Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday: Toasted Orzo Chicken Soup with Parmesan Cheese Toast

As we are rolling into the spring season, even though the weather is warming up, I can't get enough soup dinners. They are super easy, delicious, healthy and satisfying. I got this recipe from one of my Rachael Ray magazines a couple months ago and was actually surprised how much my kids liked it! They usually are not big fans of chicken but they seemed to chow this meal down-no questions asked!

Tuesday: Sensational Salmon Cakes w/ Mayo-Lemon Dip

Man do I LOOOVE these salmon cakes! Not only are they flavorful but they are super easy to make. Make this Rachael Ray inspired dish on a day that you have a TON of errands to run, or if you just don't feel like making anything elaborate. Plus, it's super easy to prepare the salmon mixture ahead of time if you know it's going to be a jam packed day. My kids gave these an A+ and it makes me feel good knowing they are getting the necessary Omega rich oils in their diets. Add a tossed green salad and a side of rice pilaf to make a meal.


2 5oz cans of wild caught salmon, drained (see why below)
1 cup of breadcrumbs (see a $ saver tip below
2 large eggs, beaten

1-2 cloves of garlic

1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped (optional)

1 TB fresh dill or 1 tsp of dried dill

2 TB of vegetable or canola oil

1. Mix salmon and breadcrumbs together gently in a medium sized bowl. Add eggs, garlic, bell pepper if using, and dill.
2. Add oil in a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, add patties carefully to skillet and flatten with the back of the measuring cup (see picture below). Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.

Mayo-Lemon Dip

1/4 cup of low-fat mayonnaise you have on-hand
Juice of 1/2 lemon

5 fresh chives or 2 green onions (green parts only), chopped
salt and pepper as needed

1. In a small bowl stir all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with salmon cake.


Who likes to change it up?

~Instead of dill try Italian seasoning or chopped fresh thyme.
~Add chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

~You can trade in corn for bell pepper if you want.


Make your own breadcrumbs

It is so much healthier and cheaper to make your own breadcrumbs. Just take a couple slices of whatever bread you have on hand (I usually use the two end pieces of whole wheat bread), put it in the food processor and...Voila! Breadcrumbs! You can add a couple shakes of italian seasoning to give it a boost of flavor. See, wasn't that easy? :)


Wild vs Farmed Salmon?

I would highly recommend you purchase wild caught salmon instead of farmed raised. Let's do a comparison between the two. Nutritionally, wild has much higher ratio's of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fatty Acids than farmed raised. There is a high content of PCB, a toxic chemical that was found 8 times higher in farmed raised than wild salmon. Farmed salmon are also given tons of antibiotics to ward off any disease or illness the fish might get since they swim in such tight spaces.

Can't afford wild salmon? Try buying it canned. MUCH cheaper and it's just as good. Can't find it at the store? Buy it online here!

Crown Prince Natural Alaskan Pink Salmon; No Salt Added; 7.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12) 

Want to find out more information about farmed vs wild? Check this website out: 

Wednesday: Interchangeable Asian Fried Rice

Stir Fried rice is one of our family's favorite type of meal, so I have gone through a LOT of recipes to find the best one...and I think I have found it! This one is from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Cooking Light and I love how interchangeable it is. My husband prefers a dinner with meat in it, the kids and I usually veer towards the vegetarian option. I love that I can accommodate both with this meal.


1 TB brown sugar
1 TB fish sauce

1 TB Bragg Liquid Aminos (see picture below) or Less-sodium soy sauce

1 TB fresh lime juice
(see note below)
2 tsp of stir-fry sauce, divided (see picture below)

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 bunch of green onions, separate greens from whites
, cut both into 1 inch pieces
2 TB of toasted sesame oil

2 1/2 cups cooked and cooled rice

1/4 cups (1 medium sized or 2 small) vertically sliced shallots

3 boneless chicken
thighs or 1 cup of leftover chicken cut into 1/2 inch pieces (note:omit if using tofu)
1/2 cake of firm or extra-firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch squares (note: omit if using chicken)
2 cups (about 1 head) broccoli florets
1 cup (approx. 1) red bell pepper cut into strips
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
Cooking spray
2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (I use turkey bacon)
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Whisk first 4 ingredients with 1 tsp of stir-fry sauce in a small bowl. Combine eggs and remaining stir-fry sauce in a different bowl.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tsp oil to pan, and swirl to coat evenly. Add rice, stir-fry 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer rice mixture to a large bowl. Heat 2 tsp oil to pan. Add shallots and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add chicken or tofu. If using raw chicken cook until lightly browned and no longer pink in middle, 2-3 minutes. If using leftover chicken or tofu, cook 1-2 minutes. Add brown sugar mixture to pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 1 minute until liquid thickens. Add chicken/tofu mixture to rice mixture.
3. Wipe out pan with paper towel; return to medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 tsp oil, swirling to coat. Add broccoli and bell pepper;stir-fry 3 minutes. Add green onion bottoms (the white parts) and garlic. Stir-fry 1 more minute. Add rice and chicken/tofu mixture to pan, cook 2 minutes until heated thoroughly. Return rice and chicken/tofu mixture to large bowl. 4. Return pan to medium-high heat after wiping it out with paper towel. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add egg mixture, swirling to coat pan, cook for about 1 minute or until egg has set. Transfer egg to cutting board;chop. Stir egg and bacon into rice mixture. Top with green onion tops (green parts) and sesame seeds if using.


Who likes to change it up?

~Use baby corn and peas instead of bell pepper and broccoli.
~Add chunks of pineapple to dish.

~Try lemon juice instead of lime to give it a slightly different flavor.

~Don't have fish sauce? Just increase soy sauce to 1 1/2 TB.


Favorite condiments & a lime lesson

Lately, my favorite condiment has been Bragg Liquid Aminos Soy Sauce. It is AWESOME! I put it in everything. What's in it? Vegetable protein from Soybeans and purified water. THAT'S IT!!! No extra salt, like you will find in most soy sauces. Find it in your local natural food section or Whole Foods store.If you can't find it, let me know and I will help you find it for your area or you can buy it off of amazon here. 
 Bragg - Bragg Liquid Aminos, 16 fl oz liquid

I get this General Tsao stir-fry sauce from Trader Joe's which has minimal ingredients in it, and is super yummy.  For the recipe above, any stir-fry sauce will work.

Shopping for limes can be tricky. You want to find ones that are soft because you will get more juice out of them. If they only have ones that are hard, make sure you buy a few extras since you won't get much juice from them.

Thursday: Apple-Cheddar Turkey Burgers with Yummy Cranberry-Strawberry-Spinach Salad

This one I found in a Rachael Ray magazine years ago, and it has been a family favorite every since. The cranberry flavor really compliments the apple-cheddar combo. Unfortunately, cranberry sauce is something that is usually seasonal. So, if you like this meal, get a bunch of cans that will last you for the rest of the year. Or you can always replace it with ketchup!


2 lbs ground turkey breast
4 green onions finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 TB grill seasoning

1 tsp poultry seasoning

2 TB olive-oil

1 granny-smith apple, halved, cored and sliced into 12 slices

8 slices extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce

2 TB grainy mustard

4 english muffins
, split and toasted
8 leaves of red or green leaf lettuce

1. Mix the turkey, green onions, parsley and seasonings together in a bowl. Form them into patties to fit the english muffins, pressing your thumb into center of each to prevent it from bulging. In a different bowl, mix together cranberry sauce and mustard, set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Top with 1 apple slice and 1-2 cheese slices, tent pan with foil and cook until cheese melts about 1-2 minutes.
3. Slather cranberry mixture on to muffin tops. Pile 1-2 lettuce leaves on each muffin bottom, top with the patties. Enjoy!

Yummy Cranberry-Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Spinach leaves
Strawberries, sliced

sliced almonds or pine nuts
dried cranberries
TJ's Cranberry-Gorgonzola Dressing or a Raspberry Vinaigrette
goat cheese, crumbled

1. Mix all the ingredients together in your favorite salad bowl. Top with dressing when ready to serve.


Who likes to change it up?

~Instead of cranberry sauce use ketchup on top and mustard on bottom half.
~Replace english muffins with whole grain hamburger buns or your favorite fresh bread
~Try spinach instead of lettuce
~Add ground chicken instead of turkey for the burger. ~For the salad try clementine, orange or tangerine pieces instead of strawberries.
~Use feta cheese instead of goat cheese for the salad.


Does it matter what kind of ground Turkey I buy?

Honestly, I didn't even know there were different kinds of ground turkey. I thought it was all the same, until I started reading labels. If it's not labeled ground turkey breast, than usually it has skin and dark meat in it which causes it to have a high fat content, sometimes higher than lean ground beef! So, bottom line? Read those labels!

Roasted Red Pepper-Carrot soup with homemade croutons

This was a super satisfying dish I found in last months Vegetarian Times Magazine that was surprisingly flavorful. When I saw lemon juice on the recipe I thought...Really? Lemon Juice? But it added a fresh zesty final touch to the soup that worked out well. Make sure to leave yourself enough time to roast the bell pepper at the beginning. Add a green salad to your soup and you will have a delicious meal!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Better late than never

So, as some of you might realize from my last post, I'm starting this food blog a little later than I previously thought. What can I say about my sloth self? I could give excuses about being busy chasing two rambunctious kiddos around or being stuck in the winter blues but the truth of the matter is...I just got LAZY. I'm sure none of you can attest to that! :)

So, now that Spring is here where everything that can bloom is blooming it's bloomiest (oops, apparently that's not a word), I have decided to go forth with my aspirations and start this food blog. I have always wanted to do a food blog. Why? I just love, love, love good food. And I don't mean a hamburger from McDonalds, people! I'm talking about home-cooked meals made with love. :)

Where do I get my recipes from? Magazines, Cookbooks, and sometimes I just make them up (whenever I feel aspired to do so, which probably doesn't happen as often as it should). Some of my favorites include anything by Cooking Light, Rachael Ray, and Ellie Krieger. If I'm looking through one of the magazines I just rip out the recipes I want to try. Then I rate the dish with 3 stars if everybody in the family liked it, 2 stars if just half of us liked it, and 1 star if only one person liked it. The 1 stars get tossed, the 2 stars get one more try, and the 3 stars I put in a binder with sheet protectors. I'm only posting 3 star recipes which have become family favorites.

Meal planning for one week is a lot simpler once you get in the habit of it. It's not something I have always done, mostly because no one really showed me what to do or where to start. Starting this Monday I will be posting 5 recipes for you to try during the week or weekend. My goal is to post healthy but tasty dinners that your whole family will enjoy. I will also once in a while include our favorite snack recipes, breakfast ideas and yummy lunches.

One of the most popular questions I get from my family every day is "What's for dinner?" I love being able to give them an answer instead of "Ummm, not sure honey. Let's see what I can think of" or "I'll just pick up a frozen pizza from the store or order out."

This brings me to another point...I DO NOT like making multiple trips to the grocery store every week. I have two young, active children and I would rather just make 1 trip and buy all the supplies for the week in a single trip.

Plus, making a meal plan will save you $ on your food budget every month. When I first started meal planning, I was saving between $60-100 EVERY MONTH!

I hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as my family and I have and that I can help you on your quest to getting your meals organized for the week. Also, I would love to hear from you! How did you like the tips, did you try the recipes, etc? How can I make this blog more accommodating to your family? Are there any other avid meal planners out there? Do you have any tips/tricks to share or favorite recipes?

Can't wait to hear from you all! :)



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