Monday, January 24, 2011

How to Bake a Potato

You would think that baking a potato is a simple process and it can be but there are various ways to bake a potato if you start looking or asking people. I am going to show you how I learned working in a restaurant and I will say they turn out wonderful.

First preheat the oven at 450 degrees.  Then get out some good potatoes. I think it helps to use potatoes that are especially made for baking but this is not a prerequisite.

Lay out all of your ingredients, which for this is potatoes, olive oil, kosher salt, aluminum foil, pastry brush, and a fork or knife. Scrub your potatoes and get all the dirt off of them. Then poke holes throughout each potato with the knife or fork.

Then you are going to brush with olive oil. You do not need to put a lot on the potato just make it look glossy. Then sprinkle kosher salt over the whole potato.

Next wrap each potato individually. A lot of people do not do this step because they say the moisture is drawn out of the potato through the foil but I disagree. I think it actually traps the moisture in and also lets the oil and salt seeps into the potato.

Then put directly on the oven rack in the oven.  Bake for 1 - 2 hours. I will say I use a higher temperature so that they are ready quicker but if you have more time, you can use a lower temperature and they will be great too.
Next get out your ingredients and load up your potato. Right now my favorite toppings are chicken, black beans, cheese, salsa and a little sour cream. Yum!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's In Season for January

Recently I have been to the grocery store twice and could not find any decent greens. Plus the fruit is not very desirable but do not get discouraged, there are still fruits and vegetables that are in season during the month of January.

First lets talk about the vegetables. I think the ones in season right now get somewhat neglected. They are not the first ones we think about but there are so many and I am talking about root vegetables.

Root vegetables consist of

carrots, parsnips, radishes, celeriac, turnips, ginger root, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes. horseradish root, daikon, salsify, burdock root, celeriac root, malanga root, rutabaga, taro root, fennel, shallots, onions, and many others.  Remember that root vegetables grow in the ground.

Now lets talk about fruit. The main fruits that are in season are apples and citrus fruits. I eat a lot of oranges and apples right now. In order not to get bored I try and eat various types of oranges and apples. I will be posting soon about types of oranges.
Tell me what you like to eat right now. Would love to hear any recipes or ideas using root vegetables. Or your favorite one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TIP ME: Super Fast Dinner and Awesome Product

I had another crazy day today.  First it was the first day of the semester so we were more busy than usual and when I was coming back from lunch my car broke down.  After having the car towed I get back to the office and start wondering how I am going to get my dog home from doggie day care.  Finally found her a ride but forgot about myself.  It was sort of funny that I was so worried about her that I forgot about me. I did get home though.

So I needed a no brainer for dinner and decided to fix a turkey burger and green beans.  This is an easy one for me.  I use turkey because I do not eat a lot of red meat and prefer ground turkey.  This recipe can be used with ground beef though.

Turkey Burgers with Mozzarella Cheese and Pizza Sauce

1 pound of ground turkey or ground beef
egg white
handful of bread crumbs
parsley flakes
onion flakes or chopped onion
mozzarella cheese
pizza sauce

(I add ingredients by feel so I do not have specifics, you be the judge)

Mix all the ingredients (except cheese and pizza sauce) throughly in a bowl. Then divide into four equal amounts.  Make patties from these four amounts and then grill until cooked throughly.  Then right before done, top with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.  Let the cheese melt before serving.

While your turkey burgers are cooking you need to steam your vegetables.  You can choose any vegetables that you want.  I just happened to want green beans tonight.  Now here is the part about my favorite new product.  They are the steam bags by Ziplock.  They are awesome because they are so easy to use.  I just added some green beans, coconut butter, and Mrs. Dash for seasoning.  Heated them in the microwave for 3 minutes and voila, delicious!

One of the main reason I like them is because when you come home from the grocery store, go ahead and cut up your vegetables, section them out into these bags, add seasonings, and put in the refrigerator.  Then the night you are cooking, pull them out and pop them in the microwave.  How is that for easy!  You can even take them for lunch.

I hope that you enjoy this new find or maybe you are already using them.  If you are, let me know what you are using them for when you cook?  Would love ideas!

Well this is my easy dinner.  Hope you have those dinners that you go to when you have had a crazy day!  If you do, please share.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Smoothie Anyone?

Today seems like a very lazy Sunday so I did not want to cook but needed something to eat and decided on a smoothie. These are such a great way to get fruit and veggies into your diet. Kids even love them.  So lets make a smoothie.

Get out all of your ingredients. This is the best part because you can choose anything. However, I do recommend adding some protein power to the smoothie. It will help with digestion, slows it down and helps you feel fuller longer. I usually add some wheat germ and flax seed but I did not have any so I am just adding bee pollen. I also am using coconut milk (this is really good stuff, just tried it), frozen berries, and a ripe banana.

Put all of your ingredients in your blender and I usually shake all the ingredients up once the blade is on because it helps when mixing. On a side note, I definitely recommend this blender. There are many different brands out there but these are great for quick jobs and so easy to clean.  This is a GE model that I got at Walmart for under $20. I cannot live without it now.
 Once everything is mixed up, then pour it in a glass.
Enjoy your smoothie!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cravings, Clean Eating, and Fasts, Oh My!

Last night I was thinking that I need to work on my soft drink addiction. I gave up diet drinks about a year ago mainly because of what I was reading about the effects of aspartame and started drinking regular drinks again.  First let me say that I am not a person to crave sweets, if I crave something, it is usually bread and chips but recently I have craved sugar. The one thing that is said about sugar is that it is truly addicting and I am realizing this is true. The more sugar you eat or drink, then the more you crave.  Is this true for you?

So going back to last night, I was reading some books about cleaning eating by Tosca Reno and thinking I need to start working on truly getting the sugar out of my diet and that is why I was reading this plan. Tosca has coined the term Clean Eat Diet. The main points of this eating plan are eating lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, and eating frequently. You can find out more about this program at Eat Clean Diet. So after reading I thought I can do this. I just need to prepare snacks and have fruits and veggies with me at work and drink more water.

This morning I get to work and noticed that my co-worker had a bag with all kinds of good food. I started asking questions and praising her for the items that she had brought in her bag. She had a wonderful spinach salad, carrots with hummus, string cheese, apple and some other items. She proceeded to tell me that she had started a fast called Daniel's Fast. I had never heard of this but she explained that it was a 21 day fast that eliminates meat and sugar and that you re eating fruits, vegetables and some basic grains. This made me very curious about this fast and I found some information at The Daniel Fast. I also realized that this was not the only site that had information, so if you want more information just goggle Daniel fast and you will find it.

After I started checking out this site, the fast is really a vegetarian/vegan program and I thought that this was really funny that I had been reading about the same idea through the Eat Clean Diet. But this is not really funny because I think most dietitians will advocate a eating program along the same line as these programs. In other words, we need to eat more fruit and vegetables and less processed food.  So if you find some free time, I think The Daniel Fast or Eat Clean Diet are great reads to further your minds on nutrition.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Simplicity, It's A Good Thing

Some nights you just do not want to think about anything and especially what is for dinner. Last night was one of those nights.  I also found myself not very hungry. So I opened my freezer door and said why not something simple, just some vegetables with a little bit of butter and seasoning.  Ten minutes later, I have my dinner and it was truly delicious and very simple.

Just a plate of peas, corn, and my favorite, green beans with an english muffin.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Soup's On: Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

Since I have been feeling under the weather this weekend, I thought I would fix a soup that is good for me, something like Chicken Soup but it is called Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth.  This recipe is so easy that you can make it in 30 minutes.  The recipe came from

First get out all of your ingredients.  Do not skip this step because you will regret it if you start cooking and realize you do not have an ingredient.

Olive oil, garlic, water, chicken broth, salt, pepper, tortellini (I used ravioli because I had on hand), spinach ( I used frozen because I did not have fresh), parmesan cheese

Not too many ingredients and very simple to make. The actual amounts are at the bottom of the post.

Put the olive oil and garlic in your dutch oven and cook for about a minute.  Just get it slightly browned.

Then you are going to add the water, chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable broth if you like), salt and pepper.

Bring to boil.

Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

While the broth is simmering.  You need to cook the tortellini (any kind), or ravioli (any kind, I used cheese and chicken).  If the tortellini is fresh, 4 minutes and if frozen, cook about 12 minutes.  They float to the top of the pan when done.

Also get your spinach prepared.  If fresh make sure it is washed.  If frozen, thaw and drain.  I had to use frozen because the fresh looked like crap in the store.  That is what happens at the time of year so remember that you can substitute.

Then after the broth has simmered for 10 minutes you will add the spinach and ravioli or tortellini.  If the spinach is fresh, cook until wilted. Otherwise just heat for about a minute or two.

Then ladle up a bowl and add a little parmesan cheese on top and you will have a delicious bowl of good for you soup.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

2 TBS olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of water
3 cups of broth, chicken or vegetable
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fresh or frozen tortellini or ravioli
1 pound fresh or frozen spinach
Grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Friday, January 7, 2011

Books Read in 2011

I accepted a challenge earlier in the week hosted by Book Chick City to try and read 100 books this year. I will keep my progress on this page and update monthly, so cheer me on and let me know how you are doing with reading this year.


1.  Kill Me Again by Maggie Shayne
2.  Human Communication by Pearson
3. Fatal Charm by Linda Joy Singleton
4. The Last Patriot by Brad Thor
5. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
6. Best Body Now by Tosca Reno
7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
8. The Shadow Side by Linda Castillo
9. The Second Opinion by Michael Palmer
10. So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Oh No Not Kitchen Duty

Since January is the time of year for renewal and starting over, I decided to do a post on cleaning out your refrigerator.

How often do you clean out your refrigerator? I would recommend a really deep cleaning every three months but if this is too much definitely every six months. I know that some people probably do not do this but once a year or maybe never. Have you seen the show Hoarders? Yuck! So lets come up with an easy plan to clean out the refrigerator.

First: TOSS

Most food does not last long in the refrigerator, maybe 2 to 4 days at the most. If you know you are not going to eat those leftovers immediately, go ahead and freeze them. Make sure raw meat is not left in the fridge too long and always store it in the coldest part of the fridge, usually the bottom.

Pull out those plastic containers full of who knows what and toss the food, especially if you can no longer identify what is inside. This is why I like to use clear containers when I store items. You will be more apt to eat the items if you can see them, than if they are in a closed container. If you use plastic containers, make sure they are BPA free. I have actually been switching all my containers to glass but I will tell you they are a lot heavier when pulling out of the refrigerator but I still think they are worth it.

So this time when I cleaned out my fridge, I was traveling for the holidays so it was extremely easy to get rid of items in my fridge. I used up almost everything I had in the refrigerator to eat before leaving. This way I did not waste food and it actually saved me money. When I returned from visiting my parents and before I got groceries, I cleaned out everything else that needed to be disposed of by checking labels for dates or if it has been in your fridge forever, toss it. Even those dressings, jellies, or any other condiments. I even throw out the nail polish I keep in there when I do this because I know it is time.


You need to wipe down all the shelves, drawers, and walls. I like to use water, white vinegar, and dish detergent. I clean out all the drawers and put new paper towels inside to catch any leaves or stuff that falls off of my vegetables or fruits. Plus the paper towels adsorb some of the moisture from the fruits and vegetables so they last longer. Vacuum the vents. Make sure there is no liquid spills anywhere under drawers and also remember to wipe the outside of the refrigerator. It has germs too.

Third: SHOP

Go to the grocery store and get groceries. When you bring your items home, it is easier to go ahead and wash any fruits and vegetables so that they will be ready to use. Separate any items that you want in single servings, and freeze any other items that might not be needed immediately. Take the time now and you will be so grateful when you are coming home after work and not having to do all the prep work to fix dinner.
The greens at the store were horrible or you would see more in the bottom drawer.

Remember that it is easier to keep items clean as you go rather than them getting out of control. So follow these steps and the next time you open your refrigerator, you will be so happy that you cleaned it out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Got Books?

With the start of the new year I was reflecting on what I had read last year and how many books I had read, and what I was going to be reading soon. If you see my home office (left), you will now know that I have tons of books probably too many to read in my lifetime but I get so excited purchasing and thinking about new books.  My mom even laughs with me because my excitement can cause my stomach to hurt when I go in a library and have so many choices before me. Two books at the top of my reading list this year are Watership Down and La Lacuna that my best friend gave me. I have been promising that I will finish them and now is the time.

So I found it interesting that I was asked to join this challenge. It came at the perfect time because I was thinking if I read one book a week then I could read 52 for the year, that is not bad but I do not think I have ever truly counted the number of books I have read, so I am doing it this year and lets see what happens. I hope you will join me! You can sign up for the challenge here or click on the picture to the bottom right of my blog posts. So start your page turning!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yo Quiero Taco Soup

I do not have the cute little Chihuahua dog saying yo quiero taco soup but I definitely am saying it myself on this recipe.

I just got back from Virginia where I was visiting my family for the holidays and needed to fix something to eat. Don't tell anyone but I was too tired to go to the grocery store so I checked my freezer and cabinets and found enough ingredients to make this soup. I will say that this is a soup I make often because it is so easy.

Here are the ingredients, my crock pot and the cookbook that I got this recipe from.  This cookbook is one of my slow cooker favorites because it is a collection of different people's slow cooker recipes.

This recipe is called Taco Soup with Whole Tomatoes by Marla Folkerts from Holland, OH.

The only cooking part of this recipe is where you saute the onions.

Then you brown the ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken or you can use soy crumbles if you are vegetarian or vegan.  If you use the soy crumbles, you can skip this step.  I am using ground turkey.

Once the meat is browned with the onions.  You will add all of the ingredients in the slow cooker.

Next you add tomatoes, kidney beans (I used black beans because I did not have kidney), corn with juice, tomato sauce, dry taco seasoning, water, salt and pepper to taste.

I added all of my ingredients to a 6 quart pot and stirred everything up. My slow cooker is awesome because it has three bowls, 2 quart, 4 quart, and 6 quart and each bowl can be taken out and put in the dishwasher.  Clean up is SO EASY.  Put the lid on and turn it on.  This needs to cook 4 - 6 hours on low.  Remember to not take off the lid while cooking because this increases the cooking time needed each time you do.  I let mine cook 6 hours and it was ready for the football game.  Go SOONERS!

I will tell you unless you are feeding a large crowd, you will have leftovers.  I usually save some for lunch and freeze the rest.  Remember when freezing soup, you need to squeeze out all the air and lay the ziplock bag flat.  This way you will be able to stack the bags in the freezer.

When you finish cooking, add some cheese and serve with tortilla chips.  You also can pu this soup on top of a green salad and add the chips and taco soup for a great taco salad.  Delicious!

Actual recipe:

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onions
28 oz can whole tomatoes (I use diced)
14 oz can kidney beans with juice
17 oz can corn with juice
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 pkg dry taco seasoning
1-2 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated cheese (put on after cooked)
taco or corn chips

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Resolution for 2011

When most people think of this day, they either are thinking football or resolutions or maybe both.  I thought I would share an idea about a new way to make resolutions so that they are not forgotten by the end of the year. Why not start a new tradition by creating a time capsule for your good intentions.

You can do this with guests, family, or just by yourself.  Make a list of your smallest goals to your outrageous ideas for this year, then tie each note with a ribbon and put in a jar for display.  You can even hide the notes somewhere if you might be tempted to peek at them. Then next December 31, break out the jar and see what you accomplished or what you did not and laugh about it.  I think you will find yourself making a new resolution to create this fun tradition.


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