Monday, July 11, 2011

A Week's Worth Of Awesome

Well, the working week anyway. Now that I am jobless I have decided there is absolutely NO REASON for us to be picking around the kitchen desperate to find something for dinner. I can spend my days cleaning, writing & researching, doing errands AND make sure we have a healthy kick ass meal on the table! Don't get me wrong sometimes your body NEEDS to have sandwiches with chips and a pickle for dinner and when it's 99 degrees with 100% humidity my butt will not be standing over a stove! But this week I made some amazing dishes, packed with goodness and with minimal stove usage! Please note that I never follow recipes, I pour and shake until I think it's enough so if you ever want to try one of these recipes take it with a grain of salt, literally and adjust to taste! We traveled from Greece to Italy and back again to have some cozy, yummy and summer friendly meals! Monday Chicken Souvlaki, Dill Cucumber Yogurt Sauce & Mint, Lemon & Pea Cous Cous

I wanted a healthy delicious dinner that would also be refreshing! The Greek know how to do it right, and in fact the Mediterranean diet is huge right now. Because of the power packed antioxidant rich foods like Oregano and Olive oil, this isn't just good tasting its good FOR you! And it allowed me to use FIVE different fresh herbs from our garden! This is a super easy, super fast meal that is great for a hot summer night. Chicken breast Pita bread Plain Greek Yogurt Cucumber Red onion Kalamata Olives Feta Cheese Tomato Cous Cous Peas Lemon Dill, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Pepper Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Red Wine Vinegar First mix Olive oil, Lemon juice, red wine Vinegar with Crushed pepper, thyme and oregano and set aside. Cut tomato and red onion into thin wedges and halve olives. Add in crumbled feta and pour half of the above mixture over it and set aside. Wash chicken breast and soak in remaining mixture of oil and vinegar. Bake at 375 until done, set aside to cool. Peel and chop cucumber and add to yogurt along with fresh chopped dill, put in refrigerator to chill. Make cous cous according to package, add half a bag of frozen peas, lemon zest and chopped up mint and lemon balm. Warm the pita bread and then fill with yogurt mixture, chicken and veggies and serve cous cous on the side. Tuesday Chilled Cantaloupe Soup With Prosciutto, Tomato Mozzarella Sammies This is hands down one of my most favorite things to make and eat! And its so fast you can whip it up in less than ten minutes. AND NO OVEN OR STOVE! It was crazy hot today and I actually worked, so I was out of the house from 5:30am-7:30pm. I needed something crazy fast with minimal effort. This is based on Italian cuisine and the key here is to use FRESH ingredients. Make sure your melon is ripe and cold, and make sure your basil and tomato are at peak freshness! I promise this will change your life. You're Welcome. Ripe cantaloupe Mint, Salt Baguette or bread of choice Prosciutto Mozzarella Tomato Basil Olive Oil, Pepper Cut melon in half, scoop out the slimy seeds and take off rind. In a blender add all of the melon meat, fresh mint leaves and a few cranks of sea salt, puree until smooth and put in fridge. Cut Baguette in half and cut into sandwich size portions. Drizzle a little olive oil on bread and crank some pepper on them. Slice mozzarella and tomato and layer on bread. Add a slice of prosciutto and fresh basil. Dunk Sammies into Cantaloupe soup, eat and thank me later. Wednesday Campanelle with Lentils, Sausage and Arugula Miss Martha Stewart made with recipe without sausage and with Orecchiette pasta (the ones that look like little bowls) But I thought Campanelle are more fun and we had a ton of left over sausage in the freezer from a BBQ so I decided to add a lil' goodness to this. It's such a healthy meal, what's a little sausage? If you've never played with lentils, now is your chance they need to be your best friend. They are filling and delicious and packed with fiber and nutrients from B vitamins to Proteins. At only 230 calories for a whole cup have at them!! And a fun twist is adding Arugula to a pasta dish. Most of the time you see this peppery devil in a salad but when cooked up it is a peppery, lovely filler to any dish! It cooks down allot so be generous! It's also considered a "super food" and an aphrodisiac so you can feel good about what you're eating and maybe feel good later.... Capanelle Pasta White onion Olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic Tomato Arugula Lentils Italian Sausage Parmesan Cheese Water or chicken stock

Cook Pasta until al dente and Lentils until tender In a pan add oil and cook chopped onions with a pinch of salt until brown. Add 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock and stir to loosen brown bits from the pan. Stir in chopped tomatoes and spices to onion mixture and remove from heat. Cook sausage and either slice or crumble, drain and set aside. In deep pan add lentils, onion/tomato mixture, pasta, sausage, chopped arugula and 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock, mix and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top!

Thursday Taco Lasagna

I love anything with Mexican flavors! A little cumin and cilantro and I'm a happy gal! I love making burritos and enchiladas but this is also a fun twist. I used the no boil noodles to eliminate that step which is great because the wet noodles are harder to work with! I like my food spicy so I add tons of red pepper and hot sauce. And my new favorite discovery (well not so new) is using Greek plain yogurt instead of sour cream. I would bathe in sour cream if I could but it's so fatty. The low fat versions don't taste very good so I have replaced ALL my needs for sour cream with Greek Yogurt! It's more creamy and has ZERO FAT! Don't know how those Greeks do it but I applaud them! Another way I cut fat but add protein is by Using Morning star meal crumblers. Some people might find this scary but I'm telling you they are amazing! They have a great consistency and they take on whatever flavor you want! I also use them in chili and half the time Pete has no idea! This is also a meal I put in the "end of the world" category because if you don't have fresh ingredients you can almost always find 90% of them in your cupboard! You can also skip the Ricotta part and use any other type of noodles to make a cheesy taco noodle bake! No boil Lasagna noodles Morning Star Meal Starter Crumbles Tomato Onion Corn Black beans Cilantro, Cumin, Red Pepper, Paprika, Garlic Low fat Cheddar Cheese Olives Jalapenos Can of Tomato soup Salsa, hot sauce Low Fat Ricotta cheese one egg Greek Yogurt Brown "meat" and add onions and spices. Mix in tomatoes, beans, corn, olives, jalapenos and stir. Mix in tomato soup, salsa and a handful of cheese into mixture and set aside. Mix fresh cilantro and as much hot sauce as you want into ricotta cheese and add one beaten egg. Set aside. In lasagna pan add a heaping ladle full of meat/tomato mixture and spread evenly. Layer lasagna noodles on top, no need to overlap, they will expand. Spread Ricotta mixture over noodles and more meat sauce on top and repeat! Cover top with a healthy layer of cheese! Cook Covered at 375 for about 40 minutes and take cover off the last 5 to brown cheese. Serve with a heaping dollop of Greek yogurt

Friday California B.L.T. Salads

This is pretty self explanatory but OH SO GOOD! I could eat BLTs for every meal, and in fact there have been days in my life where I did! The bacon makes it breakfasty! But to cut out all the bread and add a little more substance I love turning them into salads! You can add whatever you want to this salad but I like keeping it simple to really let the BLT flavor shine. I'm using turkey bacon to make it a little heart healthy but that's getting thrown out the window because I am also frying up the left over Prosciutto from Tuesday to make it crispy and crumbling it on top! I can't waste that goodness and it will be perfect on the salad! And if you've never had a "California" BLT (Avocado, Lime, Black Pepper) you are in for a summery treat!

Arugula, lettuce, or spinach Tomatoes Turkey Bacon Sliced avocado Lime Juice Mayo Black Pepper Put a large heap full of washed greens into bowl. Cook bacon until crisp and them crumble into large pieces. Slice tomatoes and avocado. Toss everything together with a spoon full of mayo, just enough to lightly coat. I find it easiest to cover the bowl and shake the crap out of it to evenly cover everything. Sprinkle salad with lime juice and fresh cracked pepper
It has been a week of good eating!! But not the kind that makes you want to kill yourself! We have covered all food groups and gotten tons of lean proteins and nutrients! Hopefully you guys will try some of these recipes or have them inspire you to try something new! I'd love to hear about it if you do!! There are no real mistakes in the kitchen, it's all about experimenting! And again, not the kind that makes you want to kill yourself, like playing Beirut with white wine! Never. Again.
Bon Apetit!

Loads of Fun!!

It's finished!! Our Laundry room is finished and I couldn't be happier! Having the laundry in our actual house as opposed to the basement makes all the difference in the world! I don't have to trudge down to a damp, dark smelly basement with spiders and God knows what else AND our living room smells of fresh laundry! All it really took was a little help from our friend Bill Clifford who helped move the monster to the other side and a $282 check to our local electrician who spent a hot five minutes changing the plug for our dryer and moving it over! Worth every penny though. We now have an amazing laundry room and more storage! Stacking the washer and dryer was definitely the way to go, not only did we gain some room but you only have to bend over once which definitely makes a difference! And oh the music it plays! I swear the dryer goes on for like 4 minutes with a little jingle, gently letting me know it's done instead of scaring the crap out of me with a siren like beep! And they have Wrinkle prevent! Best invention EVER! Instead of having the clothes just sit there when I forget or don't feel like folding them right away, the dryer goes on for a minute or two every five minutes and it prvents wrinkles! Amazeballs! It feels so good to finally have a room officially done with brand new appliances. Lots of rooms are coming along but won't be "officially" done until we get some brand spanking newness up in them i.e. new fridge, new tub, new bed... Even though its the smallest room in the house, it gets used every day and it prevents us from being nakie so I say that's pretty important!

Un jardin de notre propre!

Want to know one of the BEST things about owning your home? GARDENING! For years Pete and I spent HUNDREDS of dollars on flowers, mulch, seeds, you name it. And it was all for some ungrateful landlords. All of our money, sweat and tears were really only building equity for some ass hats. But we love to do it and always wanted to be proud of where we lived so we sucked it up. But now... It's all ours!!! A Garden of our own! We can do whatever we want and know that not only are we building ourselves equity, we get to enjoy it for years to come!! However my problem is wanting it all to be done NOW! But plants grow (did you know that?) so you have to plant and wait and then see what needs to be done. Our front gardens had a few surprises that popped up in the mulch, We still aren't sure what everything is. My Mother In Law gave us some great advice, saying we shouldn't pull anything up for at least a year because who knows what it will turn out to be! So for now we are keeping what is there but have added some of my favorites! Lambs ear which is so darn soft and blooms a really unique flower, and also lots of Lupins and Lavender!! Love those "L" plants! We have Lilac trees and Lily of the Valley on the side of our wall. If I had my way our whole front yard would be a sea of Lillies, Lavender and Lupin! But Like I said for now, we have to wait and let nature do it's thang! However that didn't stop me from putting in a few kitchy garden accents like my turquoise mushrooms and a few signs! Gotta give love to the Fairies! And it's so fun to get creative! You really can let your imagination fly when it comes to gardening. I found this old wagon at an antique shop for $5! We drilled a few holes for drainage and added a few rocks and filled with soil and some fresh flowers from the flea market! For about $12 we have a really cute, interesting plnater for our front yard! We finally found a spot for our Llama. This Llama was purchased by Pete about ten years ago at a heroine yard sale, yup. It has been in our bedroom, dining room and living room. I swore he wasn't making this last move but SOMEHOW he ended up in the moving van (Even though I offered the men mucho dinero to "accidentally" drop it out on the highway) But I will say that I think she has finally found her home in our raised garden bed. A few wooden pots of different sizes and colors and some rocks and mulch makes the perfect hiding spaces for the top of our septic system, which was not going to grow grass! Though we can't really agree if she is a llama, an Ibex or a deer, we definitely agree that she has never been happier in a spot! We are still working on the "Water feature" though. I spent about an hour in my Wellies and rubber gloves, knee deep in rank water, snakes and dead leaves. While it was nice of the previous owners to set up the foundation for a water feature they obviously never took care of it! We finally got it cleaned out and filled the bottom with river stones and added a zen bell fence. The only problem is we have had the hardest time with the fountain part of it! We need to keep the water moving to keep the mosquitoes from laying eggs. We wanted to go solar so we wouldn't have to worry about plugging it in and hiding the wire but after MUCH research the solar fountain I got barely produces a light trickle and the second a cloud covers the sun it stops! Ah well for now it will do. I want Koi but Pete says we have enough pets! We also finally got our herb garden in! There was already a square bed with ant eaten rail ties so we cleared it out completely and filled it in with Maine mulch! What is Maine mulch you ask? Blueberries and lobster shells - and it is THE BEST! The goobers I nannied for gave us money to plant something to remember them by. And they always helped me cook and Gabriel loved to garden and Ben loved when things were "free" meaning you could pick and eat them, so an herb garden was the perfect choice! We have the most amazing array of really healthy herbs and we can step right out of the kitchen and pick them! Next year we will put new rail ties in and maybe some rocks, but for now it has been such a joy having fresh herbs. You CAN NOT beat Fresh herbs in cooking! Tonight I am making Chicken Souvlaki (Fresh Thyme and Oregano) with A Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (Fresh Dill) And Lemon, Pea Cous Cous (Fresh Mint And Lemon Balm) You cannot beat that! And may I just add, while I was outside taking all these pictures I left a plate of cooked chicken on the edge of the counter and Hurley Van Lou inside. I came in to him sitting on the floor and looking longingly but he DIDN'T TOUCH IT! He had about ten minutes to swipe it! What a good boy. And speaking of dogs, if you rub your dog's in mint and lavender its supposed to keep those nasty ticks away! Our deck is finally starting to feel like home! The Double Papasan got a new coat of weather resistant paint and some outdoor cushions. Our table set (Craigslist for $100) just needs a coat of rust free black paint and the outdoor cushions and umbrella make it the best place to enjoy a cocktail or some BBQ. There is something about an outdoor rug that really ties it all together and gives you that indoor/outdoor feeling. We love having morning coffee (which I am starting to get into) and after work cocktails our here. We have twinkling lights at night and some solar lanterns for extra color!
It's just the start but I think we are in great shape. It feels so good to be doing all this work FOR US. We have 30 more years to perfect it all. Some day the hot tub will be in, the fire pit will be dug and the vegetable garden and bocce ball court will be in. But for now, it's home.

"Gardening is a way of showing the World that you believe in Tomorrow."