Eat Your Vegetables!

In my endeavor to eat healthy and lose weight I am trying to put more vegetables in our meals. I find it difficult to eat the daily recommendations of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. That is unless I eat a salad which is 2-3 in one. In winter I find it harder to find salads appealing. I don’t hold to the idea of restricting vegetables in my quest. I will eat peas, potatoes, and carrots and not consider them too starchy, even though they might be. Beans are a vegetable and I am talking the canned variety of kidney, pinto, garbanzo, and the like. Even corn.

To this end I have been renting books from the library searching for interesting and easy ways to add fresh and frozen vegetables to our meals. We usually add frozen mixed vegetable to noodles, leftovers, chili, and casseroles. We dry roast them in a skillet with onion and seasoning too. But now I am looking for variety.

Jacques Pepin and Julia Child are two of my favorite chefs for reading about them and their recipes. My neighbor gave me her extra produce from one of those produce delivery services that touts themselves as reducing food waste. I hope it is true. There were two misshapen but perfectly good butternut squash. And there was a recipe for Butternut Squash Sauté in More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pepin (page 136). So I made that. Hubby had the task of peeling and cutting the squash and almost cut his finger off doing so! The dish was tasty. I did not take a picture of it; we ate it. And then I put the leftovers in a recipe for Lentils and Sweet Potatoes using the squash as substitute for the sweet potatoes. I did not take a photo of that one either.

Here is a photo of a vegetable dish: French Style Peas

This recipe is from One Pot Vegetarian by Sabrina Faude-Role. I modified the recipe a bit using baby broccoli instead of spring onions and used homemade vegetable broth instead of a vegetable stock cube. And it was tasty! Who knew one could cook lettuce!

  • Frozen peas, I had half a bag so about 1 ½ cups
  • One bunch baby broccoli, stems and all, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 8 ounces vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • A grind or two of pepper
  • 6 lettuce leaves

Put everything in a sauce pot, bring to boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Voila!

Now I have many many cookbooks and many have vegetable recipes. The glory of renting books from the library is trying them out to determine if any are worth getting for one’s own kitchen library. That one pot book is for me. It is not Vegan but all vegetables; and grains and pasta and a few more things like plant based proteins. There are even some desserts.

Quinoa casserole: inspired by Betty

To be fair my 1978 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook has no mention of quinoa anywhere in it. Not that quinoa was not known but it was not the superfood in popular cooking at that time. We older people struggled to learn how to pronounce the word.

I was actually looking for a recipe for sausages and rice that did not have tomatoes. We had been eating out at an Italian restaurant weekly and I wanted something differently seasoned. I also wanted something with vegetables. The following meal is inspired by Betty’s Rice and Corn Bake, page 109. That recipe is basically rice, corn, cheese, eggs, and milk. Mine is a little different.

  • 2/3rd pound chicken sausage link cut into 1 inch pieces and sauted. The sausage I had was flavored with spinach.
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables; I thought about using only corn but I like color in my foods.
  • 4 cups cooked quinoa; I had thought about using brown rice; maybe next time.
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tomato, sliced

Cook the quinoa as directed by the package. I cooked what I thought was the amount for 4 servings: 1 cup quinoa in 2 cups of water. Cook the sausages in a bit of oil. Heat oven to 350 F.

Now combine. First mix the vegetables, quinoa, and sausages in greased 2 quart casserole or baking pan. Sprinkle cheese on top. Combine eggs, milk, and seasonings. Pour this over the food in the pan. Place slices of tomato on top. Now bake for 40-45 minutes.

This made for a tasty and filling dinner. Hubby and I like to have “dinner in a bowl”. I deliberately arranged the tomato slices to make four servings. This was a lot of food and I wanted to insure two meals.

After thoughts: This is a lot of quinoa. I should have cooked 1/2 the amount. Actually I think brown rice may be a better choice for more appealing texture.

“Butcher’s Wife’s Pork Chops”

This is my version of the titled recipe in my French Feasts cookbook. This is cooking without really measuring and just adding as one goes along. Here are the ingredients as best I can estimate.

  • 2 pork chops, end cut
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 2-3 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup sliced roasted red peppers, from a jar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach

Bread the pork chops while heating 1 Tab of olive oil in cast iron skillet. Salt and pepper them as well. Cook these until crispy brown about 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in another skillet and add the onion. Add some olive oil as needed. Toss in the garlic and cook this for at least 5 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Now add the carrots and red peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste, or just some pepper. The bacon may be salty enough. Cook this for another 5 minute so the vegetables have softened. Stir this a few times. When this has softened enough for your liking put the spinach on top. Cover this with a lid and cook another 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.

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I served this with plain quinoa. After plating our dinner it occurred to me that I should have spread the quinoa over the plate, added the pork chop, and placed the cooked vegetables on top. Oh well. It was a nice meal, so much so that we sat at the kitchen table to eat instead of on the couch in front of the television.

The vegetables and quinoa would make a nice vegetarian meal, just leave out the bacon. And the vegetable quantities could be increased very easily.

Enjoy!

Chicken Vegetable Casserole

Greetings my dear readers! This is an updated version of a casserole I used to make when I first started a family many years ago. I am not sure where I got this but it is one of those canned soup recipes. And back then I used canned soups. I don’t anymore and haven’t for a long time. I have learned how to make my own cream sauce. I thought I would share this with you all. I had thawed chicken thighs and didn’t want to do another lemon chicken recipe. So here is what’s for dinner.

Original recipe: 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 pound large cut vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, shredded cheese if desired, and one cut up chicken.

Here’s my update:

  • 8-10 medium sized chicken thighs; I wanted to be “healthy” so took the skins off.
  • 1/2 super large bag of frozen Normandy style vegetables: zucchini and yellow squash, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower; use at least two pounds of large cut vegetables. You could cut fresh vegetables for this as well.
  • (I could have added about  4 ounces of mushrooms but the ones I had smelled too earthy for my liking.)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • generous sprinkling of seasonings of your choice; I used Herbs de Provence; it is my new go-to herb mixture
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt; I threw this in at the last minute to add a creamy “healthiness”
  • 1 cup shredded cheese; I used a mixture of cheddar.

Super simple to make: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, or oil it if you prefer. Place your vegetables in here. Place your chicken on top of the vegetables. Make your sauce.

Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Add broth. Sprinkle on your seasoning or herbs. Mix the cornstarch with the half-and-half. Add to pan and bring just to boil. This will not be thick but on the verge of thickening. Pour the sauce on top of the chicken. This looked thin to me so I smeared the yogurt on top of the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over this.

Bake for at least one hour. Test chicken for done-ness with meat thermometer: 165-175 for thighs.  Dinner is served. This has your vegetables and your protein. Rice or egg noodles could be a side which would be nice with the sauce.

Enjoy!

“Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner”

I put the title in quotes in case it is copyrighted or something. Where did that expression come from anyway? Hmm?

Okay, I am back from my quick internet search…

This recipe is from the 1991 Woman’s Day magazine article “Make the Chicken of Your Choice.” I made one of the seven choices before, Chicken Piccata. The choice for this dinner was Chicken with Broccoli and Dill. And as usual, I changed it up, just slightly.

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So the changes I made were using a mixture of vegetables that did include broccoli but also had cauliflower, carrots, and yellow and green squash. I did not have red pepper but had a frozen mixture of red and green peppers with onions. All told it was about 4 cups of vegetables. They were cut large. I also used only two chicken breasts and unseasoned panko bread crumbs.

  • slightly brown the chicken sprinkled with the bread crumbs in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil, 6-8 minutes
  • add vegetables and liquid and seasonings
  • cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes; I simmered mine for longer just because I was waiting for Hubby to get home.

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  • I removed the chicken and vegetables; blended one cup buttermilk with a tablespoon of flour and teaspoon of dried dill weed.
  • Add that to the skillet and stir over heat until slightly thickened. Well, I added a bit more flour because this was quite soup-y. I then added leftover Chinese rice to thicken it further.

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This was delicious! It is basically poached chicken with different vegetables and flavorings. Who knew that poached chicken could be so good? I’ll make one of these “choices” next week. Stay tuned!

 

 

Supper: Quinoa and vegetables

Do you ever have those days when you think about eating healthy, exercising more, etc.? I spend a lot of time thinking about what food to make that is healthy and will help us improve our cardiac conditions and cholesterol numbers, lose a little weight, and feel better overall. I think about brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds (what am I going to do with those chia seeds in my pantry?). I think I may even engage in fantasy thinking in that if I think hard enough about losing weight, I could actually lose some poundage. And then I watch the Great British Baking Show, get a new Cook’s magazine, and see interesting looking baked goods in my FB feed. What to do?

In my pantry there is healthy food. I found this fabulous quinoa/rice mixture that cooks up in ten minutes. Yay! No rinsing required.  I figured I should make a casserole or salad of some sort. I found two fully cooked turkey drumsticks in my freezer and some homemade broth. I have a package of frozen tri-color peppers and onions. I could assemble this all together and that would be supper.

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Ingredients are approximate amounts: Serves 4

  • 4 servings quinoa/rice mixture (made by Minute Rice), cooked according to package
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup mixed peppers and onion strips
  • 1 cup broth
  • about 2 cups diced cooked turkey from two drumsticks
  • 1 cup frozen peas, added at the last because it looked like it needed more vegetable and more color

Easy directions: saute peppers and onions in the olive oil in large enough skillet to accommodate the quinoa mixture as well. Stir in the turkey then add the cooked grains and 1/2 the broth. Stir to mix on low heat. Add the frozen peas and the rest of the broth; stir on the heat for a few minutes then turn off heat, cover skillet and let sit for 5-10 minutes. I let it sit to steam the peas a bit and because Hubby wasn’t home yet.

If your broth is seasoned that might be sufficient with some salt and pepper. I added a pinch of tandoori seasoning but that was not adequate. Hubby ate his with a healthy sprinkling of Worcestershire Sauce. Me, too, and that did the trick.

This is a basic casserole with meat and grains and vegetables. Any of these three ingredients can be changed up at whim and/or depending on what you have on hand. My mother would throw all the leftovers in one pot and cook them…usually she would over-cook them. Sorry, Mom, but that’s the way it was!

Lunch

Sometimes good food is not about recipes and cooking but about eating.

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Hubby found a store that stocks Daisy Cottage Cheese. Yay! Real ingredients: cultured skim milk, cream, and salt. No guar gum, carageenan, sodium dioxide, etc. Happy us!

My neighbor gave us some little heirloom tomatoes that he is growing. The string beans are also of his crop. A friend of mine gave me some cucumbers from a friend’s garden. Fresh vegetables and I did not have to grow them. Yay!

A simple lunch for a weekday at work: slice the cucumber; quarter the tomatoes; trim the green beans; pile onto a dish of cottage cheese; sprinkle with black pepper; eat.

Absolutely delicious!

Lo Mein

At a shopping trip a few weeks back I picked up a package of lo mein noodles and a package of soba noodles because they were on the clearance shelf. Yes, I occasionally buy foodstuffs from clearance. Hubby and I like “Clarence”! That’s often where we look first when shopping but not usually for food. But this was at one of those lot clearance warehouse type stores: Ocean State, Odd Lots, and when and where I was growing up it was Grandpa Pigeons!

I figured I would use some leftover cooked chicken that I had in the freezer. I read the recipe on the back of the package and it was BORING! It was a few vegetables and broth. So I substituted my own ingredients.

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  • one package lo mein noodles (upper right corner)
  •  4 cooked chicken thighs, bone removed
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • about a cup full of sliced carrots
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced, green and white parts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2-4 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce

Chop all the vegetables. I started off sauteing these in a bit of olive oil in a skillet but had to move them into the wok. I forgot about having a wok. We may have used it no more than two or three times. I cooked the noodles in water in a separate pot. Everything else went in the wok after the vegetables were cooked for about 5 minutes.

The noodles were drained and added to the wok. This gets stirred around until all is warmed. Sprinkle on a bit more soy sauce and it is done.

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I was pleasantly surprised that it actually tasted like the lo mein from a Chinese restaurant. Hubby thought it was delicious. And I had leftovers for lunch all that week. Now, what to do with the soba noodles?

Salad Supper

 

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Trying to be healthy I found a fascinating bag of produce at the Walmart. Yes, I did my little bit of grocery shopping at the Walmart. I am not always impressed with the produce section but looking carefully, there are some good choices. I call this “prepared” and not “processed” food.

This is cool. I also buy this brand’s broccoli slaw mix to add to salads. Hubby is not a fan of broccoli so I have to sneak it into the meals. This blend is probably for making smoothies but I prefer to eat my vegetables instead of drinking them. I figure this can go in a soup, chili, or just throw on top of a salad. There was a mix of butternut squash but I only bought this one this time. Hubby calls and says he is rather full so don’t fix a lot for dinner. Okay, well a big salad will do. I’ll use the opportunity to try out the making hard boiled eggs in the oven recipe.

I bake/boil 6 eggs in a muffin tin, whole, for 30 minutes in a 320 F degree oven. Plunge them in a bowl of cold water and cool. Then peel. I found the recipe on Alton Brown, and allrecipes, and one of you lovely bloggers. It  works. And what was wonderful was that Hubby came home in time to shell the eggs.

Here’s the vegetables:

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And now for the protein parts:

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I make a batch of whole wheat popovers:

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Hubby makes the dressing and we put it all together:

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Sunday Salad

I am sort of determined to eat better because I can lose weight, reduce cholesterol, and better manage hypertension. So there is all my protected health information in one fell swoop. Oops! Hubby is on board with this as long as he can keep his cheese and chips. Speaking of which, we had one supper this weekend which consisted of tortilla chips covered with melted shredded cheese with jalapeno pepper slices scattered on top. And we had planned on making a hearty salad! So on the next day when I suggested that I could make a Beef Bourguignon, he said, “what about that salad?” Party pooper!

At our last grocery shopping I had bought a lot of produce with the intent of eating healthier than not. So I get out all of the produce from my fridge:romaine, spinach, fennel, carrots, green onions, celery, colorful mini peppers, mushrooms, cilantro, parsley, dill, cucumber, and some coleslaw mix. I also have tomatoes but these are not stored in the fridge. We don’t put all of this in our big salad tonight but most of it.

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It is nice to have Hubby help with the meal prep. I don’t often give him the chance but I’m working on it. I set the vegetables before him and he wields the knife.

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I am in charge of the dressing. Hubby’s favorite is my version of a buttermilk ranch. I take the cruet and pour red wine vinegar to the “V” mark. (I usually use lemon juice but did not have any.) I pour olive oil to the next mark even though it is “W”. I chop a bit of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro and one clove of garlic. I put that in the cruet and shake that up in the vinegar and oil. Then I pour in buttermilk to the next mark, “O”. Shake vigorously. Then add a dollop or two of plain yogurt to thicken it up a bit. Add just a few shakes of salt and pepper. Voila!

To serve, tomato is added along with a sprinkling of Romano cheese, grated cheddar, and freshly ground pepper. I had bought a store-bakery baguette earlier in the day. This is one good looking salad even if I say so myself!

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Now this is no guarantee that this will stop us from having chocolate ice cream for dessert!