Monday, June 27, 2011

this week's craving: picnics!

It's finally picnic weather, and This Week's Cravings is celebrating!  Whenever I go on a picnic, I rely on this favorite recipe - it's easy to assemble the night before and absolutely delicious!

marinated turkey wraps

Ready for a wrap session?  Nope, that's not a typo you see...I really do mean wrap.

You see, I'm not a fan of sandwiches.  Sure, the occasional Subway sandwich fits the bill when you need something fast, but I really dislike homemade sandwiches.  Maybe it's because I'm inept at making them.  Maybe it's because I don't have a full on veggie bar like Subway does.  I don't know.  I'm just not a fan.

But wraps?  That's a different story!  You don't have to stick to deli lunch can put all kinds of fun things in those.  I even find that it's okay to make and assemble wraps in advance - let's the flavors mingle, you know?  Here's one of my favorites...

For this wrap, I made a delicious marinated turkey breast in the slow cooker.  It's so easy, and you have delicious, tender meat for several meals.    You need a 2 1/2 - 3 pound boneless turkey breast and then the marinade ingredients - zest and juice from one lemon, dried rosemary, dried oregano, Dijon mustard, dry white wine, minced garlic, and pepper.

The night before you want to eat this, put the turkey in a glass dish with a lid.

Mix the marinade ingredients together (only takes a minute!) and pour over the top.  Put the lid on and refrigerate overnight.

A note on the marinade - I zest an entire lemon and use all of its juice.  If you aren't so into the citrus flavor, though, feel free to go a bit light (maybe use half a lemon).  That part is flexible.

The previous picture was taken after a night of marinating.  Yum, right?  Okay, haha, I's still raw.  But here's where the cooking part comes in.  Dump it all in your slow cooker, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  That's it!  And invite company over while it's cooking...your house will smell delightful. :-)

A bonus - after marinating all night, the turkey skin may just slide right off...mine did!

So that's the meat.  But wraps are more than meat...they have lots of goodness in them.  And my favorite thing to add to these particular wraps are sauteed onions (and sometimes peppers).

For two wraps, I chop up a half onion (and, when I have them, peppers).

Saute the onion (and maybe peppers) in a skillet with about a teaspoon of olive oil, lots of oregano (don't be shy with it), and pepper to taste.

You have complete freedom to assemble your wraps however you like.  Here's how I do it:

Mash up a ripe avocado and spread a quarter of it on a softened tortilla.

Top with about 3 ounces of shredded turkey.

Top with half of your cooked onions (and possibly peppers!).

And finally sprinkle a bit of Parmesan on (if you's not necessary, but it adds a nice touch).  At this point my husband also likes to add BBQ sauce or's up to you!

Roll (or wrap) it up, and you are ready for dinner.

Total prep time for the meat : about 5 minutes, not counting the overnight marinade.  Total prep time for the onions: about 5 minutes.  Total time it takes to assemble the wrap: about 2 minutes.  Total minutes of enjoyment: endless.

Can a sandwich be this cool?  I don't think so!

Marinated Turkey Wraps

2 1/2 lb. boneless turkey breast
zest and juice from one lemon
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried oregano
2 T. dijon mustard
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 t. minced garlic
pepper to taste

Place turkey in glass bowl, skin side down.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over turkey.  Refrigerate overnight.  Cook in slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours.

To make wrap: spread on softened tortilla 1/4 of an avocado (mashed), 3 oz. turkey, 1/4 of an onion (sauteed with oregano and pepper), and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Can also add salsa or BBQ sauce. 


Friday, June 24, 2011

lentil chili

This recipe is delicious and was the perfect dinner to warm us up on the rainy weekend we just had.  It was a fast fix, but it smelled amazing while cooking!  I love that it's healthy and full of fiber, something I'm convinced Cookie Bandit needs more of in his diet.

Would I normally put lentils in chili?  No, of course not.  But this recipe is definitely worth it!  I love the idea of guilt-free chili!  Excuse me while I go eat a bowl...

Lentil Chili
adapted from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2003
1 lb. ground meat
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups lentils
15 oz. tomato sauce
14.5 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
1 onion, chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/4 t. pepper

Brown meat in a large stockpot; drain.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Serves 8.

Nutrition (using ground turkey and low-sodium broth): 278 cal, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 45mg cholesterol, 918mg sodium, 35g carbs, 12g fiber, 25g protein.

Monday, June 20, 2011

this week's craving: 30-minute meals

It's summertime...time to get outside!  During the summer, I love 30-minute meals because they give me more time to go outside and play.  As much as I love working over a hot stove, who wants to do that in the summer?

This Week's Craving is all about 30-minute meals, so I'm featuring one of my very favorites.  It's an absolutely amazing pasta sauce.  Yes, it's quite amazing.  It's got a kick to it that most sauces don't have.  And did I mention it was easy?  Well, it is.

You can use any type of meat you want in this sauce.  My personal favorite, though, is Italian smoked sausage.  It's so different!  You often see ground meat in pasta sauce, but how often do you see smoked sausage?  It really takes the cake.

After you dice your sausage into smaller pieces, add it to a skillet with one large chopped onion and 2 heaping teaspoons of minced garlic (about 4 cloves).

Add about a teaspoon of olive oil to give it something to saute in.

Saute until the onions are tender.  If you use a different type of meat (like raw hamburger, for instance), make sure it is thoroughly cooked before you proceed.

Now here's my favorite part!  Grab the following: 2 cans of Italian style stewed tomatoes (drain and reserve the liquid first), 2 jars (7 oz. each) roasted red peppers (drained), 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar.

Put all of these ingredients in a blender, and let 'er rip!  You may have to do this in batches (I did).

Add your blended ingredients to the meat and onions.

Stir and cook until heated through.  Add the reserved tomato juice until the sauce reaches the consistency that you prefer.

Serve this sauce over your favorite pasta.  We ate it over gnocci and followed our meal with the "no dirty dishes" chocolate cake.

We love this meal for multiple reasons.  It's fast, it's easy, it's very conducive to modifications (add your own favorite meats and veggies), and it's got a taste like no other pasta sauce we've ever had.  It's kickin'!

Kickin' Pasta Sauce
1 package Italian smoked sausage (or any meat of your choice), chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. olive oil
2 cans Italian style stewed tomatoes, liquid drained and reserved
2 jars (7 oz. each) roasted red peppers, drained
2 t. sugar
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. salt

Saute meat, onion, and garlic in a little olive oil.  Put all other ingredients in blender and blend until pureed (might have to do it in batches).  Mix together and bring to a simmer.  Use reserved tomato liquid to thin out sauce to desired consistency.  Serve over pasta. Makes 12 servings (at least!).

Note:  This recipe is easy to half and freezes well.  For the IBS diet, use ground turkey or turkey sausage and either reduce the amount of onions or leave out completely (season with onion powder instead).

Nutrition (calculated with Italian turkey smoked sausage): 99 cal, 4g fat, 0 sat fat, 0 trans fat, 20mg cholesterol, 754mg sodium, 9g carbs, 2g fiber, 6g sugar, 6g protein, 17% vit. A, 50% vit. C, 4% calcium, 26% iron.

30-Minute Meals

Link up your favorite 30-minute meals!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

bikini weather

I don't know about you, but it finally looks like summer here!  Took long enough!

We've been enjoying the weather and planning for an upcoming vacation, so there hasn't been much cooking at our place - it's just too pretty to be indoors!  So, for the next few weeks, I'll be offering up some commentary on food, life, and whatever else while reminding you of some of my favorite summer foods tucked away in the DCC archives. 

Today I wanted to do you go about preparing for swimsuit season?  Do you even worry about it?  Are you a crash dieter between May and July?  Do you enjoy the weather by upping your activity?

I, for one, have never been a fan of the crash diet.  Partly it's because they are just a bad idea (not good for your health or overall weight goals)...but mostly it's because I'm just too hungry all the time!  I love food, and I don't believe it should be our enemy.  I'm also not a fan of  "crash exercising" - you know...being a couch potato all winter long only to turn into a marathon runner once the sun comes out.  It's just not my thing.

What is my thing is moderation.  I like eating a relatively healthy diet all year round (with the occasional treat, of course).  I like exercising relatively consistently all year round (with the occasional lounging days, of course).  Am I good at moderation?  Not always.  I tend to eat way too many cookies at Christmas and way too much candy at Easter.  I'd rather snuggle under a blanket when it's cold outside than do pilates.  But, I'm trying...and I think that's what counts.

Here are two of my favorite websites for helping me stay accountable to moderation in both diet and exercise.
The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans - I just love these gals (and guys!).  They are about loving yourself, loving your body, and achieving healthy goals.  There's a daily blog with encouragement, constant giveaways (I recently won a fitbit!), and forums where you can connect with others.  My favorite thing about the Sisterhood, though, is that they are always hosting a challenge (think Biggest Loser style).  The challenges are more than about losing fact, they encourage you to enter them even if you are just wanting to maintain your weight!  Instead, they are about healthy habits - exercise, drinking water, eating veggies, etc.  These challenges have kept me motivated to keep making wise choices...and they are just plain fun.

Lose It! - This website (and phone app) is perfect for helping you to manage your diet and exercise!  You enter your weight, your goal weight, and your weekly goal (anything from maintaining your weight to losing 2 pounds a week).  This website will then tell you how many calories you can intake each day in order to achieve your goal.  It's got a full database of foods, so you can log your calories.  You can also track your exercise (earning you more food calories!).  You can link up with friends to keep each other accountable and earn badges along the way.  It's simple...and that's what I love about it.
I love that staying healthy doesn't mean giving up everything we love.  It just means making wise choices, most of the time. :)

Speaking of something I love (and a wise choice), check out this easy summer entree from the archives!

cajun drumsticks

If you are needing an easy dinner option, this is it.  These Cajun drumsticks are easy to prepare, and they go great with just about any side.  The only reason I don't eat them more is that I don't have air conditioning.

400 degree oven + no air conditioning = sauna

I don't do saunas.  Well...not unless I want some drumsticks.

I adapted this recipe from the Easy Peasy Chicken Legs recipe on Mommy's Kitchen.  Tina over at Mommy's Kitchen always has wonderful, down-to-earth recipes, and this one did not disappoint.  See her version of this recipe here.

I only made a few changes from Tina's version.  Because it's just me and my man, I only made a package of six drumsticks.  I used Cajun seasoning (just because I love it), and I didn't need to cook them nearly as long.

First, put your drumsticks in a large bowl and drizzle them with about 2 tablespoons of oil.  Stir them around to make sure that they are coated.

Then, sprinkle in your seasoning.  My pick - Cajun seasoning (yes, it says Creole on the shaker...same thing in my world).  Stir the chicken legs around to coat with the seasoning.

Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees, turning every 20 minutes or so.  Mine were done after an hour of cooking.

Final step - serve it up!

These drumsticks really were easy!  With only three ingredients and minimal prep, cooking was an absolute breeze.  They have a nice crispiness to the outside and good flavor - all things that I love in a drumstick.

Now, if only I could do something about the air conditioning...

Nutrition per drumstick (excluding the seasoning): 138 cal, 9g fat, 2g sat fat, 59mg cholesterol, 61mg sodium, 0g carbs, 0g sugars, 0g fiber, 14g protein.

Monday, June 13, 2011

3-2-1 salsa

Father's Day is coming up, and in honor of our dad's This Week's Cravings is featuring their favorite foods! 

I thought long and hard about what to post.  My dad loves to eat just about anything but black-eye-peas and spinach, so I have plenty of foods to choose from!  I considered going to the grocery store and taking a picture of a can of Dr. Pepper and a bag of Doritos.  Then, I called my mom and asked her what his favorite food was.  Even though he was standing right next to her, she decided to answer for him (that's the way our family works).  She thought the Dr. Pepper and Doritos was dead on...or ribs...or tacos...or pecan pie.

Did we ask my dad?  Nope. :)

I think I know him well enough, though, to know that he would love what I'm going to post today.  In honor of his love of Doritos, I'm sharing a salsa recipe that Cookie Bandit and I whipped up the other day.  It's made from all fresh ingredients, and it's nice and chunky (just the way Dad likes it).  And even though it's got a touch of sweetness, it's hot, hot, hot (at least I think so...Cookie Bandit thinks I'm over exaggerating, as usual).

We call it 3-2-1 salsa because it contains the following...3 habaneros, 2 jalapenos, and 1 green pepper.  It's a recipe for success.  This recipe is meant to be canned (although you could whip up the whole batch for a large gathering).  If you are unfamiliar with canning, check out my tutorial here.  It's super fun and a great way to store all of the fresh summer veggies growing in your garden.

3-2-1 Salsa
1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
1 T. minced garlic
1 cup apple cider vinegar
10 cups coarsely chopped, seeded, and cored Roma tomatoes (about 25 tomatoes)
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
3 habaneros, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1 T. oregano
1 T. sugar
1 T. Tabasco
2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. salt

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine onions, garlic, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and peppers.  Return to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and return to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, just until the peppers are tender (3-5 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Fill 8-9 jars (8 oz each), leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Dad's Favorites!

Let's celebrate our dads!!!  What is your dad's favorite food?  Link it up here!

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