Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baked Ravioli, Today's lunchbox, and homemade breadcrumbs


Last night, I made some baked ravioli with marinara dip for the girls, and baked pierogies for the grown-ups.

Simple, simple, simple.  But since kids seem to like finger food and dipping, this is a fun way to serve ravioli.

Just take a bag of frozen ravioli, and defrost for about a half hour.  I used mini, but you can use any size you want.

Once they are mostly thawed, dip them in ranch dressing, or plain milk if you prefer.

Then, drop them into a ziplock bag or bowl full of panko breakcrumbs.  I only had homemade breadcrumbs on hand (I know, I'm annoying.  I will address these, down further).  Then, lie them on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment or sprayed with Pam.  At this point, you might want to mist them with olive oil, or give them a little drizzle.   I'm counting calories, so I didn't.  But it might give them a richer flavor.

Cook for 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees.   All ovens are different, so keep an eye out to make sure they're not browing too much.

These are meant to be eaten right away, because they do cool quickly.  We heated up some jarred marinara, for dipping.  They were nice and crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.

Carby?  Maybe.  But they were filling, and not too unhealthy.

Today's lunch box consisted of some homemade peanut butter balls (a Martha Stewart recipe that, quite frankly, I would not make again), raspberries, and kiwi, along with three peanut-butter crackers.

And, as promised, let's talk quickly about homemade breadcrumbs.  Breadcrumbs are one of those things that I can't believe people buy.   If you're like me, there is always, ALWAYS bread in the fridge or crackers in the cupboard that are about to be stale.
All you have to do is throw them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven.   I would toast them at 350 degrees for maybe 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

Then, toss them into your food processor and pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs.    Actually, I should have kept grinding mine, but ran out of patience.  You get the idea.
I keep my breadcrumbs in the freezer, to keep them fresh.  But those two cookie sheets above yielded about six cups of crumb.  Which for me, could last half a year.  lol.  You could season them, if you wanted, too.   Salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, parmesan cheese.  Whatever you want!
Get creative!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Figs as a snack, and PBJ Stuffed French Toast

Happy Monday!!

Trying to get caught up with all the photos I've taken of the cooking I've been up to.   But first, a clean snack. 

Purple figs.  Ever had one?  My Produce Juntion had pints for just $2.  I couldn't pass them up. 

Figs taste just like overripe bananas.  Super-sweet and soft.  I was feeling like a decadent snack today, and since I am trying to keep my calories under 1200, that doesn't leave me with much.  So, I peeled a few figs (you can technically eat the skin, but I never eat fruit skin), sliced them into halves, and put a dot of homemade fromage blanc on each (a recipe for another day), then topped it with a pecan.

 Sweet, a teensy bit savory, and LOADS of yumminess.  With nothing over-processed or any nasty preservatives.  

And what got me so hungry for a snack in the first place was just THINKING about writing this post, featuring yesterday's PBJ Stuffed French Toast.  It was so good, even though my daughter suffered a little burn on her leg from the gooey, hot jelly in the middle.

Here's all you need:

You just make a PBJ sandwich for each person at the table.

Whisk up two eggs and dip each sandwich in the eggs, top and bottom.  Then toss them on a buttered grill pan and cook away!  I sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar on top....

About three or so minutes on each side, or until you get this brown looking deliciousness.

We just halved them and ate them like this.  No need for syrup!  But  like I said, the jelly gets really melty, almost liquidy.  Let them cool slightly before eating.....and for heaven's sake, lean over your plate!



Monday, September 17, 2012

White Bean Burgers and today's lunchbox

So, eating healthy is challenging.   At least 50% of the time, I will make the right decisions.  I have the luxury of time to prep and cook, so there's no excuse not to eat healthy.

But there are days when I just WANT something bad for me.  And I have it.  But then I have to deal with the guilt, and the actual physical discomfort of having EATEN something that was too heavy, too salty, too bubbly, too fatty.

I have learned that there are ways to satisfy those cravings, without blowing all of your hard work.  I have a handful of special 'cheat' recipes that make me FEEL like I'm cheating, but really I'm not.

Veggie burgers are a great substitute for heavy, fatty beef burgers.

I have made black bean burgers before, and they are fantastic.  But today, I'm going to tell you about white bean burgers!

White Bean Burgers

  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic

  • Process all the ingredients in your blender or food processor.  

    I was out of oats, so I used a half-cup of all-purpose flour, instead.  When you reach a texture that's sort of oatmeal-like, you're ready to start shaping into patties.

    Now, I experiemented.  I wasn't sure if I would like these baked.  So, I pan-fried four in about an inch of canola oil, and baked four at 425 for 20 minutes.

    My observation is that the fried burgers had a much harder time holding together, while the burgers (baked on parchment) held together like a dream, but were slightly drier.  And probably much lower in fat.

    I would bake them, next time.  Frying isn't worth the added fat.  The burgers were messy and had too much of that oily flavor, for me.

    But both were good, and filling.  I was thinking maybe I could make these into meatballs for the kids.  Hmmmm.

    Speaking of the kids, here is today's lunchbox!    We're so excited this year, because we are allowed to pack peanut butter!    We have peanut butter on wheat bread (no crusts), with grapes and strawberries. 

    If you know of any good lunchbox sites, let me know!  I love to read them.

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    Today's lunchbox and JIFFY Baking Mix Cinnamon Rolls

    Good morning, mommies!

    Today's lunchbox:

    Sorry for the blur.  But we have turkey pepperoni, cucumbers, walnuts, grapes, cherry tomatoes, and a bag of Triscuit on the side.
    She forgot to eat her snack from Friday, which I put into the bottom zippered compartment of her lunchbag.  I opened her bag and found the snack, completely untouched.  She said she forgot it was there, which means she ate part of her lunch as her snack that day, which made me really sad.

    Of course, I reminded her fifty times that her snack for today was in the bottom of her lunch bag.   The thought of her pillaging through her lunch for a snack makes me wish I'd chosen a different kind of bag.

    She'll live, I suppose.  GAWD, we baby these kids.  lol

    Speaking of babying the kids:  Saturday, I made the kids some "homemade" cinnamon rolls.  The quotes are there, because I used a mix.  Not the doughy stuff you find in a tube in the refrigerated section of the market (although THOSE are pretty good, too).  I used JIFFY baking mix.  You may have come across a box of this a time or two.

    This is a lot like Bisquik, but much cheaper.  Really, there is no difference, in my opinion, to warrant the extra couple bucks.  There are about seven recipes on the box for things like waffles pancakes, biscuits, and the cinnamon rolls.  I was first going to do pancakes, because anything else that requires me to knead dough is an instant turnoff.  But I decided to go a little beyond my comfort zone, on that day.  After all, I had this neat new dough scraper thingee:

    This is my floured surface AFTER I rolled the dough.  My camera was being a little bitch, so I didn't get the entire process.  But the procedure is like this:  you stir up the mix, plop it on a floured surface and knead it.  Mine was too sticky, so I added like a quarter cup more mix to the dough, while it was already out on the surface.  This made it perfect, and got some more flour on my board.  I think I was too skimpy with the flour on the surface.  The trick is to use lots.

    Then, I kneaded the dough.  Not as hard as I thought it would be.  I just basically palmed it back and forth 20 times.  Palm it out, then pull it back and do it again.  It came together nicely.   Then I rolled it out into a rectangle, spread some softened butter on the top, and sprinkled it (which sounds so delicate.  really, I loaded that stuff on) with sugar and cinnamon.  I have a little yellow bottle of it already mixed.  I also chopped some walnuts, and scattered them about.   Then I used my little scraper, and rolled up the dough, scraping as I went.  Then I cut the roll into little 2-inch slices and slapped them into a round tin and baked them according to the directions, which I forget but are on the box.

    Now, if you're me, you need the white sugary icing on top.  I mixed about a cup of confectioner's sugar with a tablespoon of milk.  Whisk and let sit.  You might have to adjust your milk, depending on the consistency you're looking for.  Gooey, was my criteria.

    And for Heaven's sake, don't do what I did.  Wait until the rolls are cool to add your icing, or it will melt and disappear and your kids will whine, "Where's my icing?"

    My husband proclaimed that they were the best he ever had.  Now, in all fairness, they were better than the tube kind, but not as good as they could be, if they were made from scratch.   They weren't nearly as sweet, and the dough was more crumbly, which was good.   But I could detect a mix-iness about it that I couldn't define. 

    Either way, the fam was happy.  Give it a try!

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    School Lunch & the NINJA PULSE versus the Nutribullet

    Hi there!  Now that school is back in session, I will try to document all the kids' lunches.  My daughter, Sofia, is six years old and just started first grade.

    She is extremely adventurous with food choices.  The girl loves calamari, fortheloveofgod.  She will try ANYthing.  And she prefers vegetables to super-sweet treats.  So packing lunch for her is a pleasure, EXCEPT for the fact that she doesn't like sandwiches.


    How do you pack a lunch for a kid who doesn't like sandwiches?  It can be a challenge.  Her appetite isn't huge, so I do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  Here is her lunch box.  I love owls.....

    And here is what I packed on Friday.  Snack was raisins, some pretzels and a 2 chocolate chip cookies.  Lunch was rolled up nitrate-free ham, some Jersey white corn cut right off the cob into strips, cherry tomatoes, and green beans in vinegar from my mother-in-law's garden.  There was also a small baggie of Triscuits.  Plus, I packed some chopsticks, just for fun.  She loves to show off her chopstick finesse with her buddies.

    I also wanted to share with you my newest, most favorite kitchen purchase.  The NINJA Pulse.

    We've been juicing for about a year, using a regular old juicer.  Which means we've been throwing away all the valuable nutrition found in the pulp and the skin and the seeds.  So, I have seen the infomercials for the Nutribullet, and have been wanting to get one for a while.  Target has the Nutribullet for $99, which is 20 bucks cheaper than if you buy from the FREE SHIPPING infomercial.  (Nothing is ever, EVER free.)

    So, I went to buy the Nutribullet the other day, and after a 40-minute comparison shopping session in the blender aisle at Target, I realized that the NINJA ($79.99) offered 100 more watts of power than the Nutribullet, PLUS you get a nice sized pitcher, and three blades, some of which are meant for PIZZA DOUGH and COOKIE DOUGH, which the Nutribullet did not have.

    Hel-LO!  The Ninja was cheaper, had higher wattage and better features and attachments.  Sold!

    I made a juice of beets, celery, carrots and cucumbers.  It was much pulpier than my usual juicer juice, so I re-ran it through the Ninja to make it smoother. 

    Kind of a blurry picture, but look at that color.  Drinking that puppy CAN'T be bad for you.  And lately, my diet needs some GOOD.....

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    Kids Eat Free

    Love going out to eat, but hate paying for your kids' meals that are hardly touched?  Me, too.  That's why I visit websites like http://www.kidseatfor.com/.  Go here, type in your zip code, and the website lets you know what local restaurants offer free kids' meals.

    Other similar sites:  www.kidsmealdeals.com and http://kidseat4free.com/.

    Happy dining out with the kids!

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