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Month: February 2012

Sunday Grocery Shopping

Sunday Grocery Shopping

Normally, I shop on Tuesday nights and it is always in a mad rush. With nothing planned this weekend, my family has been able to really enjoy our time, including attending Saturday night service at church. Saturday nights at church are small (less kids in childcare too!) and can be a fun change in routine. Church on Saturday night also means I can go shopping on Sunday morning, when the store is nice and empty. I’ve spent many years shopping on Sunday nights which really is the worst.

My latest shopping tip has really helped my past few trips to the grocery store. Note: don’t attempt this when shopping with kids, you’ll get some pretty dirty looks.What’s the tip? Shop wearing earphones! Bring your iPod or install Pandora on your phone and shop without the psychological trickery of the grocery store witches! Sometimes you just don’t do your best decision making listening to Al Green or Wilson Phillips. I love the singer-songwriter station on Pandora, it makes for a really relaxing shopping trip. I promise it will also help you stick to your list, you are busy listening to lyrics and not letting your brain spin.

Don’t shop with a list? I don’t usually either. However, after a couple years away, I am back to using a meal planning service. I’ve tried a few different types and my favorite is e-mealz.com. What brought me back, was the offering of an Organic/Natural dinner plan. You can choose a specific store or an “any store” option and e-mealz will provide you with a grocery list (including prices) to match up with a dinner plan for the week.

This week, e-mealz estimated my dinner shopping at Whole Foods would cost $150. This is for 7 dinners that feed between 3-7 people. I did my shopping at Fresh & Easy instead (with two mailer coupons), bought all my dinner food, some breakfast, lunch and snack items and walked out the door having spent about $145. Here’s what I got:

I should note that Fresh & Easy does something large grocery stores do not. They date their produce. See all those strawberries and grapes? They are dated for today. However, they look exactly  like the strawberries and grapes in front of the store that sell for $2.99/lb and $2.49/lb respectively. If I went into Safeway and bought the same strawberries I brought home, I would never, ever guess that they would need to have a sell-by date for today. The F&E employee was sharing my excitement as I grabbed each pound of berries for .62 cents. The grapes, .62 cents each, too. Same with the pineapple, which I stole for $1.52

I also grabbed quick go-to items that I know Jy and the kids prefer, like pre-made plastic containers of soup, whole wheat chocolate cookies, popcorn and waffle mix. I have no idea how that little iced mocha in the middle of the photo snuck in there. Who could that be for? (It was also dated for today and sold for .55 cents).

E-mealz has specialty menus too. Vegetarian, low calorie, gluten free, low carb and small meals (for two). Interested? Check it out, it’s totally worth it. If you do sign up, use the code ORGANIC and you’ll save 20%. There are usually other codes floating around out there on the internet. Take a second to search.

I’m looking forward to showing you some of the meals this week and letting you know if I have bought enough food for a week. I’m guessing I will need more milk and eggs. In the battle to slash our food costs, I feel one step ahead. Happy Sunday friends!
Emealz - Easy Meals for Busy People!

What I Have Cooked Today

What I Have Cooked Today

Nothing. Woohoo! I made my breakfast yesterday and the boys had cereal for breakfast. My mom even brought Dallas’ lunch to school for me. I thought instead of a recipe today, I would share some mind-blowing food information. Now, please realize that I was being a little sarcastic. If this post does happen to blow your mind, you may want to consult a neurologist about your brain, as it may have some issues.

First, I will say thank you to the lovely Noreen for inspiring this post. She mentioned her fruit bowl this morning and it was like I just witnessed the invention of sliced bread. How in the world had I forgotten about a fruit bowl? Why do I keep my fruit in places that are impossible for my kids to reach? Why are the items most accessible to my children raw eggs, condiments and crumbs on the kitchen floor?

I decided to follow in Noreen’s footsteps and put out a bow. Before I could bring myself to place anything nice on my table, I knew what would have to come first. I needed to clean our wooden beast. I’m not talking about clearing clutter or doing a hefty wipe down with a sponge. No, my table had serious problems. This table is a bit of a food hoarder. He grabs anything my kids may drop or spill and hangs on to it for dear life. No amount of toothbrushing can pry all the crusty food from my monsterish table.

In comes David. Not my dad David, I’m talking about the biblical David. Specifically David as he takes on Goliath. With God on my side, I knew I could bring this table DOWN! (Plus, I had visited Home Depot last night and bought specific weaponry.)

With a wet steel wool #000, a bin of HOT soapy water and a spray bottle of Orange Glo, I scrubbed, wiped and polished while my kids blew up the kitchen with playdough.

And do you see that? It’s my fruit bowl! The only fruit I have at home that does not NEED to be refrigerated right now are a bunch of apples. They taste better cold, but I need something in my fruit bowl. Which is also why I have magically morphed the basket into a snack bowl! Why not put out food we can all grab? You guys, I feel like I just got an engineering degree from a school that you tell other people about, using three letters. The only one I can think of is MIT, soooo….anyway.

I’ve got the pretzels I really want to get rid of, pumpkin seeds and apples on display. The pretzels may have to be snuck into a trail mix or something. Funny, I remember the kids losing their brains over the BOX of pretzels, why won’t they eat them?! ACK!

In an effort to continue making kitchen life easier, I plan on using the weekends to buy and prep foods I want to always have at home and ready.

  • roasted turkey, ham or chicken
  • cut up fruit
  • roasted, grilled or cut veggies
  • granola
  • oatmeal cooked for weekday breakfasts
  • turkey meatballs

What do YOU do to make eating easy and healthy during the week? I’d love to hear!

Oh, the other new thing I am doing is putting straws in my water cups. For some reason, the magic of a straw helps me drink twice as much water. Which, as we know is still not enough, but 36 ounces a day is better than 12. I’m working on it! Happy Tuesday friends!

Meatless Protein in the Morning

Meatless Protein in the Morning

Good morning (well, to those in the same time zone as I am in)! While all the party food was fun, it had to end at some point. Especially because I couldn’t really eat most of it! I’m on day 12 of my new program and have to wait 3 more days to even take my measurements or weigh myself. A little bit torturous.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in the past couple weeks is finding a way to have protein at breakfast. I’m not a big meat in the morning kinda gal and it’s rare that I have enough time to cook an egg properly. I’m hoping to do some large batch cooking this weekend to have myself better prepared, but until then, I still have to eat!

My family goes through yogurt like water. Well, maybe not water, that was a bad example. Now that I am keeping track of all the food and water I am taking in, I have learned that I rarely, ok…never, drink more than about 16 oz. of water a day. Isn’t that bananas? That’s going to have to change. Back to yogurt. We all eat yogurt daily. I love vanilla or Greek, Jy loves Activia or DanActive, the boys love any kind of  yogurt I give them. This week I bought a giganto tub.

See the big, fat one? It’s half the price of the smaller containers of yogurt and about a fourth of the individual cups. The only downside is the fact that it is plain and no one around here gets too giddy over plain yogurt.

I bought a large bag of frozen strawberries to blend into a couple batches of yogurt. One batch will be blended on the thin side, so the little guys can suck their yogurt out of a straw a la Danimals or other sugar loaded yogurt. The upside is that this brand’s plain flavor isn’t too tart as many Greek yogurts are, requiring no sugar to be added in. Although, I may add a little honey to up the ante.

Back to my morning protein.

I’ve been having 1/2 cup oatmeal with fruit, flaxseed, a splash of milk and a bit of sweetener. I always thought oatmeal was plenty of protein for the morning, but I have been wrong. For the mornings I don’t feel like having an egg on the side (almost every morning), I either have yogurt or cottage cheese. But wait, I’ve pimped out my yogurt!

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. honey

Mix and enjoy! You’ll feel like you are eating pudding for breakfast and will enjoy the sustaining benefits of the protein found in yogurt and the added bonus protein in the powder, not to mention the antioxidants of the cocoa powder and honey. That is a good morning!

Opera Cake for Oscar Night

Opera Cake for Oscar Night

After many Academy Award themed posts, we are finally at the last entry for 2012. Dallas wanted to know when the guy for the party is coming over so we could all eat cake. We had to explain that Oscar isn’t really a man, just an award! I promised special recipes for today and I have all the dirty dishes in the kitchen to prove I am about to deliver.

I have a stack of cookbooks I need to pass on, I have never used them in the past six years, so out they go. As I was sorting, I came across a beautiful book I had forgotten all about. Gourmet magazine now has an online magazine, but the print version has gone the way of the typewriter. Luckily, I bought the 20th anniversary “best of” edition, A Year of Celebrations.

There are gorgeous photos and loads of complicated recipes in this book. I come from the (Disney) Ratatouille school of thought, I think anyone can cook. So, I decided to take a stab at a cake straight out of the chapter called, “Reinventing Gigi, A Cinematic Dinner.” That just screams Oscar night, doesn’t it? There is no way I could have made this cake without the help of my husband. He cleared the boys out for a couple hours, which was totally necessary.

This cake took complete focus, lots of dishes and no shortcuts. It took well over two hours, but was totally worth it. This is a special day! I joked with Mr. Movie Fuel that today should be our anniversary, as it was movies that really brought the two of us together.

Most of Gourmet’s recipes can be found at epicurious.com, including today’s dessert. Opera cake is often called a French Tiramasu. It’s a spongy almond cake, which soaks up espresso in between layers of coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache. This was a lot like making a génoise cakewhich is an Italian sponge cake I learned to make at a class with my fun, cake-baking cousin, Shayna.

The keys to making this type of cake, concentration and patience. That’s it!

 

 

 

The recipe is serious when it says to take sugar off the stove at 234 degrees!
Layer One.
My imperfect, yet delicious first attempt at this cake!

**If you want to know what this cake is really supposed to look like, just Google it. It’s really meant to be made by culinary students, professional bakers and French chicks.**

Black Cherry Vanilla Champagne

I posted a homemade soda recipe in the ongoing (and coming back this Tuesday), Roadtrip Series. Making a champagne cocktail without buying three different kinds of spirits is the same concept.

I boiled and then reduced black cherry juice with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. If I would have had a vanilla bean on hand, I would have used one instead. As you may notice in the photo, I don’t even have champagne glasses at home, so I tend to just make do! I remember getting  champagne flutes for our wedding, they must be up in my parent’s attic. (That was a reminder for me, sorry).

Before pouring the reduced juice, I loaded my glass with a small handful of frozen cranberries. I used a basic extra dry champagne, which is my preference, but you could use any kind you like.

I hope you enjoyed our fun Academy Award buildup and enjoy the show!

Clafouti: Whole Wheat Berry

Clafouti: Whole Wheat Berry

The last nominated film I am cooking for is Hugo. However, this dish is also a nod to Midnight in Paris and perhaps one more film as well. I can’t really say which film this dessert is also a tribute to, without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it!

We still haven’t seen Hugo. I could have made a trip to the theater (I was wrong about Hugo showing on OnDemand), but I opted to catch up on Desperate Housewives instead. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from watching Hugo, I just haven’t been jumping at the chance to watch a movie that looks like it is made for children, (but isn’t?). I am however, jumping at the chance to try my hand at all things French. For the actual ceremony tomorrow, I will be making a French dessert and cocktail. C’est magnifique!

Hugo is a 2011 3Dfamilymystery film based on Brian Selznick‘s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret about a boy who lives alone in a Paris railway station and the enigmatic owner of a toy shop there. – Wikipedia

There is a French dessert which is easy enough for children to make, but better yet for them to eat! It’s called clafouti and is most often made with cherries. Because I don’t have an extra thousand hours or latex gloves to pit cherries, I chose to make a blackberry clafouti.

Clafouti is pronounced cla-FOO-tee, rhyming with ya-booty. The kids were fa-reaking out when this came out of the oven. Max was yelling, “Cookie!” Dallas chanted, “Pie! Pie! Pie!” Our dessert/breakfast could barely cool while I whipped some cream to serve up to my sugar-zealous children.

They were both wrong, by the way. Clafoutis are a meeting between custard and cake. They are light and a bit creamy with the denseness forming around the outside crust. I don’t feel too bad dishing this out for breakfast either, as this is a whole-wheat and naturally sweetened dish. It was probably better for them than any Eggo I might throw in the toaster!


This recipe has been adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World. 

 

Blackberry Clafouti
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. butter (for greasing pan)
  • 13 packets of stevia or 1 T. plus ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup half-and-half
  • ¾ cup milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 pints berries
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a deep 9- or 10-inch pie plate or a gratin dish of similar size. Add your berries and sprinkle it with a tablespoon sugar, then swirl dish to coat evenly.
  2. Beat eggs well, then add remaining sugar. Beat until somewhat thick. Add vanilla then flour, and beat again until smooth. Add the half-and-half, milk and salt, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until clafouti is nicely browned on top and a knife inserted into it comes out clean. Sift some confectioners’ sugar over it, and serve warm or at room temperature.
We are off to the farmers market shortly and hope to find something interesting, even though it is still the middle of winter. Blah! At least the sun is shining for another day until the rain returns. Happy Saturday everyone, get your tuxedo steamed and your gowns ready, then let’s meet up tomorrow afternoon for our pre-awards cocktail!
Movie Fuel: Oscar Pre-Party!

Movie Fuel: Oscar Pre-Party!

First things first. Go “like” Movie Fuel on Facebook, it is all quality all the time. Second things second. Go “like” Food It Forward on Facebook. I can’t exactly guarantee all quality all the time, but I can guarantee an occasional laugh or good recipe!

Ok, now welcome to the par-tay! Let’s pull out our snack tray for adults, no Laffy Taffy and no Hi-C punch. For my regular readers that are a little over the Oscar posts, I promise they will only last this week and then movie talk will go back to Thursdays alone. Until I get started on The Hunger Games that is, I’m totally loving that world right now!

I have loaded up our tray with some healthy treats. I’ve added yesterday’s chocolate cranberry truffles, which have dwindled from 23 balls to somewhere around 7.

Either end of the tray holds a chocolate treat, chocolate covered almonds on one side, chocolate covered raisins on the other. Making homemade Raisinets is as easy as mixing a cup of raisins (or almonds for Almondets?)  in with some homemade chocolate syrup. One of the first recipes I posted on Food It Forward was the easy-peasy method for making Hershey’s style syrup at home. Once you start, you’ll have a hard time paying $3+ for a bottle of the store bought stuff.

I’ve filled the bell pepper with a mixture of greek yogurt and italian seasoning. The little white and green piles are pumpkin seeds and pepitas, which are pumpkin seeds without the shell.

I’ve tried to make a tray to keep us busy snacking low-calorie(ish) bites, the Academy Awards are a long broadcast!

We can talk food again in a bet, lets talk winners. If you are in a betting pool at work, which I hope you aren’t, because betting is illegal, but if you are, listen to Mr. Movie Fuel’s advice! (If anyone wants to be in on a pool, I may know where you can place your bets, just saying).

Movie Fuel Picks the Winners

 If only the Academy Awards were all about the quality of what is on the screen.  Well, I am here to tell you that is not the case.  But, if you want to fill out a perfect ballot this Sunday, heed my advice.  Here is a list of Movie Fuel’s guaranteed winners (or your money back!)…

Supporting Actress: This is the category where I am taking the greatest risk of not having the perfect ballot.  But, I have confidence in myself.  A lot of solid performances here; Janet Mcteer (Albert Nobbs), Jessica Chastain (The Help) and the favorite is Octavia Spencer (The Help).  Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) had the showiest performance, but it might be too vulgar for the Academy voters. I can’t deny the memorable, scene stealing performance of Berenice Bejo in The Artist, so I am going out on a limb and picking her!

Supporting Actor: This is typically the most competitive category, but this year I would say it is the weakest pool of nominees of the major awards. Kenneth Branagh, boring actor in a mediocre movie. Jonah Hill, decent but didn’t have enough screen time.  Max Von Sydow, no one saw this movie.  Nick Nolte is almost as nuts as Garey Busey and this film is about Mixed Martial Arts.  The award will go to Christopher Plummer in Beginners.  Not only because mostly because he is the token old guy, the Academy voters want to award with a lifetime achievement award, but also because his performances are so consistently good and consistently different from one another. From Georg Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, to Mike Wallace in The Insider to a wealthy man searching for his lost niece in Girl with a Dragoon Tattoo, every role is memorable.

Best Director: Traditionally, the Best Picture and Best Director Awards go hand in hand.  On occasion, the awards will be split between two films and that is how I see it going down this year.  Surveying the nominees, Alexander Payne’s (The Descendants) films are too personable, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) is still too creepy, Terrance Malick’s (Tree of Life) film is too big for us to wrap our minds around.  That leaves this year’s favorite, Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) who is just too new and  Martin Scorsese for Hugo. I am in the minority when I say this, but Martin Scorsese has done his best work in the latter years of his career.  Goodfellas, Aviator, Departed, Shutter Island all have his trademark Scorsese stamp on them, but he is not afraid to branch out of his typical genre and that is no truer than here with a fantastical family film full of special effects.  He is a Director who has an intense passion for not only making films, but watching and experiencing films and you have to root for someone like that.

Best Actor: Demian Buchir (A Better Life) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) are too new to the game. Gary Oldman was in a movie that no one saw (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; say it ten times fast) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) gets no respect. It isn’t by accident that George Clooney has filled the role of Frank Sinatra in all of the Ocean remakes.  Cool, collected, suave, he’s the closest thing we have to an old school Hollywood star and he is the Liberal King in a Left Wing Monarchy.  If he is nominated, his peers have a really hard time picking anyone else.  While I haven’t seen the film, George Clooney in The Descendants stretches himself in a more vulnerable performance and typically when actors play against type, they win awards (remember Denzel Washington in Training Day) and that is what Clooney will do this Sunday night.

Best Actress: Glen Close (Albert Nobbs) and Meryl Streep (Iron Lady) invoke a sense of “been there, done that.”   Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is just too arrogant and weird and let’s face it, Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) was on Dawson’s Creek at one point and is just plain boring!  Hollywood loves to give the Best Actress Award to the young and beautiful.  Take for example the most recent winners; Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Charlize Theron and Halle Berry.  Viola Davis from The Help  is no different here and should win easily, combining a strong performance with youth and unassuming beauty.

Best Picture: War Horse is twenty-five years too late. Tree of Life is too emotionally draining and polarizing.  Moneyball is well balanced but not groundbreaking.  Midnight in Paris (really??). Hugo is for kids. The Help, too light.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, frankly I know nothing about this movie except that it has no chance of winning here. The Descendants is a one man show which never wins this award. The best picture always goes to the best production and the most recent trend is that the award will go to the film that is the most different (Slumdog Millionaire, Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men)  and/or the best ensemble cast (Crash, Departed, King’s Speech, huh?) and The Artist is meticulously well made, is a silent black and white film and requires the entire cast to pull off…great production, very different, ensemble executes perfectly….an easy winner here!

No matter what, have a blast!  Yes, there are plenty of other minor awards, but those are the ones that when they come on screen, you are refilling your drink or going back for seconds on some delicious food.  But, I’ll let Mrs. Movie Fuel talk about that…

Mrs. Movie Fuel? I’d prefer Mrs. FoFo, wait, that sounds like a Muppet. Mrs. Movie Fuel it is! While I am going to save a special cocktail and dessert for Sunday’s actual award show, I have a few recipes to add to the party. Here they come, some of FoFo’s favorites. Uh, I mean Mrs. Movie Fuel’s favorites. I am having an identity crisis.

“TTFN! Ta ta for now.” – Tigger, the originator of texting abbreviations.

More Academy Award Party Food

More Academy Award Party Food

Are you coming to my party tomorrow? You are invited! Mr. Movie Fuel will be here, predicting all the winners for this year’s Academy Awards and I of course will be doing the cooking. Maybe you can come and clean! Just kidding, kinda.

I have two snacks today, both in honor of the current Oscar favorite for Best Picture, The Artist. Mostly because they are monochromatic dishes, but it works.

First up, the food that Dallas inspired. As a toddler, he was all about cottage cheese and beans mixed together. He was also totally into Ritz. I used to say, “In case of fits, give a Ritz.” They would always quiet him up! This snack uses the Trader Joe’s Pita Bite Crackers, which are stronger than Ritz and a bit more of a fancy schmancy cracker, perfect for a party.

  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup. can white kidney beans, drained (or other white bean)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • sturdy crackers
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

I gave my black beans a quick pulse or two in the blender to chop them up. After that, the recipe involves mixing and assembly, that’s about it!

Here’s another monochromatic yummy…

These little truffles are secretly healthy and totally delicious. The recipe can be found over at damyhealth.com and is most of the way down the page which holds a few other truffle and treat recipes. I started the DAMY program last week and can already feel the difference of eating clean and exercising harder. I woke up this morning (day 6) and feel like I woke up from a fog I had no idea I was in. I feel more alive today and am excited to see what the next four months has to bring me.

Head over to Damy’s Healthy Truffles, Chocolates and Raw Cookies page!

And for anyone who doesn’t want to put any effort into their Oscar party dishes, I offer this suggestion:

The Artist: A plate of white rice on one half and black beans on the other. Heck, don’t even cook either of them.

Moneyball: Tape a dollar bill to the outside of a Hostess snowball.

The Descendants: Tape a photo of George Clooney’s face over the front of a Hawaiian Punch can.

Hugo: I’m watching this tonight, so I really have no tips for you.

War Horse: Lay a carrot over a copy of War and Peace. Use the carrot to cover the word peace.

Midnight in Paris: French fries.

Tree of Life: Stick a branch out of  a box of cereal. Yes, Life cereal.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Tape a really really small picture of Sam Kinison to a plate. (Think it through)

The Help: Poop on a plate. Sorry, I had no choice.

Oscars 2012: The Descendants Hawaiian Dip

Oscars 2012: The Descendants Hawaiian Dip

This week will bring lots of movie related posts as the Academy Awards are almost here (Sunday)! Have you seen The Descendants? Yeah, neither has Mr. Movie Fuel, so there won’t be much movie discussion other than what I am about to add. This movie is not meant for Girl’s Night Out. I think the word has gotten out that this movie isn’t just about George Clooney on a beach. It’s a heavy drama with doses of comedy sprinkled in.

 

If The Descendants is bound to win an Oscar, as many people predict, we might as well have some celebratory food on hand! Movie Fuel will be here on Thursday for our pre-Oscar predictions and some more party food. It’s too bad he isn’t here this morning, we have a super addictive and delicious dip on the table. I hope my kids gobble most of it, because I can’t be trusted around this Hawaiian inspired dip!

This dip could NOT be easier to make!

  • 8 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut (I prefer flaked over shredded)
  • 20 oz. can pineapple (chunks or crushed)
  • nuts or cherries to top dip with

 

Blend all ingredients together in food processor to crush up pineapple and coconut pieces. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. I think it tastes great with Trader Joe’s Pita Crackers, but I am sure there are plenty of dipping options you can find!

Quick and easy recipe for today, be sure to save this recipe for summer (which seems so far away right now)!

Jy and I are hoping to get out to see the Oscar nominated short films this Saturday. Cross your fingers we can get out to go, it is always such a fun tradition that has gotten harder to keep up with after having kids. Are you watching the awards this Sunday night? Are you going to be happy when I quit talking about the Oscars and movie themed food? Hope not!

See you tomorrow, Happy Tuesday friends!

Chocolate Protein Pancakes

Chocolate Protein Pancakes

Hello and happy Washington’s Birthday aka President’s Day to you all. Yesterday, Dallas asked what President’s day was all about and who our president is. We reminded him our president is Obama, to which he asked, “Is he alive?” We explained that being alive is the first requirement to becoming elected as president and this did not sit well with Dallas, as his second favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. Of course his next question asked if the president needed to be on earth. It took me a minute to determine whether the first rule of being president should be that you must be alive or you must be on earth. Jy cleared it up with the example of an intergalactic president. Anyway, enjoy your day off of work!

See the movie that inspired the president. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I had a fun weekend, full of relaxation. Saturday morning I met with a friend/mentor and enjoyed almost three hours of coffee and talking time at Starbucks. You know  I was loving that! Saturday afternoon was a relaxed and enjoyable time with Max at his very first birthday party without his older brother. Sunday meant some time spent at Church and in the new “Couples Together” program our church puts on twice a month. Couples Together is a time with free coffee, dessert and child care while the couples hear tips on marriage with time for one on one discussion. Last night, Jy sent me out with the Moms club to go watch the movie, The Vow. He would have hated it, but I enjoyed it, schmaltziness and all. Our dinner stop after the movie was to eat some Afghan food. Wanna see?

I’ve been meaning to share a recipe with you from my friend Jessica’s food blog. She had to stop blogging after a computer issue, but she has some really great recipes that are super healthy. I thought I’d try her Chocolate Banana Pancakes this morning, but only printed out the first half of the recipe, oops! I improvised and came up with my own version of Chocolate Protein Pancakes, but be sure to check out what she has to share over at Jess’ Cookin’ It!

 

Chocolate Protein Pancakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 2 T almond meal (or ground almonds)
  • 2 T flaxseed
  • heaping ½ tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 packet Truvia (or up to 3 tsp granulated sugar)
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup milk
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients and cook pancakes as you would any other! These cakes are a little thinner than normal, but if you let the batter sit for a while (even in the fridge overnight) the batter will thicken up.
Jy and the kids really loved these. Total hit and lots of protein in the morning!

 

Speaking of morning, I had to buy VIA Starbucks instant coffee at the grocery store last night. Our Keurig is not complying! It wants to be descaled again. Remember the vinegar morning? Eck. Gonna give it one more try, but as for now, the machine is only putting out teeny-tiny cups. Boo on you Keurig!  I’ll leave you on a happy note though…

 

Oscars 2012: Real Steel and Turkey Fireballs

Oscars 2012: Real Steel and Turkey Fireballs

We are still in Oscar mode for our weekly Movies & Munchies and while I planned to post today about The Descendants, I forgot that Mr. Movie Fuel hasn’t seen that movie yet! He chose a film that is nominated for special effects, Real Steel. I LOVED this movie. Totally a great rental and family friendly (for 8 years old and up I would guess).

 

Real Steel (2011)

 Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lily and a Bunch of Robots!

Directed by: Shawn Levy

The older I get, the more I realize that I would rather see a less than perfect, fun and entertaining film than an artfully crafted Drama.  Sometimes you go into a movie with low expectations and are pleasantly surprised with what you get.

After enduring three Transformer movies, it is nice to see a move about fighting robots with some life in the story and in the characters. Even though the film takes from so many other cinematic stories before it, Real Steel does enough to feel fresh and new.

As a father, I am a sucker for a father and son film. Taking place in the near future, a father and son find an old robot they polish off and use to fight other robots for money. As likeable as Hugh Jackman is in most of his films, he does a good job of convincing us here that he is a deadbeat dad and a has-been boxer searching for something that’s not there. We want to see him find redemption, but believe there is certainly a possibility that he won’t and would be ok with that because he is so despicable.

These are not Michael Bay’s incoherent, chaotic robo-fighters. With well orchestrated boxing matches, thanks to the choreography of boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, combined with the stellar Academy Award nominated special effects, the audience is treated with ring action as intense and exciting as any human match.

I love what filmmakers are doing with special effects these days.

Until the 2000′s, filmmakers would often use what is called animatronics to create special effects; essentially building robotic animals, creatures, non-human subjects and filming them with live actors.  Then in the past ten years or so, all of that has been replaced with computer generated characters which can sometime seem less realistic.  Now, filmmakers are recognizing that the surreal effect is not as convincing and have now started combining animatronics with computer generated effects and the results are incredible.  In this film in particular, you have the realism of the actual built robot on the set with the unlimited capabilities of computer effects layered over the character and the entire scene.

Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) does a great job with providing something for everyone and balances the corny storyline with some genuine heartfelt moments and tons of action to maintain the audience’s attention.

Whenever I mention this film to anyone, they automatically write it off as something they would never see and are surprised when I enthusiastically recommend it.  But, if you can leave your preconceptions at the door, you may find that Real Steel is well worth the ride admission. Fathers, sons, gamers, everyone will love this fun and compelling underdog tale.

 

 

 

 

Turkey Fireballs

It was tempting to try and create “healthy” recipes for arena foods (corndogs, pink popcorn), but I decided to take a different route today. The little boy in this movie hates hamburgers and it is running joke, of sorts. I thought I would combine a turkey burger and popcorn by making some crunchy, feisty turkey fireballs! These were inspired by a totally delicious turkey burger my friend Jody created using quinoa, the super-grain!

I also made these because I have The Hunger Games on the brain. I just finished Chasing Fire and am ready to read Mockingjay on my Valentine’s Day gift, a Kindle Fire! I know this sounds dramatic, but the Kindle Fire is life changing. I love it!

Turkey Fireballs
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Turkey
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ⅓ – ½ cup mixture of diced onions, carrots and celery (I buy this ready made)
  • dash salt and pepper
  • 2 T. ground flaxseed (yep, sneakin’ it in)
  • 1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp. thyme
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use a large pan that is also oven safe. Combine all ingredients. Roll small balls and brown at least one side in an oiled pan over medium-high heat. Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
I ate these fireballs on a salad of romaine, broccoli, lemon juice, salt & pepper and cottage cheese. I have always been totally annoyed at celebrity interviews where the star claims they eat their salads with lemon juice and salt & pepper instead of dressing, but there is something to it! I’ve noticed as long as I have a creamy protein (yogurt or cottage cheese), I can mix everything up and it is better tasting than most bottled dressings. Give it a go!

Put WHAT In My Oatmeal?

Put WHAT In My Oatmeal?

On its own, oatmeal is great. Powered up with some protein and fiber superstars, oatmeal is amazing. My first oatmeal tip is to stop buying the one-minute variety. If you can spare an extra two or even four minutes, you’ll come away with a heartier, less processed breakfast. The other tip is to always (if possible) cook your oatmeal on the stove. I know this all sounds like I’m making life harder for you, but I promise that stove-top oats are just as easy (I think easier) than nuked and the texture of your breakfast will speak to you for itself! I used the one-minute oats to make granola at my parent’s house and the oats really brought the granola down a couple notches. For more oatmeal tips, including types of oats and a good joke, read Former Fat Guy’s article.

I’m currently loving Trader Joe’s Steel Cut Oats, which can be cooked for 5 minutes on the stove. Jy prefers standard rolled oats, which take about 3 minutes stove-top and one minute to cool.

Getting to my point, I want to talk about foods to add to oatmeal. This morning I tried something I have been meaning to for a long time; I added cottage cheese to my oatmeal. I went a little overboard and also added some honey & strawberry flavored Greek yogurt. I’ve been so curious about cottage cheese and its effect on oats. Lots of food bloggers love fluffy texture cottage cheese adds and I can now join them in agreeance.

***Another grammarophile note: agreeance is a real word, rarely used and unrecognized by spell check, but it’s real. The word grammarophile? Not real.

Adding cottage cheese will not only add protein, it will plump your oatmeal serving size up to a big, fat bowlful. I’d have to suggest you skip using both cottage cheese AND Greek yogurt together, it is just too much. The other must for your oat bowl should be ground flaxseed or chia seeds, both are fantastic fiber sources. I could talk more about fiber here, but I am sure you know all about what fiber can do to…uh, I mean for you.

I didn’t do so today, but I normally love to sweeten my oatmeal with maple syrup rather than brown sugar. The syrup goes a longer way in sweetening and isn’t considered a processed food. I’m talking about real maple syrup, not Mrs. Butterworth. I’ve been getting my syrup through Subscribe & Save on Amazon. I’ve noticed Costco and Trader Joe’s have decent syrup prices, too.

I’m currently counting calories, otherwise you would probably see a totally different bowl full oatmeal additions. If you haven’t tried it, a little bit of peanut butter dolloped on top of your oats is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. We all know about adding fruits and nuts, but don’t forget about seeds or canned pumpkin.

More additions to consider:

  • granola (or a granola bar)
  • chocolate chips
  • a fried egg
  • coconut
  • dried fruit
  • avocado
  • muffin pieces
  • fruit spreads

For the ultimate oatmeal blog post, please read Kath’s Tribute to Oatmeal. Kath Eats Real Food is one of the best food blogs around, no question. Give it a glance!

This week has been a bit jumbled, so tomorrow will be this week’s Movies & Munchies post. Come back tomorrow to read our post about The Descendants!

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today, we are supposed to be focusing on love and all things heart related. To me, this means add flax seed! Romantic, huh?

I am taking a quick break from the Road Trip Series this week and wanted to bring you a new smoothie recipe. It can be easy to get in a smoothie rut, always using the same ingredients and coming up with the same results. This heart-y (get it?) smoothie is super heart healthy and tastes as good as it looks. Because it uses juice concentrate, it is a little extra sweet and should be considered a special treat instead of a daily staple.

 Heart-y Smoothie

  • 1/3 cup grape juice concentrate
  • 1/3 cup cranberry juice concentrate
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 2 scoops protein powder (I like Jay Robb’s Egg White)
  • 3 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1-2 cups water

Begin with one cup of water, blend and add more for desired consistency. This should make 3-4 smoothies!  

Something really strange happens every time my husband and I take a picture together. Our love just radiates. See?

Once again, Happy Heart Day! Cherish those around you and be sure to send a warm message to those who are not. Today would be a great day to send a thank you note to a member our of military. Go to a millionthanks.org to learn how.

What Type of Valentine Are You?

What Type of Valentine Are You?

Are you a sweetie or a bit salty? Come on, you can admit it. Are you a sweet, loving Valentine or fiesty and witty pain in the butt?

I’ve got something for you either way. Over coffee on Sunday, I flipped through one of the first cookbooks I bought after getting married, How To Be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson. Doesn’t that just say it all? I think it’s pretty funny. Anyhow, the book is perfect for Valentine’s cooking. It’s still winter and comfort food is always in order when serving the one you love. By the way, the one you love should also refer to yourself!

First up, coconut macaroons. I don’t understand why they need to be called coconut macaroons, isn’t that redundant? Maybe a macaroon by definition is not made up of coconut. Coconut macaroon reminds me of a kid I once knew who would try to insult people by calling them, “orca whale meat.” I’m pretty sure he didn’t get super far in life. However, Nigella calls them coconut macaroons and so will I.

The super awesomeness of Nigella Lawson.

You can find Nigella’s recipe here. Don’t flip out when you read the recipe calls for 100g of caster sugar, there is a conversion tab below the recipe that will let you know you’ll need 1/3 (and regular white sugar is fine), I used 8 packets of Truvia. It’s a new love of mine.

Making the macaroons reminded me of Forgotten Cookies. I don’t think I had ever realized the magic that happens when two egg whites are whipped up, until this year. That reminds me, I want to try to make  lemon meringues today. Oh geez. Let me take a break to confess something.

When I was drifting off to sleep last night, I was trying to think of fun and unique meringue flavors. I remembered I have a bottle of lemon extract in my pantry and Meyer lemons on the counter. Brilliant! I would make lemon cookies. It wasn’t until two seconds ago, when I actually wrote out the words, lemon meringue, that I realized my mistake. It is kind of like saying, I invented a bread with red sauce and mozzarella! Yeah, it’s called pizza.

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 cup potato slices

sprinkle of sea salt

There is no mystery here, you are frying sliced potatoes. You’ll just want to heat oil up nice and high and use a deep pan or even a large pot. When you drop a slice of potato in, that oil should boil like nobody’s business. The key to frying up potato slices is to do so in a single layer and have enough patience to let the crisps turn brown. Take the slices out with tongs, one by one and drain oil on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt or other seasonings while still hot.

See, something sweet and something salty! You didn’t even have to resort to eating pretzel M&M’s. (Which I totally just did).

 

Oscars 2012: The Descendants Hawaiian Dip

Oscars 2012: The Descendants Hawaiian Dip

This week will bring lots of movie related posts as the Academy Awards are almost here (Sunday)! Have you seen The Descendants? Yeah, neither has Mr. Movie Fuel, so there won’t be much movie discussion other than what I am about to add. This movie is not meant for Girl’s Night Out. I think the word has gotten out that this movie isn’t just about George Clooney on a beach. It’s a heavy drama with doses of comedy sprinkled in.

If The Descendants is bound to win an Oscar, as many people predict, we might as well have some celebratory food on hand! Movie Fuel will be here on Thursday for our pre-Oscar predictions and some more party food. It’s too bad he isn’t here this morning, we have a super addictive and delicious dip on the table. I hope my kids gobble most of it, because I can’t be trusted around this Hawaiian inspired dip!

This dip could NOT be easier to make!

  • 8 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut (I prefer flaked over shredded)
  • 20 oz. can pineapple (chunks or crushed)
  • nuts or cherries to top dip with

Blend all ingredients together in food processor to crush up pineapple and coconut pieces. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. I think it tastes great with Trader Joe’s Pita Crackers, but I am sure there are plenty of dipping options you can find!

Quick and easy recipe for today, be sure to save this recipe for summer (which seems so far away right now)!

Jy and I are hoping to get out to see the Oscar nominated short films this Saturday. Cross your fingers we can get out to go, it is always such a fun tradition that has gotten harder to keep up with after having kids. Are you watching the awards this Sunday night? Are you going to be happy when I quit talking about the Oscars and movie themed food? Hope not!

See you tomorrow, Happy Tuesday friends!

Guiltless & Ghetto

Guiltless & Ghetto

Are you someone who can make dessert out of almost anything? You’ll know if you are. You know the magic that some peanut butter, a banana and a few chocolate chips (ooh, and nuts) can make. It’s almost 4 p.m. here and I still have yet to do the weekly grocery shopping. I battled the Valentine aisles at Target this morning, but can’t get out to Fresh & Easy for another few minutes.

As I mentioned before, our fridge is empty! Our pantry is somewhat empty, I’ve got plenty of nuts, grains and beans, but not much else. I have been waiting and waiting to do something with the giant can of pumpkin I have left from fall. I put on my thinking cap, then I took it back off because it was broken. So, I put on my ghetto thinking cap, which is always working. My ghetto cap helps me figure out ways to slap things together, regardless of elegance.

My ghetto cap reminded me of a winning (like, real winning, not Charlie Sheen winning) recipe I had tried out this week. I found a photo of a breakfast cookie on Pinterest and recreated the recipe described. I’d love to show you the photo, but I can no longer find it! Also, the cookie had the directions listed, but no original website to link back to. When I clicked on the photo, I was only shown a larger version of the image. So, whoever invented this recipe, thank you! It is spectacular!

 

Breakfast Cookies
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 bananas
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • dash salt
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • 2 cups oats
Instructions
  1. Smash bananas and combine ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Spray a muffin pan or cookie sheet (I used a muffin pan for fatter cookies) and dump and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
If these last longer than one morning, I’d throw them in the fridge.

Back to the ghetto cap. The ghetto cap reminded me that I could create a dessert with a few ingredients out of my pantry. Here’s what I came up with:

While I’d have to say the first recipe is tastier, these ghetto pantry bites really helped to hold me over until I get home from the grocery store. First, I blended little chocolate cookies into the crust. I used the whole wheat chocolate kids’ cookies from F&E. They are similar to the cat cookies at Trader Joe’s but a little yummier.

Next, I mixed together half a can of pumpkin, one egg, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup maple syrup and added a dash of salt and cinnamon. I baked the bites in a mini muffin tin for 20 minutes and finished off the dozen along with Dallas.

I can’t invent anything else out of my bare kitchen, except maybe pineapple chickpeas? Uh, yeah, I gotta go shopping.