Friday, May 28, 2010

Recipe: Thai Green Curry

I love Thai food, but I have not been super successful recreating meals at home.  I have tried to make basil chicken and pad thai countless times, but they always come out tasting fishy.
The Thai Kitchen green curry recipe on the back of the coconut milk can only called for minimal fish sauce, so I thought I would give it a try.  As ussual, I modified the recipe slightly. 

The ingredients:

  • large chicken breast cut into bite size pieces

  • small yellow onion roughly chopped

  • 2 carrots

  • a few mushrooms

  • 1 can bamboo shoots

  • 14oz coconut milk

  • 1 tbls thai kitchen green curry paste

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 1/3 cup frozen peas

  • 1 cup dry brown rice
1) Simmer coconut milk and curry paste for 5 minutes
2) Add chicken, vegetables & chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes, reduce heat to low and cook for additional 30 minutes.  I cooked this longer because I added in so many more vegetables and I wanted to make sure they were all tender.
3) Cook brown rice to package directions

This recipe was pretty easy and turned out tasty.  I wished it was spicier and ended up adding in some red pepper flakes, but I will probably add more curry paste next time. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Superfood: Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables.  They are high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese.  Americans generally do not get enough orange vegetables (pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots).  We really should have a serving every day! 

I love baked sweet potatoes.  Unlike baked regular potatoes, they don't need a ton of toppings because they have more flavor on their own. 

When we have chili (and an hour to bake a sweet potato) I eat it in a baked SP.  This means every football Sunday I am getting my vitamin B6!

This past weekend, I decided to try a new way to include sweet potatoes in my diet.  Sweet potato home fries.  These were delicious!  I started with Paula Dean's recipe and modified it. 

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (cubes)

  • 1 small onion (diced)

  • 2 tbls olive oil

  • salt and pepper

  1. Boil sweet potatoes for 6 minutes and drain

  2. Heat olive oil in frying pan and saute onions for 2 to 3 minutes on medium high heat.

  3. Add sweet potatoes to onions and season with sale & pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes or so. 

  4. Enjoy!
My husband is super picky about vegetables.  But I have found a way where even he will eat them.  Sweet potato chips. 
To make these, slice the sweet potato very thin, a mandolin would probably make it easier.  Then drizzle a little olive oil on the sweet potatoes and rub the oil all over.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until crisp.  I have cooked these at a variety of temperatures, based on whatever else I was cooking.  I think 400 is probably ideal.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exploding Garden

The garden is starting to explode, both with bounty and weeds!  We pulled out a probably a third of our radishes, giving us an overflowing bowl that should last us a couple weeks. 
Our strawberry plants have lots and lots of fruits.  We are trying to balance, letting the fruit ripen and getting our hands on them before the birds. 
We have already picked a handful of berries.  Ours are much smaller than the organic strawberries we got in our produce box. 
Our broccoli is developing into heads.  This is especially exciting because last year we did not get any broccoli.  TJ was running between his baby pool and the broccoli this weekend pouring water on it, all while telling me he wanted to eat it, and that I should cook it.  So adorable!
While our fruits and vegetables are doing well, so are the weeds, especially clover.  They are everywhere!

Luckily my husband is helping a ton with the weeding! 
After an hour or so of both of us weeding on Saturday and Sunday, the garden looked a little better. 

There must be a way to limit the weed growth, but we definitely haven't found it.  I am a little nervous about the hot weather in July and August because that is when I remember the weeds being the worst.

Does anyone have any tricks for keeping weeds at bay?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Recipe: Spring Green Tart

My friend Taryn receieved hon tsai tai in her weekly produce box and mentioned it to me along with the fact that she had no idea what it was or how to cook it.  I looked around online and found that it was good in salads or stir fries. 

I stumbled upon an old post on Erin's Kitchen of a Spring Green Tart recipe that used both hon tsai thai and rainbow chard.  Chard was coming in my produce box, so I suggested we combine the two to make the tasty looking tart.  I didn't have all of the ingredients and I ended up forgetting a couple along the way, so it is slightly different than Erin's.


  • 1 puff pastry

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese

  • 1 package goat cheese (5.3 ounces I think)

  • half a bunch of green chard

  • large handful of hon tsai tai

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper
Step 1: Thaw puff pastry.  As Erin recommended, I put a wet paper towel around the pastry.  This seriously sped up the 40 minute thaw time mentioned on the package.  Once the pastry is thawed, put it on a greased baking sheet.  Use a fork to scrunch the edge to create a border for the tart.  Mix together 1 egg yolk and a splash of water and brush onto the border of the pastry. 
Step 2: Remove stems from chard and hon tsai tai and roughly chop.  Sautee olive oil and chopped garlic for 2-3 minutes, then add greens.  Cook until greens are wilted.  Put aside to cool slightly.   
Step 3: Mix cottage cheese, salt, pepper and splash of olive oil.  Spoon on top of tart.  Add greens to tart and sprinkle goat cheese on top.
Step 4: Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes or so and enjoy!
Taryn and I each ate half of this for lunch and loved it.  It was pretty filling, but so delicious we were happy we didn't have to share with another person.  The only thing we might change is to decrease the amount of goat cheese.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eating at home

I love to eat out.  I love to order take out.  Thai food, Chinese food, Pizza, Burgers, Italian - you name it, I probably like it.  Eating out right now is counterproductive to many of my current goals: losing weight, saving money and cleaning out the freezer

So as a family we have decided to really cut out the eating out/take out.  We love it, so this isn't 100%, we're trying to limit it to once a week.  With my weekly produce box from Newleaf and my freezer full of tons of food, I am creating weekly meal plans. 

My produce box this week had:
  • 5 apples
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 grape fruit
  • 3 spring turnips
  • 1 large head of lettuce
  • bunch of chard
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • pint of mushrooms
  • garlic
  • 4 bananas
The large squash is actually from last weeks box; it is a kabocha squash.  My friend Taryn gets a produce box from a CSA and she got hon tsai tai this week and had no idea what to do with it.  I found this Spring Green Tart recipe and realized I had the chard coming in my box.  We decided to have a cooking day this weekend, so she brought a bunch of her stuff over.   From her box she brought hon tsai tai, baby spinach, carrots, parsnips and rhubarb.
After picking up my box on Saturday morning, I wrote out a meal plan for the week.  I mostly only plan out dinner because breakfast and lunch are more spontaneous.  Breakfast is usually a homemade breakfast sandwich, a bagel with almond butter and jam, or yogurt and granola.  Lunch is leftovers or a frozen meal with some produce. 

Saturday: Chicken Curry w/ mushrooms, carrots, onions and peas
Sunday: Lunch: Spring green tart. Dinner: Spinach and Artichoke dip, grilled pork chops with corn on the cob and salad
Monday: Salmon Dream Dinner with roasted parsnips and carrots and salad
Tuesday: Grilled pork loin w/ corn on the cob and salad
Wednesday: Tacos w/ turnips and salad
Thursday: Baked chicken tenders with chard and roasted potatoes and salad
Friday: Frozen Pizza night with salad

Eating at home is easier with a plan, but it will still be a challenge to fight the daily urge to order something tasty and easy.   I don't plan the fruit into the meals, but I do serve fruit at meal times.  Sometimes the fruit can be overlooked, but if I put it on our plates at breakfast and/or dinner, we generally eat it up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dream Dinners

A few months ago I bought a Groupon for 50% off at Dream Dinners.  I browsed their website, picked out the dinners I wanted to make, and called them to schedule an appointment.  

On my scheduled Saturday morning, I went to Dream Dinners in Lakeview and made eight different meals for our family.  When I arrived, a Dream Dinner's associate gave me a stack of index cards with the recipe's I had chosen and gave me a brief overview of what to do.  It was a little overwhelming, almost all of the stations were full and I was left searching for a opening.

All of the customer's were friendly and we kind of figured it out as we went along.  Dream Dinners had everything down to a science, with about six different stations each hosting two to three different recipes.  Each station had all of the ingredients conveniently chopped to size with the appropriate measuring utensils in easy reach.  All in all it was a plesant experience and the food turned out ok.  
Last week I made (aka baked in the oven) Mediterranean Pasta with Chicken.  This was chicken, olives, artichokes, and sundried tomotoes with an alfredo pesto sauce mixed with pasta.  It was tasty and a little different which was nice, but I thought the sauce was a little too much. 
When you pack up the food, you stick on the instructions for how to cook the dinner.  This is super helpful because shortly after you put something in your freezer it easily can become unrecognizable and/or forgotten
I still have not mastered the art of food photography, but to bring a little more life to this here is my tasty dinner.  Pasta, strawberries and salad.  Not bad.  It was super convienent to be able to take this from the freezer and have a meal ready to serve within an hour with almost no work needed. 

So overall, I think Dream Dinners is tasty and SUPER convienent, but I think it is a touch expensive and the food isn't amazing.  I don't think we will go back anytime soon because I do really enjoy cooking myself, but I could see us using it again sometime if I get in a cooking funk. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Race Report: C4Miles 2010

So I signed up for a half marathon, yes kind of crazy.  I have never run more than 5 miles at one time in my life.  Never ever!  I was buzzing from the adrenaline of finishing my first race when I signed up.  A couple days after signing up and deciding on a training plan, I realized how hard this would really be. 

I decided I needed some extra motivation to help push me to keep up the training.    So not even a week after siging up for the half marathon, I registered for a 4 mile race the following weekend. 

The race was really nice.  It was along the lake on the north side of Chicago.  There were only a few hundred people in the race so it was more spacious than Wrigley.  I ended up running the race pretty much on my own.  There were people in front and behind me, but it was just me, where in Wrigley there were people on all sides.  Running along the lake was really beautiful, the scenery helped make the time move. 


I had my Garmin Forerunner, which tells me how far and how fast I run, and the mileage for the course was kind of off which was frusterating.  When I reached the half way point I had already run 2.04 miles or so, and at the finish line I had run 4.11 miles. 

I ended up picking up my speed too early at the end because I thought I was closer to the end than I was.  The course could have been correct with me just zig zagging to much.  I guess it is a good lesson to learn for the Half, the Garmin is helpful, but the course markers are LAW.

My Half instigator, Jody joined me for the race and after finishing a good 10 minutes before me, cheered me on for the last hundred yards or so.  She urged me to pick it up, but I didn't have much left to give.  My official time was 35:32 (11:23 min pace), but my Garmin said 45:31 but 4.11 miles so 11:05 pace, which is 2 seconds faster than my pace at Wrigley! 

It was nice to finish strong and it took me a good five minutes to recover at the end.  That is what I thought I should feel like at the end of a race. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Superfoods: Tomatoes

Superfoods are foods with high nutrient content that help reduce risks of diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and more.  There were 14 original superfoods, but many more have been identified. 
Tomatoes are one of the original superfoods boasting disease fighting lycopene.  Lycopene is said to help fight all sorts of cancers including lung, breast and prostate.  Additional benefits from the tomato could reduce risks of heart attacks and strokes.  All good things! 

Tomato sauce and paste actually have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.  It is recommended to have a serving every one to two days.  Tomatoes are versatile and tasty so this is an easy addition to most diets.  
Tomatoes are also one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and they produce so much bounty that they should be included in any backyard garden.  With tomato plants in the backyard, you can have fresh tomatoes in your salad all summer along with plenty of extra tomatoes to freeze, share or make into sauce.  I just finished using up my frozen tomatoes this weekend in a big batch of chili.  Earlier this winter I made several BIG batches of tomato sauce with our home grown tomatoes. 
The weather in Chicago has been warmer than usual, so we decided to plant our tomatoes this past weekend, which is a little earlier than usual.  My husband took the lead on tomato planting this year.  He started by turning the soil.  Then he added some top soil and evened everything out. 
After he got all the plants into the ground, I helped by putting the tomato cages on.  I learned last year that it is much easier to get the tomato cages on when the plants are small.  Hopefully we get lots of tasty tomatoes this year! 

Do you prefer fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

1/2 Marathon Planning

After running the Race to Wrigley I felt a little disappointed because I didn't get that I'm so tired I could puke feeling.  I just thought the race was a little anticlimactic.

Yes I finished and I ran the whole way, but with all the build up it seemed a little to easy.  I mean I had been planning and training (well kind of) for 3+ months.  I think I might have run a little too conservatively because I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish.

I mentioned this to my hockey teammates and fellow racers and we decided to go home and review the upcoming races to decide on another race where I could go harder and leave it all on the course.  I was thinking another 5K and to try to increase my time or maybe a 10K.

Jody, one of my teammates, threw out the idea of the Northshore Half Marathon on June 13th.  I was still all excited, having just completed my first race and  thinking it was too easy, so I agreed.  
We signed up for this about two weeks ago and I have since been questioning my sanity.  I know I will feel so accomplished when I complete this (thinking positively).  I do have doubts to my capabilities, but I am trying to keep them in check.  I can do this, I will do this, it will be great! 

I have been trying to follow a training plan.  This calls for 3 runs a week with one long run which increases by 1 mile every week.  I completed my 5 mile run this weekend and it was tough!  It has been really difficult to get my morning runs in during the week.  I need to work on getting to bed earlier so 6 am isn't so painful.

This is my run schedule for this week:
Tuesday - 3.5 mile easy run
Wednesday - 30 min cross train
Thursday - 3.5 mile easy run
Saturday - 45 min cross train
Saturday - 7 mile long run

Monday, May 17, 2010

Operation Defrost Freezer: Inventory

After declaring my mission last week, I had to inventory both freezers to truly understand the situation and prepare for action! 
This is embarrassing.  We have SO much food it is ridiculous.  Other than produce and dairy we should not need to buy anything for a couple months.  This post is case in point for the dangers of a chest freezer.  Beware interested buyers!
  • Salmon burgers (5lbs)
  • Hot dogs (10)
  • American cheese slices (3lbs)
  • Eye of round steak (1lb)
  • Pork chops(3lbs)
  • 9 chicken breasts (~7 lbs)
  • Turkey mignons (2)
  • Salmon filet (1)
  • White fish filet (1)
  • Ground turkey (3 lbs)
  • Ground beef (1.5 lbs)
  • Breaded Cod (2lbs)
  • Dream Dinners - simmers Chinese chicken (3 servings)
  • Dream Dinners - Dijon honey lime grilled salmon
  • Dream Dinners - chicken Mirabella
  • Dream Dinners - Mediterranean chicken pasta
  • Salmon patties (5)
  • Pork tenderloin (1.5 lbs)
  • Pork brisket (1.5 lbs)
  • Bacon (5 lbs)

  • Corn on the cob (24 half ears)
  • Frozen corn
  • Garden tomatoes (1.5 gallon bags)
  • Chicken nuggets
  • French onion soup (4)
  • basil garlic Tilapia
  • Foccasia chicken
  • Lean pockets (6)
  • Chicken teriyaki bowls (4)
  • Chow mein bowls (3)
  • Misc frozen lunch meals (7)
  • Potato skins
  • Frozen pizza (3)
  • Panko breaded cod
  • Steak fries
  • Swiss miss bars (24)

  • Blueberries (8 lbs)
  • Strawberries (12 lbs)
  • Bagels (6)
  • Whole chicken
  • Arnold sandwich this (8)
  • Multigrain bread
  • Ciabatta rolls
  • Tortillas
  • Hamburger buns
  • Hot dog buns
  • Pita bread
  • Swiss cheese

With about 35 lbs of meet in the freezer and several ready to prepare meals, we should plan on eating out of the freezer at least 5 nights a week.  This will take us about 7 weeks to get through - ugh!  I am going to shoot for 7 days out of 7, but I think 5 is more realistically attainable.  
I am going to put a ban on purchasing anymore freezer items unless we are desperate for something.  Since my husband does most of the shopping, I cannot guarantee this will be followed to the T, but I can try. 
I can't believe there are still tomatoes in the freezer.  I thought I had used them all up over the winter to make tomato sauce.  
Menu Ideas:

  • Chili  - using freezer burned ground beef and frozen garden tomatoes
  • Beef stew - using freezer burned steak and frozen corn
  • Fish night - using the last filets of salmon, white fish and tilapia
  • Cheat at home night - using up the goodies in the freezer: pizza, potato skins, fries, etc. (this will take a few nights - once every week or two)
  • Grill night - pork chops, pork tenderloin, chicken, salmon burgers (lots of these nights in our future)
  • Chicken & Turkey - these are staples for us, so we have countless ways to use them
  • Frozen lunches - I have several weeks worth of frozen lunch meals.  These can get real boring (and super salty), but as long as I'm not out of town I am going to bring frozen lunch 3/5 days a week.  I will probably supplement these with fresh fruit or a salad to give myself a little bulk. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Operation Defrost Freezer

Mission: Defrost the freezer without wasting lots and lots of food.
Deadline: 7/23/10 before our vacation to my parents.  This might seem like a very generous deadline, but I am not talking about a small freezer.  In addition to the freezer above we have a large cheast freezer in the basement completely packed with food.

This freezer is so packed it is really hard to find what we are looking for, or to even know what we have.  In addition to this allowing us to defrost the freezer, I am hoping we can save a little money on groceries by eating down what we already have. 

Plan of attack:

1) Take inventory
2) Plan meals
3) Fix & Eat meals

I will keep you posted on how this goes.  The real hard part will be not refilling the empty space once we clean it out. 

Is there anyway to save freezer burned food?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

14 day "detox"

A few months ago I was my lowest weight since college, possibly in the best physical shape of my life and about to start a new job.  Most of my clothes were too big, so I bought myself a bunch of new work clothes.  Now a couple months, many late work nights and 10 lbs later my new pants are tight and uncomfortable.  I am having upset stomachs way too often because I am not eating properly.   
My new job actually isn't so new for me because I used to work for this company a few years ago.  My first stint here, I gained a good 30 lbs due to long hours, lots of travel and many many team dinners.  I promised myself I would maintain my healthy habits of exercise and eating right when I came back, but it has proven more difficult than I thought.   I honestly almost pulled my "fat" pants out of their storage bin this morning.  Instead of bringing back my 22's I am going to make sure my 18's fit again and comfortably!
In an effort to get back on track and comfortably back into my "new" pants, I am going to focus on making good choices for the next two weeks.  I am not perfect - not even close!  So while I want to be healthy for a lifetime, I will eat chips, cookies and fried goodness of all sorts.  I just need to make sure I am eating the good stuff most of the time.  So to re-ingrain the good choices, I am going to be kind of strict on myself for the next couple of weeks. 

No I'm not going to be eating nothing except lemonade and maple syrup, if you really thought that you definitely do not know me.  I am going to keep this kind of loose because if I am traveling for work I still want to be able to follow it. 

These are the guidelines I will follow:

  • No deep fried foods (yes no chips, no french fries, no egg rolls, no orange chicken - so sad)

  • No ice cream or store bought cookies

  • Load up on veggies (at least one BIG salad a day)

  • Eat fruit (at least 2 pieces a day)

  • Exercise (break a sweat at least 3 times a week)

  • Drink water
I made a google document where I will keep track of all of this.  This way it wont take over my blog, but I will still feel a little more accountable.  This is my first try with google docs, so we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strawberries are Amazing

Strawberries are delicious, versatile, nutritious, and I can grow them in my backyard! 
I love strawberries plain, mixed in yogurt, and the desserts where I can incorporate strawberries are almost endless. 
My father in law knows how much I love strawberries and when he heard I wanted to start a garden bought me the nicest strawberry pot for my deck.  He also brought me more strawberry plants than could fit into it.  I planted the extra plants in the garden. 
What I think is super amazing about strawberries and gardening, is that they come back like three fold the next year.  The above and below pictures are two seperate patches.  If I can beat the birds, I am going to be rolling in strawberries this year!!
These should probably start ripening in the next month or so.  The plants will only be good for 3 years or so, but they put out strawberries all throughout the summer.
My favorite stawberry indulgence is strawberries sliced up and mixed with vanilla ice cream.  So delicious!
What is your favorite way to eat strawberries?