the chicken or on the side.
  • Sprinkle the cut avocado with lime juice the moment you cut it up to prevent it from turning brown.
  • Be careful when you stir the avocado into the salsa or it could get mushy.
  • This salsa also goes well with other light proteins like pork and fish.
  • If you’d like a little heat in your salsa, stir in a tablespoon or so of diced fresh jalapeno.
  • For a fruitier salsa, stir in a small can of drained pineapple tidbits.

January 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

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