Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I am happy to report, that during this week of Project Incorporate More Whole Grains into our Diets, that the chicken tabbouleh was a smashing success. And I had some serious doubts about making it because:
1) The flavor profile is distinctly Middle Eastern, and my family is not used to that;
2) It involved couscous, which my spouse complains about every time I make it. I don’t know why – it’s quite flavorful but it’s not the same texture as rice, so he’s not used to it. Perhaps that’s why.
Link to the recipe is here:
Mind you, there were some modifications I made to the recipe as follows:
·         I couldn’t find Bulgur in ShopRite at all, not even in the organic food aisle, so I used couscous instead.
·         I cooked the couscous in chicken broth instead of the water the recipe indicates to give it a flavor boost.
·         I omitted the mint (couldn’t find that either) and the yogurt (cause I know, again, hubby not on board with that).
·         And, instead of making it as a cold salad, I prepped the couscous by itself, cooked the chicken and shredded it separately, and combined the remaining ingredients in a large skillet and brought it to a simmer, adding the tahini right before serving.
We plated family style, so everyone got to put the amounts of couscous, chicken and sauce in a bowl and eat whatever proportion they liked.
It got RAVE reviews – my daughter went back for seconds, which very rarely happens unless there is fish involved. And my husband LICKED HIS PLATE (! … that’s all I have to say… just !) and has been bringing in the leftovers for work lunch. He keeps telling me how surprised he is that couscous can taste so good with the chicken and the sauce.
Best part is, I did the calorie count on my Bodymedia Fit and the meal itself is less than 400 calories.
I have a ton of leftover tahini, so I want to make some homemade hummus – but I need to find my mini chopper, which is – guess where? Storage.
This recipe will be added to my ongoing repertoire for sure – I used canned chopped tomatoes, which gave it a taste I didn’t like much, so next time around I will be sure to use fresh.
Until next time…. Tonight is turkey taco night and I’ll be trying an enchilada recipe later on in the week using whole wheat tortillas – hopefully, no one will notice.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Garlic Stuffed Roast and Other Tidbits

So, tonight for dinner - we had a garlic stuffed roast. It was incredibly easy to make. I don't remember where I found this recipe, but I think it was back in '07 or '08 and I hadn't made it since then. We aren't big beef eaters in my house, but when it keeps snowing and it's cold and it's Sunday, it's a nice comforting thing to make. And it smells great all day.

All I had to do was get a 2.5 lb roast, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a packet of onion soup mix, 2 tbsp of Worcestershire, and 10 garlic cloves (peeled and cut in half). I trimmed the fat, cut slits into the roast and inserted the half cloves all through it - then I threw everything in an oven bag, sealed it, and let it bake in a 250 degree oven for 8 hours.

The roast fell apart when I tried to extract it from the bag - it was tender, moist, had a wonderful flavor, and I also made sure I took the cloves out before we ate so we didn't get big bites of garlic. The drippings, I poured into a saucepan and added a little water to dilute - it made a heavenly gravy.

We are doing better with Project Add Whole Grains to our diet, and we have the following line up this week:

Chicken Tabblouleh with couscous (I didn't get a chance to make it last week);
Taco night
Chicken enchiladas with wheat tortillas
Garlic stuffed roast (which we had tonight)
Vegetable beef soup with biscuits
Salmon cakes with red beans and rice

I know the salmon cakes have been listed for the past couple of weeks - I'm putting it off because the recipe calls for canned salmon and I'm not sure that's going to be a tasty thing. And I had to give Spouse a little break from the fish.

Lots of changes going on at work this week, so let's see how that plays out. I'm very excited to announce that there is a Baker's Convention going on in Atlantic City at the end of March and I'm going! Also, this week in cooking class, we will be learning about vegetables.

We learned about emulsions this past week, which wasn't very thrilling to me. We made a lot of cold salads (not the lettuce and tomato kind, but the potato, tomato, and Chinese cabbage kind). They all used an emulsion of one kind or another and they all tasted pretty good -the problem is, the cooking school instructor seems to keep using food that is close to expiration or has expired and the salads made me very sick the next day.

I'll try to update more frequently this week,especially after I do the tabbloueh because I think that's going to cause the most issues with my family.

Have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Have Had Enough Snow, Thankyouerymuch

Yes, it's snowing. It has been non-stop since 5:30AM. It is currently 1PM and this crap shows no signs of slowing down or stopping. We have a foot at my house. It was 50 degrees yesterday, so if Mother Nature could knock this shit off, I'd appreciate it.

The cold weather IS making me glad I made my homemade turkey chili this weekend, though. I discovered a new way to knock the flavor out of the park with it, by the way - beef base.

Beef base is a concoction that is made from boiling beef bones with meat to make a concentrate. It is a great substitute for bouillon - if you recall adding those hard cubes to boiling water many years ago - and it has much less salt. My teacher recommended it in cooking class last week and I saw it in ShopRite so I grabbed a jar - it cost $5, but you only use 1 teaspoon of the concentrate to 8 ounces of boiling water to make it, so it will last us for quite awhile.

I added 16 ounces to the chili recipe I make, and it rounded out the flavors and gave it a depth it previously lacked.

I like it as it's one of those hearty winter meals with no fat and some good beans for protein, and you can use it to top baked potatoes, or serve over rice, or incorporate it into another meal. My family sucked it down on Saturday night and I still have enough left over for the week's lunches. Now that it has sat in the fridge for a day, it tastes even better as the flavors have had more time to get to know each other in the pot.

I am sitting here at home, having just finished working out, eating hot chili and watching the goddamned snow fall from the sky.  But at least I'm enjoying my chili.

This is a recipe I came up with on my own. It's fairly simple, and mostly comes out of cans - but it is easy to make, it always comes out tasty, and it makes massive quantities which you can freeze or use for lunches.

Mootzie's Turkey Chili:

1 pound ground turkey breast
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole green pepper, chopped and seeds removed
2 cans red kidney beans
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 packet of McCormick's chili seasoning mix
16 ounces beef stock, or better - the beef base above

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion and pepper to the pan - saute until the onions are translucent. Add the turkey breast, mixing and chopping with the spatula until the meat is browned. Add the chili seasoning mix, then the kidney beans, crushed tomatoes, and stock/base, and combine. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 45-1 hour to give it time to reduce. If you like it a bit thicker, add a slurry of 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water while it's boiling.

Really quite good - healthy and rib sticking. I'm not one of those people from Texas who claim "Real chili has no beans in it" - I don't care if it qualifies as "real" chili - I enjoy it this way, and I'm sure you will too, even if you hail from the Lone Star State.

Hopefully, we can dig out of this mess before the next big storm hits on Wednesday, as it is scheduled to do.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Don't Forget to Tip Your Cook....

I'm here to report on the results for January's healthy habits challenge, talk about February's, and give you this week's lineup.

Project Eat at Least 5 Meals at Home per Week was a stellar success, not only from the standpoint of our health and my waistline, but our wallet is now fatter. I track our monthly spending on a spreadsheet. During the month of December, we spent $600 dining out. In January, we spent $249.82. And that $249.82 included the school hot lunch account deposits for my daughter, my work lunches, and my morning coffee. That was a savings of $350.00 in one month! That, my friends, is pretty freaking awesome.  We all feel better physically and have more energy. You can't put a price on that. This is a habit we will most definitely continue.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Project Incorporate Fish into Our Diets. This was not a phenomenal success. At the request of my husband, I have reduced the fish meals to once a week, as trying to make someone eat something he is honestly disgusted by isn't fair to him. If we can have one fish meal per week, that is a compromise I can live with - I still get fish, and he doesn't get exposed to as much fish.

For the month of February, Project Incorporate More Whole Grains into our diet is going into operation. I'm not sure how this is going to play out, because there is resistance to whole grain from both of my family members. I love whole grains, and would happily eat as many as I could get. With that spirit in mind, here are this week's recipes. I'm going heavy on the crockpot this week.

Turkey chili
Chicken Fried Rice
Vegetable Beef Soup
Chicken tabbouleh with couscous (prepare for the whining to commence on this one)
Salmon cakes with red beans and rice (which I never got to make, so it's our fish meal this week)

I'm pre-soaking the lentils in a pot of water today and plan on making them in the crockpot tomorrow morning. The recipe calls  for 11 hour cook time on low, so I have to get up early tomorrow. The turkey chili recipe is one I invented and the chicken fried rice and chicken tabblouleh are from the Cooking Light Healthy Habits cookbook, as are the salmon cakes.

Also this week, I had cooking class on Thursday night, where we learned everything there is to know about soups, stocks, and sauces - I have picked up some useful pointers regarding these items as well as some fine knife skills, and I can now tell you the difference between white stock, brown stock, bases, and broths. I can also define mirepoix (a mixture of 50% onion, 25% carrots, 25% celery that you use to flavor stocks).

Thursday was our first live lab, where we had to partner up and choose a soup to make. I chose seafood bisque, because I adore it and it also involved skill sets I don't use every day. I'm not there to do things I already know how to do - and it was game on. My partner and I learned how to make stock out of lobster and shrimp shells, prepare a roux, and add a little flambe to the pan when sauteeing the stock mix with brandy. It was a lot of fun - and at the end of class, we had a tasting for everyone's dishes. People brought in containers to take soups home - and the bisque was the first to go, so I am proud of that.

I am glad I signed up for this class, because it is making me realize I have a lot of very good skills in the kitchen that I do not give myself enough credit for, while still being able to hone other skills and learn some new tricks.

Have a great week - and I will report back on how week one of project whole grains goes.