Recipe for Successful Meals

We all need to eat. And I know lots of people who, as soon as they finish one meal, start thinking about the next one. Yet, I am constantly amazed by the number of people who don’t cook. How can people seriously enjoy eating out all the time? Especially when it’s fast food! Don’t get me wrong … I do enjoy going out to eat now and then, especially when it’s for sushi or crab legs or to celebrate something special. But I can’t imagine having to pick something up at the grocery store deli or at a drive-through window every day. I like my food with a little less salt and grease and fat. Now, I can’t say I cook healthy all the time, because I don’t. But when I make our meals, I can control the amounts of those substances that go in my food. I like that.

Plus, I guess some part of me enjoys cooking and baking. It’s my way of sharing a bit of myself and nourishing my family and sometimes my friends. I know some people really don’t like cooking at all; others simply don’t think they have the time. But with a little planning and all the cookbooks, blogs, and recipe sites out there, it is actually quite easy to come up with a few quick meals for really rushed days as well as some more substantial meals you can prep ahead of time and throw in the crockpot or oven.

RECIPES While my husband, Bart, would happily eat the same things over and over again (he’s fairly easy to please), I am always on the lookout for new recipes. I currently subscribe to a couple family and recipe-based magazines. Sometimes, I get behind on reading and they begin to pile up. But I keep them near the couch for when we are watching (non-recorded) TV so that when the commercials come on, I can pick up a magazine and quickly flip through the pages.

I look for recipes that sound yummy, but then I scan through the ingredients and preparation info. If it contains way too many ingredients, things I’ve never heard of, or too many steps or too much time to prepare, I skip it. If it looks like something I might actually make, I tear the page out and put it in my coupon drawer in the kitchen.*

I also subscribe to a couple weekly e-mails from different companies (see my suggested links at the end of this blog post). I look at the main page and if something catches my eye, I’ll go to the site and check it out further (or keep it in my in box to review later). If I get too busy, I just delete the e-mail as I know there will be more recipes to consider the following week. When I find a good recipe online, I print it out and add it to that same kitchen drawer or sometimes they even make it directly into what I would call my “working cookbook.”

OTHER OPTIONS When I attend a gathering and someone makes a dish I enjoy, I ask for the recipe. Accumulating good recipes from friends and family members is another way to build up your collection of meal or snack ideas to try. And, of course, these days there is Pinterest. I don’t know how many recipes and recipe bloggers I have found from pinning yummy-sounding or tasty-looking photos to my own boards.

Then, there’s the old standby—the thousands and thousands of printed recipe books out there. If you have some cookbooks that you haven’t looked at in years, try to get them out during commercial breaks or maybe even take them with you to look through when you’re in the car pool lane. Bring some sticky notes with you and flag any interesting ideas you come across that you’d like to try.

I recommend three different options for keeping track of these cookbook recipes that you’d like to try. 1) You can write down the name of the recipe, the name of the cookbook, and the page it appears on in your working cookbook so you’ll know where to find it again. 2) You can make a copy of the page and add it to your working cookbook. 3) Or (and I know some people will shudder at this) you can actually tear the page out of the book. If it is not a special book that you’d like to keep intact, and you know you aren’t likely to keep pulling that cookbook out for one or two rarely used recipes, make things easier on yourself. Then donate the book or pass it on to a friend who may appreciate some of the other recipes. (I also suggest donating or giving away cookbooks, or any other books, that are just accumulating dust on your shelves, even if they were gifts.)

Recipes also come directly on product packaging and on index cards at your local grocery store. There is no end to what you can find if you look around. Just don’t go crazy collecting recipes you will never use. It’s a good idea to occasionally go through your collection and get rid of recipes that either didn’t turn out that well or that you still haven’t made after many months (or years).

Have fun collecting good recipes, but remember, the goal isn’t to see who can collect the most recipes. The point is to actually use the recipes to provide a variety of meals for you and your family. One hint though—if you already cook, don’t go crazy and make a new dish every night. Most people don’t like that much change. Continue to use your standby family favorites, but once or twice a week, try something new. It will either become another favorite or a flop. Believe me, you’ll know whether it’s a keeper or not.

Bottom line—you’ll find that you are spending less money, probably eating better, and maybe, just maybe, even learning to like cooking.

  • *Later, when I have time, all recipes will be reviewed again for feasibility (will I actually ever make this?); those that remain keepers get put in my working cookbook.
  • My working cookbook is an ever-changing 3-ring binder full of page protectors. It usually stays on my kitchen counter and it sometimes contains a number of other useful pages, like lists of what’s in the freezer, what’s in the pantry, and what’s for dinner (menus for one to two weeks at a time), which I’ll talk about in another post.

Here are some of my favorite sources—in no particular order. Check them out!

www.betterrecipes.com/blogs/daily-dish/ (Easy. Elegant. Everyday.)

www.SavingDinner.com (menus, recipes, and shopping lists to get your family back to the dinner table)

http://www.bettycrocker.com  (recipes from Betty Crocker—sign up for their Dinner Made Easy newsletters)

www.bhg.com/recipes/ (recipes from Better Homes and Gardens)

www.TasteofHome.com (recipes from Taste of Home)

www.SuperKidsNutrition.com (saving the world one healthy food at a time)

www.EatBetterAmerica.com (part of Live Better America—healthy recipes/healthy living)

www.SixBurnerSue.com (cooking fresh and eating green with Susie Middleton)

www.UrbanPoser.Blogspot.com  (yoga & vibrant gluten free living)

www.BrokeAssGourmet.com  (recipes to keep your taste buds happy and your wallets thick)

www.Picky-Palate.com (original family style recipes for even your pickiest eaters)

www.EatWholly.com (tasty tips, yummy kitchen tricks, and entertaining videos from Wholly Guacamole)

Experiments in Baking

Almond Flour Cinnamon Roll

This past weekend, I had some extra time on my hands and some recipes I’d been wanting to try, so I have a few treats to share with you. The first delicious dish (that I’m proudest of) is my Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls. I told you about them in my Sharing It Forward post. I had never used almond flour before, so I want to say thank you to my friend Ben Hulet for bringing me the flour and to his wife Jenni for her awesome recipe.

Ingredients for Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

If you’re new to baking, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe, as the consistency of the almond flour dough requires a bit of a gentle touch. And you need to be careful to use room temperature eggs with the coconut oil or the oil will harden. But if you’ve baked a thing or two in the past and are open to trying something new (as well as following directions), these rolls are the bomb!

Actually, they taste more like a light, sweet biscuit stuffed with pecans and cinnamon. Mmmm mmmm.

Baked Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

We tried one topped with vanilla glaze and one drizzled with honey; both were good. But when I took the leftovers in to work, some people ate them with no added topping at all. And they loved them. (Part of me wanted to keep them all to myself, but not the part that wants to get/stay in shape.) It was definitely a great treat to share. And a successful experiment for sure.

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Ingredients for Apple Pecan Crescent RollsNow, if you’re looking for a simple but tasty dessert to bake, I’ve got just the thing for you. I found it on Taste of Home’s website.  It’s an Apple Walnut Crescent Roll. I didn’t have walnuts, but I had pecans, so I substituted. You can use either one. Your other ingredients are apples, refrigerated crescent rolls, cinnamon, sugar, and butter (raisins are optional). That’s it. (Although the picture shows raisins, I didn’t end up adding them to my recipe.)

You basically peel and core a few apples. Cut them into chunks. Separate the crescent dough. Sprinkle it with cinnamon/sugar. Roll up the apples in the crescent dough (starting at the small end). Drizzle them with just a little butter and top with nuts. You could also add a little more cinnamon/sugar if you want. Then bake. See … simple. (For the complete recipe/instructions, click on the link above.)

Apple Pecan Crescent Rolls

We shared these with Bart’s sister’s family, and I still had some left to bring in to work. I ate one at room temperature and it was good, but they really are best when served warm. And don’t they sound like they’d be great with a side of vanilla ice cream? Yum!

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Ingredients for Cheesy Quinoa BitesFor my last baking experiment, I tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) for the the first time, as part of my quest to try new, healthier foods. I found an image on Pinterest for Cheesy Quinoa Bites several weeks ago that sounded interesting (hey, anything with cheese in it has got to be good). I clicked on the photo to find the source (SoVeryBlessed.com), and I saved the recipe to try when I had time.

That turned out to be this past Thursday. To tell you how it went, I’m going to fess up, and share my ditzy moment with you. The recipe called for 2 cups of cooked quinoa. I had never made it before, so I read the package to see how to cook it. It said to mix 1 cup of quinoa with 1-1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Well, I needed 2 cups, right? So, I doubled it. Can you see where this is going?

If you are familiar with quinoa, then you know it is like rice in that it bulks up quite a bit in cooking. So, I now have several cups of cooked quinoa to work with. Turns out it makes a pretty good hot breakfast (especially mixed with a little sweet cream), and I’ve also mixed some up with black beans, corn, and a little lime juice, which I’ll be trying tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the bites … I thought they were okay, but I wasn’t totally impressed. However, my co-workers (who  get to try out my crazy kitchen experiments) seemed to like them. I think I will try making them again, but next time, I’ll use fresh grated Parmesan cheese or maybe even some cheddar – I think it needs something with a little more bite. I’ve still got half a bag of quinoa left. (I thought it was kind of expensive when I first bought it, but turns out – a little goes a long way.)

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This week, I wanted to provide some inexpensive dinner ideas for one of my nieces.  There were some listed in the June issue of Good Housekeeping (is it just me or is it crazy that they come out so early), but they’re not available online yet, so I’ll share them later. For now, I found some Budget Dinner Recipes from Kraft Foods that I thought I’d post a link to. I haven’t tried any of them yet, so can’t recommend them specifically, but if you make any, let me know.

I also found my next “have to try” recipe. It’s called Queso Taco Pasta Bake from Picky-Palate.com. It sounds delicious. So far, I have pinned the photo to my Food Favorites board. I need to go back later and copy/print the recipe. Of course, I will let you know how it turns out when I make it. If you make it before me, please come back and share how it worked for you.

Well, I think that’s it for today. I apologize for not getting this posted this  morning. We’re temporarily down to one computer, and Bart had to get some work done last night. Hope I’m leaving you with some good food for thought and you have a wonderfully simple yet full week.

Sharing It Forward

Several months ago, I discovered Pinterest. At first the concept sounded strange to me. I get blogging and sharing words and ideas, but what was the point of “pinning” pictures and following other peoples pins? Well, I tried it, and I liked it. A lot! [If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, click here. If you’d like to know more about how Pinterest works and what the benefits are, leave a comment below, and I’ll write about it in a future post.]

Through Pinterest, I found yummy recipes to try, great ideas for decorating and organizing, and awesome writers and photographers to follow. In fact, I discovered tons of wonderful sources of information and inspiration out there … way too many for me to keep up with them all on my own.

That’s when I started thinking about how cool it would be to gather tips and ideas from articles that I read (both in print and online) and share them with you, and then you could share some of the things you’ve discovered with me. We could pool our resources. With that in mind, here are a few links to some great sites with recipes (some healthy, some not as much), decluttering ideas, green tips, amazing photography, and a Did You Know.

Check these out

Gluten-Free/Dairy FreeThe Best Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve got some almond flour to experiment with. I’m definitely going to make these; I’ll let you know how they turn out.

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Tired of chicken? Try the Best Pork Chops You will Ever Taste. I made these, and they are pretty tasty. They come out with a nice, crisp breading but are baked, not fried.

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Quick and EasyImpossibly Easy Mini-Cheeseburger Pies: This seems like something simple to make on nights when your time is limited. I haven’t personally tried these yet, but I printed the recipe out and I plan to.

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Give your child’s lunch an extreme, and deliciously nutritious, makeover–Five Ways to Pack a Healthier Lunch
Bart and I are currently making our own trail/snack mix to take to work. We buy things like roasted peanuts, honey roasted almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, craisens, and chocolate and peanut butter chips and mix them together. It’s pretty yummy and goes a lot further than some of the pre-packaged mixes in the store.

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Don’t have the space for a regular garden? Try Container Gardening I used to grow tomatoes in a container out back. We had to keep it up off the ground away from the bunnies. Last summer was just too darn hot to grow anything. In the past, I have also grown bell peppers and jalapeños in a container. It’s easy and very rewarding, especially if you have kids and you get them involved.

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Interested in trying a little green living? Here are Five Tips for a Healthy and Green Picnic. A perfect idea for beautiful days like those we’ve been having lately.

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Is all your STUFF weighing you down? Check out Parade Magazine’s “Full House” and learn how you can lose the extra, unnecessary possessions cluttering up your home, and take back your life.

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And last, but not least, I just had to share this site. I absolutely LOVE this guy’s stunning macro photography and his inner reflections: http://beingmark.com/

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DID YOU KNOW

In last week’s post, I mentioned that I had found a place where you could recycle all the unmatched keys you had lying around your house. Keys For Kindness  is a small, family-run program where they’ll take the keys, recycle them, and give the proceeds to the Multiple Sclerosis society. The site doesn’t currently look super active though, so you might want to email them before sending anything.

Personally, I found another use for the extra keys in my house. I’m going to add them as embellishments on cards. “You Hold the [KEY] to My Heart.” “[KEY]P up the great work!” (not shown)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I continue with this blog, I think some weeks I will write more content and share specific things I am doing to declutter or “healthify” my life, and other times, I will mainly provide a list of  links to great sites or sources of information. If you want to keep up with what I find, follow me and you will receive notifications every time I post, which I hope will be every Monday.

Have a great and peace-filled week.