Jul 022014
 

We got our first wedding gift!

At first I didn’t realize what it was. It was a box delivered from Amazon and we have Amazon Prime (and use it way too much to order things) so I thought it was just another package. Then I saw it was addressed to me and ran through the list in my head of things I’d ordered…Wait, I didn’t order anything this big…Then I saw it said “gift” on the box. Michael and I debated for awhile on whether to open it or wait. The wedding is a few months away but why would we just have a box sitting in our living room for a few months? We decided to open it.

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It was wrapped in a cute velvety bag and it was huge! It was so exciting! Bella and Fat Kitty were super excited and wanted to be in the middle of it all. I unwrapped it to find one of the things off our registry:

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Woohoo!! A nice, fancy new crockpot! I have an old crockpot that works fine, but I’ve always wished it was one that had a timer. I cannot wait to use this baby! Bella was investigating everything, sniffing and nudging it.

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Fat Kitty was more excited about the box it came in. He immediately jumped inside and started playing with the box. I love these goofy fur babies.

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The gift was from our friends Tiffany and Chris (she’s from the former blog “Carbzilla”–and I’m so glad we became friends in real life!) So we had received our first gift for the wedding. It felt really exciting. I know we’re adults and all, but it was kinda like Christmas morning. :)

I decided to test it out. I found this recipe awhile ago and wanted to try it but the weather changed and it was really warm and sunny out and the idea of soup didn’t appeal to me. Which was weird because I typically eat soup year round! Unfortunately the recipe wasn’t great and definitely wasn’t photogenic. So trying a different one! I LOVE the new crockpot. It’s so shiny and pretty. :) I like that it’s oval shaped; that makes it easier to store in the kitchen cabinet. The timer part worked great. I set the timer for 7.5 hours. After that time is up, it goes into “Warming Mode” for up to 4 hours. I love this feature!

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Prep Time: 14 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 385

From: http://www.foodiecrush.com/2013/10/slow-cooker-thai-chicken-soup/

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 12 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • cilantro for garnish
  • cooked white rice

Instructions

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in a 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl.
  2. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion and ginger in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
  3. Add in the peas and cook for 1/2 hour longer. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice.
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If you use light coconut milk you save about 200 calories. If you use the regular the calories for this dish is closer to 600 per serving. I added some chopped carrots and also some mushrooms (for Michael). I like how versatile these types of dishes are. You can add pretty much any vegetable you want and you can easily make this vegetarian.

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I’m also glad I read through the comments on the blog post. Lots of readers had tested the recipe and had some alterations.The big one was not adding the coconut milk at the beginning. Lots of readers had curdled soup. Gross! So I followed their instructions and added the coconut milk about 30 minutes before it was going to be done. Also, I’ve never cooked chicken on high before and most crockpot chicken recipes cook around 4-6 hours tops on low so I put my crockpot on low and kept checking on it to make sure it was ok.

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I skipped the frozen peas and didn’t have cilantro but that’s ok. I don’t think cilantro makes or breaks a recipe (except maybe salsa). I added the coconut milk around 30 minutes before it was going to be ready. It didn’t curdle or separate like some of the readers complained about. I debated about adding the second can because the first added a lot of liquid and it seemed “soupy” enough but it had some kick to it so I figured the second can couldn’t hurt.

While the soup was finishing up, I soaked some Pad Thai noodles in warm water per the instructions. I know this recipe said to serve with rice but I didn’t really feel like rice. I wanted more of a soup and the pad thai noodles are rice noodles and gluten free so that worked perfectly!  Once the noodles were properly soaked and softened, I added them to the crockpot, added the lime juice, stirred it up and dinner was served!

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The flavors were so rich! I liked spice that it had. Because I added that second can of coconut milk, the original heat was diluted so I was going to add just a bit of sriracha sauce but I didn’t need to. It was still pretty spicy–but in a pleasant way, not super spicy. I let Michael have all my mushrooms. :) He said the mushrooms were fantastic in the dish. I’ll take his word for it.

One thing I didn’t like–the red peppers were annihilated. I added them around the 2 hour mark thinking that would be okay (the recipe called for them to be added at the beginning). They were too soft and squishy. Next time I would make this and add the red peppers when I add the coconut milk so they stay a little more firm. Also, the chicken was great so cooking it on low for 4 hours was the right move! I got 7 servings out of this recipe and I had plenty for lunches.

All in all I loved this recipe and would definitely make it again. I think it’s a delicious recipe, it’s low in calories, and I can see it being a hit at a dinner party. This will definitely become a regular in this house!

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Mar 052014
 

This post includes a few great recipes I’ve tried lately. I’ve wanted to get back into trying new recipes because we’ve honestly been really lazy with dinners. I like cooking (especially making soups and stuff in the crockpot) and it was time to try something new.

Beef and Barley Stew

I don’t know that this would qualify as a “Fast” dinner but it was fairly easy. I found several recipes for the crockpot but didn’t get around to trying them. I had a free evening last week and decided to give it a try.

Beef Barley Stew

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Calories per serving: 439 for 6 servings

From: http://www.sarcasticcooking.com/2013/01/27/beef-barley-stew/

Ingredients

  • 2 Pounds Boneless Beef Butt Tenderloin, trimmed, cubed, and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 Cremini Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped
  • ½ Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, grated
  • ¼ Cup Unsalted Butter
  • ¼ Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 4 Cups Low-Sodium Beef Stock
  • 15 Ounces Canned Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ½ Cup Pearl Barley
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Parsley

Instructions

  1. Warm a large Dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat for a minute or two. Season beef with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot. Brown the beef on two sides in two batches, takes about fifteen minutes. Once the beef is browned add it to a plate and set off to the side.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Sauté mushrooms for three minutes. Add in the carrot and celery, sauté another three minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the onion, sauté an additional two minutes. Add garlic cook for a minute. Add the beef back to the pot.
  3. Add the butter and stir in until it melts. Add the flour, stir to combine. Cook flour and butter for a minute.
  4. Pour in the beef stock and tomatoes. Add the thyme and bay leaf. Stir to combine the flour butter mixture into the soup. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Add in the barley once the soup is simmering. Cover with lid and let the soup simmer over medium/low heat for 45 – 60 minutes, until barley is puffed and tender.
  6. Remove bay leaf and thyme stems. Stir in fresh parsley and remove from heat. Let the stew cool for five minutes before serving.
  7. Stew lasts 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Soup will last up to a month in an airtight container in the freezer.
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I didn’t have celery so I added frozen peas instead. The recipe was actually quite delicious. I loved the flavors of the soup and the barley was fantastic. It might be new favorite thing. I’ve never had barley before and it went great in a soup. The meat, however, was tough. I wasn’t a fan of that and would probably make this recipe again but leave out the steak. I think it would be great as a simple barley and vegetable stew.

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I topped the stew with some shredded Parmesan cheese. The dinner was super filling and felt nourishing and homey.

Baked Salmon

This is nothing new on the blog. Salmon is a basic meal in our house; we eat it probably once a week. Michael blackens the salmon in the skillet and we often have that with steamed veggies or on top of a green salad. Another method I use is to mix together Dijon mustard with brown sugar, pour it on top of the salmon and bake it. That’s a great one!

This method is just as easy and quick and it tastes great. I spray foil with some coconut oil, lay the salmon down and season it with Lemon Pepper seasoning, a little salt, regular pepper, dried dill, fresh chopped rosemary from the garden and put lemon slices on top. I loosely wrap the foil around the salmon and depending on the thickness of the cut I bake it at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Perfect salmon every time!

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I love the combination of dill, rosemary and lemon. This time around I cooked some jasmine rice in the rice cooker and I also roasted some carrots. For the carrots I sprinkled some grapeseed oil on them, seasoned with salt and pepper, a little of the Costco seasoning and fresh rosemary. I baked the carrots about the same time as the salmon. Everything came together at the same time and was absolutely delicious! The best part: the whole meal was around 600 calories.

Taco Soup

I have a book of soup recipes that I’ve been slowly working my way through. I wish I could say I’ve tried a bunch but somewhere between last winter and this one, I’ve slacked off and only cooked about 5 or 6 of the recipes. There are so many in there to choose from. Of the handful I’ve made, most were pretty decent. The good thing about this book is that it’s broken down into chapters according to the protein and there could be several variations of a similar recipe you can choose from.

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For example, this recipe came about because of what we had on hand. I had 1/2 a pound of ground beef I had to use up and looked at the 4 different beef taco soups in the book. I ended up picking this one because I had almost all of the ingredients it called for.

Zesty Taco Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6

Calories per serving: 290 calories

From: "The Ultimate Soup Cookbook" by Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups V8 juice
  • 1 cup chunky salsa

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan cook the beef and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Cook for 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced.
  2. Add V8 juice, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Add toppings of your choice.
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I didn’t have green peppers and I didn’t have enough V8 (only 2 cans were left) so I added a can of Rotel. It made up the difference on missing 1 can of V8 juice and it also had diced chilies in it. It worked! I wasn’t too concerned about the spicy V8 being too spicy. It’s the V8 I use when I make my Bloody Mary’s and it’s fantastic.

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But…yeah, two cans of spicy V8 is pretty damn spicy! I told Michael I hoped it was edible and not too spicy. I followed the recipe’s instructions and served it up with some shredded Colby Jack cheese, a spoonful of sour cream and some corn tortilla chips.

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It was indeed edible and the sour cream and cheese helped to offset the spiciness. The dinner was delicious! I was glad it turned out and marked it as a winner in the cookbook to definitely make again. Even better: it’s less than 500 calories for the soup and toppings!

I will make the taco soup again and probably VERY soon, too!

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