Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kichen Tips: Prepping/Storage

I wanted to celebrate my 100th post (HOORAY!) by posting about some of the tips and tricks that help to keep my kitchen and household running smoothly. I think I have plenty of simple tips that I never shared with anyone before because I always thought they were so obvious. Looking back they weren't always obvious to me so I figured I would commemorate this special post by starting with my favorite kitchen secret: prepping!

One thing that I always make sure to do when coming home from the grocery store is to cut, wash and divide all of our fruits and vegetables into individual containers or Ziploc baggies. I also usually tend to do this with anything I am going to be making (i.e. chopping ingredients ahead of time) and other things like potato chips.  Measuring things is usually something I do if I have time but half a Ziploc baggie or one of the containers (shown above) is usually one serving of a fruit or vegetable. Sometimes I also cook the vegetables well ahead of time so I can just heat them up and eat! Broccoli is one of my absolute favorites but my husband will not eat it so I'm the lucky gal that gets the entire head of broccoli to myself!


When you get home from the grocery, put all your food away except those that need to be divvyed up. Get a large cutting board and knife to cut everything with. Start with the less potent items (like fruits) and work your way to the things like onion, which will probably leave a hint of it on the knife. Always rinse the knife in between items .. you don't want to have blueberry/strawberries (although that does sound wonderful). Once everything is in a baggie or tupperware then place in the fridge so that it's not hidden from sight. This way you remember what you have for snacks or side items with your lunches. Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Make sure it's visible!

Another tip that I have is to make your own seasonings with what you have. Part of this means saving the leftovers; let's not be wasteful when on a budget! I usually put seasonings in a Ziploc baggie or airtight container and place in the pantry for future use. As you can see above, I write on the baggie what the seasoning is and the date in which I put it together. Who knows how long it will be until you use it again so just to be safe, that is a good idea. I label what it is because .. well .. all the seasoning mixes look the same to me.

Hope these tips will be useful to you and I will have plenty more to share!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Granola Balls

Just recently I posted about making home-made granola bars for the first time. My husband absolutely loved them, but I wasn't convinced that those were the "best of the best". So what did I do? Try again! I really felt like these were much better than the first trial but always can still use some improvements. I was actually making granola bars and a little corner piece fell off while I was pulling them out of the pan. Instead of throwing it away or eating it, I just rolled it up into a little ball and threw it on the cooling rack with the other bars. What I now know is that that is a fantastic idea and the granola actually holds together much easier than in the bar form! Also, when I don't want an entire granola bar, I can just take a few of these little guys!

See how cute these are!? They are bite-sized and so easy to just snack on (and healthy, too).

One main difference I made with these versus my previous granola recipe is that I used crunched up Total Cereal instead of the old-fashioned oats.

I wasn't a huge fan of the taste of the oats so I thought this would be a great idea since I have about 50 little boxes of Total and Cheerios cereal lying around the house. Oh the joys of being a health coach. ;) Soon I will figure out something fun to make with the cheerios, most likely for the 4th of July weekend!!

Edit: I asked my husband what he though of the new granola bars and he actually likes the first one's better. I think they had too much of an overwhelming honey taste so I might substitute some of that out but still go back to the oats instead of Total cereal.

Granola Balls
Recipe loosely adapted from: Big City Cooking

3 cups Total cereal, finely chopped
1.5 cup rice krispies
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 mashed banana
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup candy pieces (we chose Reeses Pieces)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients except last three (candy, raisins and nuts) in large mixing bowl until well blended. Add in candy, raisins and nuts and mix well. Press the granola into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden-brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and pull granola out of pan and roll into quarter-sized balls. Place on cooling rack. For ease of convenience, I would suggest putting 5-7 balls in a small ziplock baggie and keeping in the fridge to take to lunch with you or for an everyday snack.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spicy Baked Catfish

Even though I recently have quit my job, I feel like eating healthy is still something I can do on a budget. Tip one: eat less portion sizes. Tip two: buy and cook only what you NEED for dinners instead of anticipating leftovers. I will have many more shopping/coupon-cutting/money-saving advice in the coming entries. This was the first grocery trip for me being on a budget and I spent $65 at Whole Foods (seriously, is that even possible?) for two people for a weeks worth of food! I didn't get milk and a handful of other items (probably totaling $10-20) only because I'm not spending three times as much money for the exact same product. Now that I will have more time and less money, I think I will be shopping around several stores for what is on sale and not ignoring those ads that flood my mailbox each week.

As for the catfish, it is no longer allowed in our house unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, I love catfish .. a lot .. but we found out after I ate this that I am mildly allergic to catfish. Hopefully it's not all seafood, but we'll test that out another time when my throat recovers. Speaking of budgets, I got four filets of this catfish at Whole Foods for a mere $7. Absolutely amazing! Despite my unfortunate incident with this recipe, my husband absolutely devoured and enjoyed every bit of it. I will miss you catfish!!

Edit: I found out I was actually getting strep throat so no allergy worries with catfish!! YAY!

Spicy Baked Catfish
Adapted from: Kelly's Kitch original

4 thin, boneless catfish filets
1/4 cup Jamaican Jerk rub*
4 tbsp Italian salad dressing
1.5 tsp lemon pepper

Place catfish filets in 8x8 glass baking dish and slather on half of the jerk rub and dressing. Flip filets over and spread the remaining sauces on top, coating evenly. Then, sprinkle the lemon pepper on and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until catfish is white and flaky (cooked thoroughly).

* You can purchase this at Williams-Sonoma in the store. Otherwise you can substitute for any similar Jamaican sauce you can find at your local grocery.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Got Brownies?

I have always held a special place in my heart for hating brownies. Considering I have only had the kind that comes from a box, this is now no surprise to me. I don't even like chocolate that much. Well my nephew is staying with us this week and although I would like to see him shed a few pounds (the poor kids at school make fun of his weight), I just had to try these out! I think I had more fun making the cream cheese part than I did the brownies. The brownies came out so soft and not crunchy on the edges like my usual brownies (remember .. from the box). I think I crushed the Oreo cookies a little too much so next time I will break them gently. Also, next time I might bake it a little longer and use a bigger pan for thinner brownies.

The cream cheese didn't exactly harden like I had hoped. Don't worry though, it's still amazingly delicious! I even let my nephew swirl the cream cheese in with a fork. As you can see, he really enjoyed that part. I might even use the base of the brownie mixture for home made brownies since that part was just gooey goodness! And that coming from someone who doesn't like chocolate that much is really saying something!

Oreo Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
Adapted from: Annie's Eats, originally Sugar Plum

8 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1½ cups chopped Oreo cookies
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 (or bigger, for thinner brownies) pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with canola oil. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until well blended. Once melted, turn up the heat to boil for 1 minute and set aside to cool.
In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa powder and salt until well blended. Mix in 2 eggs well and then whisk in milk. Finally, add the chopped Oreo's and fold into batter. Pour batter into pan lined with foil.
For the cream cheese topping, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed in an electric mixer until well blended. Drop the cream cheese mixture onto the brownie mix in the pan in dollops/chunks. Take a fork or knife and swirl until level and mixed (almost like marble).
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Tip: If you place the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour after cooling the pan, it makes it very easy to slice.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Well if you aren't near the midwest you might not know of some storms that blew through this weekend. I am really, really thankful that the storms only damaged physical things and nobody was hurt. I am taking a break from food blogging "goals" but I will post here and there. I really need to help my dad clean up his yard and really focus more on my family and a little less on taking pictures of food. I just wanted to let everyone know that I was still alive, but that my priorities and goals have shifted a bit.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to food blog. I am just not making it a top priority right now. I am focusing on our house, my family and husband. For those of you that have (or make) time to food blog and focus on your loved ones .. how do you do it? ;) Kudos to all of us who try to make this world a healthier, tastier place!