Nov 222016
 

Saturday turned out to be a really nice day! I planned on going to the gym but Michael suggested we go for a walk as a family since it was so sunny and kind of warm out. It turned out to be a really lovely walk.

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Not too bad of a calorie burn for a long walk/jog. It was nice to go out as a family, too.

Also over the weekend, it was my cousin Anna’s bridal shower. Her friend Shawna planned a super fun and unique shower for her–a cooking lesson! Her friend Bernadette, who has been a chef in many Portland restaurants and now does some catering on her own, taught a cooking lesson for the shower and it was so much fun!

We were all instructed to bring our favorite recipe for Anna and $10 in one dollar bills…hmmm…what could that be for?? 😉

Turned out there were a few rules for the party. You couldn’t mention the honeymoon, their new house or the fiance by name and if you did you had to put $1 in a jar as a tax. It was a funny idea. The money in the jar was going towards the purchase of a Kitchenaid Mixer for the happy couple. I love that idea!

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There were some snacks out while we mingled. Cheese, fruit, crackers, French bread. Lots of wine, sparkling water and lemon water. It was a big group, too, and my mom drove down and stayed with us overnight so she could go. A bunch of my aunts and cousins were there and it was nice to see everyone.

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We were all told to bring our favorite recipe, too. So we all decorated our recipe cards and put them in a book for Anna. My Grandma sent down her coffee cake recipe (which is the best you’d ever eat) and I put in Michael’s mac n’ cheese recipe in the book.

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The party was at my aunt Sheila’s house and the decorations were adorable.

The cooking instruction started. Dinner was salmon with Asian slaw, zucchini and rice.

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The cooking instruction was really fun and interesting and Bernadette answered questions (some just general cooking questions) and was a good teacher. She walked us through her recipe for the slaw and homemade dressing and recruited Anna to do the mixing:

Then she walked us through making the sauce for the salmon. It was tamari, brown sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes and cornstarch with water.

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We all got to taste the sauce after it thickened up and it was almost like a tangy, tamari caramel sauce. It was SO good!!!

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Here is the finished product:

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The food was absolutely delicious! Shawna is going to email everyone the recipe soon and when I get it I will post it. I definitely want to make that sauce because it was so amazing. I also loved that it was a simple, healthy, low-calorie meal that anyone could make.

After dinner we had dessert. Anna’s mom made a chocolate/whipped cream/walnut dessert and a raspberry cheesecake bar dessert. I had a small piece of both.

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The cooking lesson was a blast and it inspired me to look into some cooking classes in the future. It’s something I’ve done in the past and had fun but never stuck with.

It was such a fun night. I was so glad we all got together and celebrated the upcoming wedding. It’s going to be a blast!

Question: Have you ever had a cooking lesson? What did you learn to cook?

Feb 242015
 

veggies

Lately I’ve been craving vegetables like crazy. I’ve always been a fan of veggies but for some reason I recently started craving them. I made a switch in my diet and started incorporating more veggies in my diet to satisfy that craving and I found that I was really enjoying roasted vegetables for lunch during the week.

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I’ve been rotating what I roast. For awhile I was doing carrots, onions, broccoli and pre-chopped butternut squash from Trader Joe’s. Then I did carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and onions. I don’t know why it took me so long to roast these babies. They are so good! I use a little bit of olive oil or the spray-on coconut oil from Trader Joe’s, then use salt, pepper and the Costco no-salt seasoning. That’s about it! And they come out delicious, perfectly cooked (although the sweet potatoes are often a little softer than the rest of the veggies).

This has been a base for my lunches at work lately. I love it! I tried it with some rice; for a few days I added some half a cooked spicy bratwurst (splitting one brat between two lunches); I also tried adding some cooked cubed chicken. All of those variations worked well and kept me fairly full for the rest of the afternoon.

One of the problems with the frozen meals (Lean Cuisines, etc) was that I would be hungry again in 1-2 hours after eating lunch. Then I’d start snacking on the candy at work. I was sabotaging myself by eating processed food that wasn’t filling, wasn’t enough calories and just made me hungry.

A tip that I learned a long time ago was to spend 1 hour doing food prep after grocery shopping. I am so glad I adopted this habit. I get home from the store and I take the time to chop the vegetables and on Sunday nights Michael and I cook up various meats (like pork sausage for breakfasts for the week, chicken breasts for lunches, etc). It makes it so much easier to make a good choice when looking to make something to eat quickly.

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One night Michael and I went out for a date night dinner to Laughing Planet. It’s a great restaurant, especially if you have kids. They have tons of really healthy options, a rotating menu and they post the nutritional information for the meals. You also have the option to put your burrito in a bowl to make it low-carb.

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I ended up ordering the daily special. It was called the “Winter’s Bounty Bowl.” It was pulled pork with Korean BBQ sauce, spinach, roasted Brussels sprouts on top of a butternut squash puree. Then it was topped with an apple, ginger and mango relish. It was SO good! And it was really filling. I am totally going to try and recreate this recipe at home soon!

Back to lunches…I’ve been trying to look for some recipes and ideas for other lunch options. I’ve collected a few. Here is one:

Carrot Coconut Curry Soup

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: 204

From: http://www.acouplecooks.com/2014/09/carrot-coconut-curry-soup/

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2½ cups vegetable broth
  • 14-ounce can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cilantro, lime wedges, and red pepper flakes (to garnish)

Instructions

  1. Dice the onion. Peel and mince 1 tablespoon ginger. Peel and chop 4 cups carrots.
  2. In a medium stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger, carrots, and 2½ cups vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer; cover and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. When the carrots are soft, carefully blend with an immersion blender (or in a blender) until the carrots are smooth.
  5. Return the carrot mixture to the pot and add 1 can coconut milk and 2 tablespoons red curry paste. Stir until well blended. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add about ½ teaspoon kosher salt, then taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  6. Serve with chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and red pepper flakes if desired.
  7. Notes: Slightly adapted from Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=45882

I recently had the Thai carrot soup at Whole Foods from their soup/salad bar and it was OMG AMAZING. I immediately tried to find the recipe because I had to make it myself. I didn’t find one specifically from Whole Foods but I found a bunch of options and settled on this one to try first. It was super easy to make and didn’t have a ton of ingredients. The only thing I changed: I used the Light Coconut Milk instead of the full fat like the recipe said. It’s what I had on hand and honestly,  I didn’t want the extra calories from the full-fat version.

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One thing I’ve learned making Asian dishes–never add extra salt. A lot of recipes call for a pinch or two of salt (sometimes more). But if you’re using jars of curry paste, or chili paste, or other Asian ingredients from a can/jar/package–IT ALREADY HAS SALT! And sometimes a lot of it. I learned that lesson the hard way and now I almost never add salt to recipes I make when using these ingredients. It’s just not necessary.

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I cooked everything up and let it simmer for awhile and then used my immersion blender to get the soup creamy. I love that blender! It’s so easy to use and it works really well. Plus I don’t have to mess with pouring things into a blender and then spilling it all over the place. So much cleaner and easier. I blended up the carrot mixture until it was the consistency of baby food then I added the curry paste and coconut milk.

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The one downside of the immersion blender–I did get splattered a few times when I used the fast speed. Ooops! After everything was all mixed in I let it simmer for 10 minutes and then tasted it. It needed a little something…I added a pinch of Splenda and then tasted it again. I added one more pinch of Splenda and then it was perfect. I hadn’t expected having to add sweetener because carrots are already so sweet but the soup was just a tad on the bitter side. The Splenda fixed that right up and the soup was perfect!

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I got 5 GENEROUS servings out of this recipe instead of 4, which made the calories more like 165 calories instead of 200+. This could have easily been 6 servings for dinner–with maybe some crunchy French bread and a salad. The soup was creamy and the texture was perfect. It was also surprisingly spicy!

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I loved the soup. It was SO CLOSE to the Whole Foods recipe. I’m not sure where it’s different. I need to have the WF version again. I’m sure they used fresh ginger (I used powdered) and they probably used the full fat coconut milk. Maybe those small changes made the difference? I’m not sure but I loved my version. It was tasty and filling, low in calories and spicy!  Yum! Yum! I also had a bunch of leftovers for work lunches. Perfect!

What are your favorite veggie recipes?