Food

Daily Eats: Do we really cook fancy every day?

The answer to that is NO.

highlightsreel

This is so true! All the photos, posts, blogs, etc. about healthy food or healthy living that run through my Facebook newsfeed, Feedly Reader, and email on a daily basis can be discouraging rather than encouraging sometimes because I’m comparing those highlights from others to our every day.

I know that my blog projects the image that we cook elaborate meals on a daily basis. The truth is that we really don’t. We have a number of easy routine meals that we rotate through – taco salad, split pea soup, chili, stew, steak and salad, sausage and beans, baked butternut ‘lasagna’ to name a few. We are often looking for easy solutions, even when we try something new like this lettuce wrap style taco night, which didn’t really work all that well. Good flavors. But messy. LOL

lettuce wrap tacos

This night we smoked our wrapped pork tenderloin, made mashed butternut, and sautéed cabbage.

tenderloin dinner

It might look elaborate but it’s relatively simple; the most time-consuming item is the pork. It takes 3-4 hours to smoke and requires a little pre-planning to defrost and to start cooking early enough. But not every night looks like this. Far from it.

I get excited about recipes that Don creates, or when we try a new recipe that combines ingredients or foods in ways we’ve never experienced, and I enjoy sharing that with others. But the reality of our behind-the-scenes is that we aren’t always eating this way. We have plenty of other nights, especially lately, when we don’t even have the energy or time and simply grill some sausage or steak and make steamed veggies, or even pick up pizza or other take out.

If you are trying to make changes in your own cooking style or diet, don’t let the highlights of others (us included) overwhelm you. Make small changes. Get rid of things you don’t want in your kitchen. Start stocking it with the types of foods you want to be eating. Experiment. Try a new side dish like our mashed faux loaded baked potato with your next steak. Or try a whole dish that’s new, once a week; it doesn’t have to be every day that you try something new. Over time, as you learn new ways of combining foods or new cooking methods, you will find yourself incorporating them more and more without realizing it.

Each of us has the opportunity to change and grow until our very last breath. Happy creating.
~ M.F. Ryan

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Mashed Butternut and Sweet Potato – Or Faux Loaded Mashed Potatoes

Don decided on a whim recently that he wanted to add a sweet potato to our mashed butternut to see how it tasted. As usual, his ideas always come out amazing.

So, the next time he decided to add a little bacon, and a few other things, and hello delicious! We discovered a new household favorite – faux loaded mashed potatoes.

Not a lot of fancy pictures for this one. (Life is too darn hectic right now! I barely had time to throw this together. lol)

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Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 sweet potato
  • few strips of bacon
  • green onions/chives
  • sour cream
  • butter
  • salt
  • pepper

How to do it:

  1. Peel the butternut. Core out the seeds. Cut into chunks. (See previous post.)
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potato.
  3. Place both in pan with water to about half way covering the squash and potato.
  4. Boil until soft, just like you do with potatoes. (Usually 15-20 minutes.)
  5. Cook bacon and set aside. Chop into bits when cool.
  6. Dice green onion.
  7. Drain squash and potato when soft.
  8. Add bacon, green onion, butter, and sour cream. Use a stick blender or hand mixer to mash/blend it all together.
  9. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Go with your instincts on quantities. You’ll need more or less of everything depending on the size of your butternut squash and sweet potato. Just start out with a little and add more if you think it needs more butter or sour cream. 😉

It’s really easy, peasy, and crazy delicious. Your welcome. 😛

You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.
~ Paul Prudhomme

Chicken Taquitos!

I had such a response last night when I shared this on facebook that I decided I might as well write something up here too. Besides, I’ve been radio silent for a stretch because life has turned into a hectic MESS lately and this gives me something to post quick and easy. Hopefully it doesn’t wear on my fb friends to see this again so soon. 😛

These down and dirty chicken taquitos were Don’s brainchild and really very simple if you have a fryer. We used canned chicken (whole chicken cooked and shredded would be EVEN better but when you need quick, canned gets the job done), black beans, our homemade pico, and a little finely shredded cheese that we mixed together in a bowl. We spooned maybe a little more than a tablespoon in a white corn tortilla that we rolled up and fried. It’s pretty simple and straightforward.

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A couple of tips:

  1. We warmed the tortillas in the microwave first by alternating a damp paper towel between each tortilla, only stacking 3-4 at a time, and heating them for 30 seconds. This makes them soft and easy to work with.
  2. When rolling them up, you have to roll them tight. I can’t really tell you HOW exactly to accomplish a perfect roll because the ones I rolled, opened up and the goods exploded out the ends. I was demoted from rolling. Don didn’t have a problem. I swear mine looked the same! But somehow he rolled them tighter, without ripping them, so that they stay closed in the fryer. Whatever taquito rolling kung fu master.
  3. Another trick for keeping them closed in the fryer was to fill the fryer basket full, which for us was three. They were kind of sandwiched together which helped keep them closed as well.

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We didn’t time the length of frying. We just watched them and took them out when they were golden. My guess is it might be have been 3-5 minutes each. We served them with a dip made of sour cream and hot sauce mixed together.

EPIC.

chicken taquitos

I like the challenge of trying different things and wondering whether it’s going to work or whether I’m going to fall flat on my face. 
~ Johnny Depp

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Mexican Chicken Stew

I’m calling this stew but some might call it chili. Either way, this is an easy, crock pot meal with chicken and Mexican flavors. And yes, it was outstanding so you should totally try it. 🙂

A recipe or mention of a Mexican flavored chicken crock pot meal popped up on my FB feed weeks ago and ever since I’ve had it on my mind to want to try something like that. Since I couldn’t remember the original source (and didn’t Pin it like I should have for later reference), I did a quick search for recipes and settled on these two (one, two) for my inspiration. (One day I might trust my own knowledge of complimentary ingredients and flavors but I’m not quite there yet. It is progress though that I put together my own recipe using these as guides rather than just making one of the recipes word for word.)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water and bouillon cubes)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and chilies
  • 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp of our homemade chili garlic paste (or just garlic)
  • 2 tbsps of our homemade taco seasoning (for a combination of chili powder, cumin, and coriander, as well as a few others)
  • a few sprigs of spicy oregano from our herb garden (or use 1 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 lime – zested and squeezed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro (for garnish)

Just put everything in the crock pot and let it cook for 6 hours on high. Take the chicken out and pull it with forks. Put it back in and serve when ready. You really can’t get much easier than that.

ingredients

chicken

IMG_0980

The ‘before’ shot once everything was in the pot.

chicken1

chicken2

stew

‘After’ adding the chicken back to the pot.

mexicanchickenstew
We have one serving left that Don is having for dinner tonight. Jealous Much! I’m already thinking about how soon I can make it again. 😉

I wouldn’t say that processed food, ready meals and even takeaways aren’t relevant to modern life, it’s just that over the past 40 years there are three generations of people who have come out of school and gone through their home life without ever being shown how to cook properly.
~ Jamie Oliver
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Sweet and Spicy (and sticky) Cashews

I made these tasty little delights for Superbowl Sunday.

sweet spicy cashews 2

The recipe comes from Juli Bauer at paleOMG. She posted her Smoky and Spicy Candied Cashews in January, just in time for the Superbowl. I didn’t have enough cashews to follow the recipe exactly, so I winged it and I’m fairly certain I screwed up the process a bit so they came out a bit sticky. BUT, they were yummy and I learned from my mistake for next time.

Juli’s recipe calls for the following:

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • pinch of salt
 The instructions are as follows:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together honey, coconut oil, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the cashews to the bowl and coat in the mixture. Pour the cashews on the baking sheet and spread out.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together coconut sugar, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Sprinkle the crystal mixture on top of the nuts.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, tossing the nuts every 5 minutes to ensure they cooked evenly.
  6. Remove from oven, slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  7. Once the nuts have cooled, break apart the pieces that have stuck together.

I only had 1.5 cups of cashews. So I tried to reduce all the other ingredients but it was not an exact science. Mixing the nuts in the bowl with the coconut oil, honey, paprika, cayenne, and salt went fine. I laid them out on the parchment paper below and dusted them with the dry mix of sugar and spices.

sweet spicy cashews

Where I went wrong was when I took them out of the oven at 5 minutes to turn them. They didn’t look anything like the (beautiful) photo on Juli’s site. I was worried that maybe I didn’t put enough sugar and/or honey on them. So, I dusted them with more of the dry sugar and spices. Which, btw, I should mention that I knew I had made far more of the dry mix than I was going to need. Or so I thought. Once knee-deep in the baking, I second guessed myself and it went terribly wrong. LOL  I’ve never baked anything quite like this before. I think it’s probably somewhat similar to making brittle. Because that’s the direction mine took eventually. When I took them out at 10 minutes to stir them again, I again misjudged how things were going and I dumped the rest of my dry mix on the nuts. When I took them out at 15 minutes, the sugar had bubbled up into a huge ball surrounding and obscuring the nuts. The moment they were out of the heat, the bubble fell, coating the nuts. I stirred them and pulled the parchment off the tray, placing it onto a wire cookie sheet to cool, which was a balancing act since I had ton of molten lava sugar all over the paper. But, I got it on the wire rack with no spills or burns and I hoped that it would cool and harden so I could “break the pieces apart that stuck together” as the recipe instructed. This, didn’t, happen. Another fail on my part, I think, was my choice to make this on a day with high humidity and I had the house at about 72 degrees. So, while the nuts and sugar cooled to a touchable temperature, the sugar never solidified. After a couple of hours I had a sticky, gooey, mess of nuts that I had to just pull apart and remove as much of the excess sugar as I could. I used WAY too much sugar (and probably honey too.)

So. Lesson learned. Next time I make these, I’m going to have 2 cups of cashews and I’m going to follow the measurements exactly, and I’m NOT going to worry when the nuts don’t look quite right at the beginning of the baking. I have faith that after 15 minutes they will look more like the finished product without tossing oodles of extra sugar on them.

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

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