Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mexican Brown Rice & Black Beans

I grew up eating rice and beans at almost every meal and have never tired of the combination.  It’s wholesome, filling, and comforting.  This recipe is based off my mom’s Mexican rice but I’ve added black beans and chicken stock for protein and I’m subbing brown rice for the white rice to add more fiber.  Xavier eats this as his taco filling and we eat it as a side dish or as a base for a taco bowl.

Mexican Brown Rice & Black Beans

1 T grape seed oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 C brown rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C diced tomatoes (you can use tomato puree, sauce, or even salsa)
S&P, to taste
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 C chicken stock(you can use all water if you don’t have any stock)
1-1/2 C water
2 T cilantro
1 15-oz can black bean, drained & rinsed

Add the oil to a pan and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and cook until the onions begin to caramelize and the rice is toasted, about 5 minutes more.  Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and season with S&P, garlic powder, and onion powder, cook another minute.  Add the chicken stock and water, bring to a boil, cover and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 45-50 minutes, until tender.  When it’s done, fold in black beans and cilantro and serve.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu #60

I’ve been trying to bake something nutritious yet appealing to a picky 5-year-old as a school snack or after-school treat every week, and this week it was the Pumpkin Muffin w/ mini chocolate chips & walnuts.  It’s perfect for him to have for breakfast or lunch with yogurt, fruit, and a boiled egg (the only way he’ll eat an egg because he says any other way is too stinky).  

This is a large batch for 30 muffins, so cut the recipe in half if you only want a dozen.  I kept a few in the fridge for the week and froze the rest.  I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and sealed them all in a plastic freezer bag to have whenever. 

Pumpkin Muffins w/ mini chocolate chips & walnuts

Yields:  30 muffins

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
1-1/2 C whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 T pumpkin pie spice
2 t baking soda
1-1/2 t salt
2 C sugar
1 15-oz can pumpkin (100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
4 large eggs
1/2 C grape seed oil
1/2 C orange juice
1 t vanilla
1/2 C mini chocolate chips, plus 1/4 C for garnishing top
1/2 C chopped walnuts, plus 1/4 C for garnishing top

Preheat the oven to 350. 

Combine the flours, spices, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  In another bowl mix together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, OJ, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined.  Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture until all the flour has been moistened.  Fold in the 1/2 C each of chocolate chips and walnuts.  

Either line a muffin tin with paper cups or spray with non-stick coating and spoon the batter in and garnish with chocolate chips & walnuts.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on wire racks, then remove from the pans to the wire racks to cool completely. 

This week’s menu . . .

Monday:  Pizza at Coach’s
Xavier’s soccer coach invited the whole team over for pizza after their first practice.  He had a blast with his new team, The Incredible Hulks! 

Tuesday:  Grilled BBQ Pork Chops/grilled zucchini strips/corn on the cob

Wednesday:  Birthday Dinner Out!
It’s my birthday and I get to pick where to eat for dinner but I can’t decide where to go.  ???

Thursday:  Make-Your-Own Grilled Pizzas & Salad Bar

Friday-Sunday:  Heading to Visalia to visit family!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Linguine w/ Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts, & Olives

If you’re tired of the same old pasta & marinara, try out this healthy and tasty pasta dish.  This recipe is adapted from a Giada DeLaurentis dish I saw on TV a few months ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  It’s a very easy pasta dish with simple and clean flavors.  Although Xavier was less than enthusiastic about the unknown green bits throughout and his new claim to be “afraid” of olives, he did still eat the pasta with raw Swiss chard & pine nuts on the side and loved it all!  

Linguine w/ Swiss Chard, Pine Nuts, & Olives

13 oz package whole-grain linguine
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed & chopped (just cut off the tough ends and chop up the rest
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1/4 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 t red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Chopped olives, pine nuts, & Italian cheeses for garnish

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 1 minute under the package’s directions.

While you’re waiting for water to boil, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions & cook until starting to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. Add the chard and cook about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, red pepper flakes, and a ladleful of pasta water.  Bring it to a simmer and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.   Season with salt to taste, add the pasta to the sauce, toss well, and cook together for another minute or two.  Serve garnished with olives, pine nuts, & cheese.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Menu #59

I’m a day late posting my weekly menu because we’re all trying to get acclimated to this new schedule, now that my lil’ guy is in Kindergarten.  We had a lot of other stuff going on including the Ready-Set-Glow Night Run, which was a blast!   Now that things have settled a bit, I’m ready to move on with this week’s menu.

Last night’s dinner was Chinese Chopped Salad and everyone loved it!  It’s simple, yummy, and full of healthy vegs.  Here’s the recipe. . .

Chinese Chopped Salad

1 small head of romaine, chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped
8 baby carrots, finely chopped (you can use 1 large carrot; it’s just what I had in the fridge)
6 baby sweet peppers, finely chopped (you can use 1 regular-sized sweet pepper)
12 sugar snap peas, chopped (I guesstimating; I just grabbed a handful)
2 T cilantro, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 small container mandarin oranges, chopped
2 poached chicken breasts, chopped (you can just use leftover chicken)
Crushed peanuts, for garnish
Peanut dressing (see link for recipe)

Toss everything together with dressing and top with crushed peanuts.

Monday:  Chinese Chopped Salad/egg rolls & potstickers/edamame

Tuesday:  Out for a friend’s birthday
It’s X-man’s godfather’s birthday, so we’re taking him out for pizza at our favorite pizza place, Spuntino’s.  It’s also back-to-school night and I can’t wait!  I’m so excited to hear what Xavier’s teacher has to say.

Wednesday:  Grilled BBQ Tilapia/mashed potatoes w/ kale/corn on the cob
Didn’t get to this last week. . .

Thursday:  Whole-Wheat Spaghetti w/ swiss chard & pine nuts/ salad/garlic wheat toast

Friday:  Turkey Burgers/grilled potato wedges/corn on the cob

Saturday:  Out for our Birthdays!!!  J
Both mine & BDL’s birthdays are coming up, so we’re going out with friends to celebrate.  X is spending the night at our good friends, The Browns, and we’re having an adults-only celebration!  We’re starting with happy hour at our place, heading to our favorite restaurant, The Gambling Cowboy, and then out for music & dancing.  Woohoo!!! 

Sunday:  ???
Most likely we’ll be exhausted from the festivities the night before.  We also have a Chuck E Cheese birthday party this afternoon, so dinner will probably be leftovers or take out.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Menu #58

We just returned last night from our mini-vacation in the San Bernardino Mountains and had a fun and relaxing time.  We had fun outdoors with fishing and hiking and relaxed indoors with books, board games, and old movies on VHS tapes.  This was X-man’s first time fishing and he absolutely loved it!  He didn’t catch anything (mostly because he was constantly moving & talking the entire time) but, nonetheless, he completely enjoyed himself.  J

Although we did really enjoy ourselves, it is nice to be back home.  I have a ton of stuff to get together before X starts school on Wednesday.  I probably would be a lot more tearful about my lil’ guy’s first day of kindergarten but he’s just so excited about it, so it makes me really happy and excited for him too. 

This week’s menu is very Xavier-friendly in honor of his first week to “Big Boy School” as he calls it.  He helped plan the menu and was more than happy to offer his input.

Monday:  Leftovers
I made a large batch of whole-wheat penne w/ sausage & tomato sauce last night, so we’ll just have that with salad again.  I’m running around all day for school clothes & supplies, so simple is good!

Tuesday:  Chicken  Egg Salad on Croissants/broccoli  green salad/peaches
We have our last summer Lil’ Chefs Class this afternoon and I’m making egg salad for the mamas.  I’m making a large batch so that Laddie can have some for dinner also.  For our class we’re making fun frozen treats--Nutella Pops and Peaches n’ Cream Pops. 

Wednesday:  Make-Your-Own Grilled Pizzas/spinach salad/chocolate cake w/ lots & lots of sprinkles
Xavier’s 1st day of Kindergarten!!!   He’s requested grilled pizza & chocolate cake for dinner and French toast for breakfast.  J

Thursday:  Ground Beef Tacos w/ tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, & Greek yogurt/rice & beans/mango chunks

Friday:  Chicken Parmesan w/ whole-wheat pasta/salad/grapes

Saturday:  Ready-Set-Glow Night Run!
The boys are on their own for dinner because I’m joining a bunch of friends in a 5K night run!  Afterwards is a festival with DJ music, dancing, food, and drinks. . .fun, fun, fun!

Sunday:  Grilled BBQ Mahi Mahi/mashed potatoes & kale/grilled zucchini strips

Gone Fishin'

Monday, August 5, 2013

Menu #57

Although I may not have quantity with my garden right now, I do have quality!  These tomatoes are so juicy and sweet!  X-man loves to just pull them off and munch on them.  He's learned his lesson on cleaning produce before he eats it when he picked a spider with yesterday's batch.  Spiders, especially spider webs, are one of his huge intolerances. . .along with bees and sea lions (the sea lions are a long story and we’ll have to get to that another day).  J 

I don’t have much of a menu this week because we’re heading to the cabin in Green Valley Lake.  I am so looking forward to a relaxing time with just the family.   Wishing you all a happy week!

Monday:  Pasta w/ Marinara/spinach salad/garlic bread

Tuesday:  Egg Rolls & Potstickers/sticky rice/edamame

Wednesday:  Pizza/spinach salad

Thursday-Sunday:  Cabin!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Strips & Grilled Zucchini Strips

These chicken strips are that perfect balance of sweet n’ salty.  They kind of remind me of the Cap n Crunch Chicken Strips from Planet Hollywood. . .I love those things!  We had these with super yummy grilled zucchini and I’ll share that simple recipe with you also. 

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Strips

Yields:  16 strips

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 4 strips
1 C flour
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 eggs
2 T honey
2 T Dijon
1/2 bag hard pretzels (I used jumbo pretzels just because it’s what I had in the pantry but you can use any pretzel you have on hand)
1 T sugar

Pour flour, salt, & pepper in a large plastic bag, add 4 strips of chicken at a time, and shake to coat the chicken.  Repeat until all the chicken is done. 

In a large dish that will hold all the chicken, whisk together eggs, honey, & Dijon.  Place the floured chicken into the dish and allow to sit while you prepare the pretzels crumbs.

I pulsed my pretzels and sugar in a food processor until they formed a crumb mixture.  You could easily just stick the pretzels & sugar in a plastic bag and pound them into crumbs but be gentle because the coarseness of the pretzels, salt, and sugar tend to tear through the bag.  Either way you choose to make your crumbs, place them in a plastic bag and add 4 chicken strips at time to coat the chicken. 

At this point you can freeze some or all the chicken strips to bake on a later date.  For cooking the chicken strips, set them on a sprayed sheet pan and bake in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes on each side.  Serve with honey-mustard sauce.

Grilled Zucchini

2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 4 strips
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 C parmesan cheese
1 t garlic powder
S&P, to taste

 Place zucchini strips in bowl and toss with oil, cheese, and seasonings.  Grill zucchini about 3-4 min per side.