Friday, September 28, 2012

Oatmeal and Oat Obsession

Ok, so I have had this oats obsession this week. Absolutely been OBSESSED. Much like Julie was with Julia in "Julie & Julia." One of my favorite movies by the way.

Julie & Julia Quote:
Julie: I'm totally obsessed.
Eric: She's totally obsessed."

So, to move forward - what did I do with my oat obsession? Well I made oatmeal, naturally. Crock Pot oatmeal no less. I could have made cookies, oat bars, etc. But I settled for something healthier and delicious to boot and would be ready for me to eat as I shuffled through the kitchen at O'dark thirty in the morning. Now that I do not NEED to exercise in the mornings before work I give myself the benefit of eating in bed in the wee hours followed by drifting back to sleep before my second alarm sounds or, depending on the day, I will talk to Mike while he is finishing his last hour of work. Which I do enjoy my morning phone calls with him :) Start the day right.

So first we will start off with a dangerous oatmeal that I found the recipe for and thought would be a good idea to make for Mike and myself last weekend. Well, anything that is buttered and bruleed is probably not a good idea to eat when trying to be healthy. Hmm, noted and I should know better. So we have "Oatmeal Brulee with Brown Buttered Pears and Cinnamon Ginger Cream." Sounds delicious, no? Well it was quite delicious, however, dangerous in the calorie department. AFTER eating it I plugged all ingredients into my phone and discovered that it had a whopping 605 calories!!!! Holy butter balls Batman!!! Yeah, not making that again, even though it was quite yummy - minus the burnt bits of pear - oops, my bad honey! ;)

Lovely, yes, delicious, yes. Healthy - far from it. Granted, anything with cream, butter and sugar is going to be not so great for you. I told Mike the calories and even he was shocked. So having to put up with my desire to make oatmeal for us for breakfast he soon was rewarded with a toy.


A layout boat for duck season, of course we finally get it to where it's going to be stored and it has to be tested. Rightfully so - Mike gets out to the middle of this pond and starts saying "take a picture! take a picture!" Hehe, like a kid in a candy store. He's a happy man, so this lady is happy too.

So after our layout boat adventure and our lesson learned from bruleed and sugared oats the weekend ended and I headed back home to work :(

So this week I have made two different types of crock pot oats. Pumpkin pie oats and banana oats. I found the recipes at Sugar Free Mom's site. These are SUPER easy to make and just add your desired amount of sugar once everything is cooked. That way everyone can add what they like instead of having one taste for all. I added honey or stevia to mine. Brown sugar to the pumpkin pie oats though. Yum yum yum.

Before cooking
After waking up
After stirring
After adding brown sugar and cinnamon
These are quite filling and quite low in calories. Even though Sugar Free Mom says not to use old fashioned oats, I did. I don't like spending more on something if I don't have to so I stick to my old fashioned oats and save a buck. I came up with 195 calories per 1/4 recipe of the Pumpkin Pie type and 125 calories for 1/4 of the banana oatmeal.

Banana oats with cinnamon
The basic recipe is:
1 cup oats, old fashioned in my case
3 cups water
1/4 tsp salt

Cook on low for 8 hours.

For banana oatmeal: add 1 banana, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, & 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.
For pumpkin pie oatmeal: add 1 cup canned pumpkin puree *not pie filling*, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice.

Obviously you can customize this oatmeal however you feel compelled to. I've thought about apple spice, cinnamon sugar, peaches and cream, or just about any combination you could possibly find in the store you could easily make overnight in your crock pot for a better price and better quality and known ingredients. Sounds good to me.

I have eaten these for the past 3 days and it's probably a great way to start my day since I have entered month two of insanity. Monday afternoon I was scheduled to do the Fit Test as well as Max Cardio Conditioning Circuit thingy - well to say the least I cursed, griped, hated, loathed, and told Shaun T. where he could go and how to get there while doing this set of workouts. I then looked at my hat on Tuesday when I did Max Plyo and went for a 2.5 mile run PRIOR to Insanity. This is what my hat looked like.

Can we say DRENCHED? Yes, drenched. I sweat a lot during insanity to begin with and this is why it is recommended to have a towel handy while doing these workouts  - but my goodness gracious. I probably would not have noticed had I just taken the hat off and tossed it to the side but I went in the bathroom and looked up in the mirror and saw this. WHOA!!! Time to hydrate for sure! Mike is doing the Insanity program as well and is a week behind me. He's in for a treat next week. Though I truly believe  month two is where the big changes start to happen. Believe me, I've been cursing Shaun for a week now in month two but I know things are changing. Anyway, enough of about this, I'm not getting paid to endorse a program - hmmmmm ha ha, just kidding. I won't do that to y'all, this is about food right?

Right -

So go make some oatmeal and get creative. Go out and cook!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Honoring the Way of Cast Iron

Honoring the Way of Cast Iron

Hello there fellow foodies on a mission.  Well it is Mike again instead of Sarah for this installment.  Well I have been fascinated by cast iron lately.  I bought a 12 in pan a few weeks back and got a 8 in pan from my late grandmother.  I never saw her use it but it got me thinking about how cast iron was such an amazing way to cook that everyone used it.  Now days few people cook with them.  I have attempted once or twice to cook with cast iron but was not drooling over it.  The cleaning is a pain and you have to take great care of them or they will not be that great.  So this time I cleared my mind of all previous thoughts.  I searched the web for a chicken recipe using cast iron.  What do you think I found?  Fried chicken, fried steak, what ever it was it was fried.  Not the healthiest choices for Sarah and I.  We are trying to eat better, well she already does but MY food choices had been very poor and unhealthy.  On the good side though I have been eating healthier so I had to think how to cook healthier.  So I thought smothered chicken.  

I wanted something other than chicken breasts so I went with Tyson boneless skinless chicken thighs, onions,  green pepper, garlic, mushrooms and mixed tomatoes.  I heated the cast iron skillet up and seared the chicken thighs on the front and back.

So while the chicken seared I sliced up the onion and green peppers.  I asked Sarah to mince up some garlic.  Onions and garlic go together like bacon and eggs or a BLT sandwich.  I just love the smells of onions and garlic, so fragrant and aromatic.  Focus Mike, sorry folks my mouth was watering and distracted me.  So I started cooking the green peppers and onions  since I knew they would take longer.  I asked Sarah to bottom off the mushrooms, which she did.  Once she bottomed the mushrooms, I sliced up the mushrooms and added them to the black pool.

Once the mushrooms were added, I love how they absorb flavors,  I think of them as my flavor sponges.  So to have them soak up some flavor on top of the garlic and onions  I poured a little Marsala wine in the pot and let them soak up the flavor.  I am no wine expert and not even a wine enthusiast but I do love cooking with it to add depth to the flavor profile.  Once everyone was in the pool and had started to catch the rays and tan a little and get a little loose from the wine.  Everyone knows how alcohol makes people loose and relaxed.  Wait a second this is food not people, oh well you know what I have rambled on about.  I added some Italian seasoned diced tomatoes from a can and Rotel tomato sauce for that little bit of kick.

So once that all the flavors had blended and socialized they enjoyed the steady steam and heat from the cast iron.  I was impressed at how well I was able to regulate and keep the cooking temperature where I wanted it.  I was always afraid that it was going to burn and stick but it did not.  During the whole time I was cooking the main dish, Sarah was trying her own side dish.  Sarah was making goat cheese and roasted pepper crostini.  Well I can not do her cooking justice so now is her time to write.  I know you enjoy her writing style better anyways.

Hey all, psshhhaw, we love reading your portions too. The recipe caught my eye online. Looked delicious and tasty. Of course I also love goat cheese, well I do love cheese in general, just in moderation due to fat and calories. Everything in moderation.

So it required a french baguette, I picked up a small one at my local whole foods and then grabbed a small pkg of goat cheese, 4 oz I believe. Of course while I was perusing the goat cheese shelf at Whole Foods I was thinking about the herbs and everything they required for this recipe. That is when I saw the Mediterranean and garlic herb goat cheese. Ooooo yes!! PERFECT! So I figured I would use that instead of having to buy fresh basil, which I hate doing because they charge sooo much for it, I should just start growing that in my kitchen on the window sill. Hmm, ideas brewing here.

So I began by roasting the peppers in the oven for about 10 min right under the broiler, at 500 degrees, and turned them halfway through roasting. After they were blackened on the skin and toasty I tossed them in a zip top bag playing hot potato with them as I picked them up.

While the peppers were roasting and steaming, to make the skin easy to peel off, I sliced up the bread into nice two bite pieces and spread with olive oil on both sides and then popped in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 min, until toasted. While they were still warm I took a halved garlic clove and rubbed it on one side of the toasts. From there I peeled the peppers and cut into nice slices for topping. I took about a teaspoon of cheese per toast, we had 12 crostini. I then topped with a slice of red and yellow pepper and placed on a plate to serve.

Aren't they pretty? Mike, Roomie, and I definitely liked them, we each had 4. Delicious, simple, and so tasty. I definitely recommend this for anyone that wants a super easy appetizer that looks like you took forever to make. They are pretty and finger food. Perfect for parties or even just to jazz up dinner a little. You could top with a little drizzle of olive oil or even some herbs if you want, a slice of basil leaf or even some chopped tomato if you want to get fancy or creative. Have fun and make something new. Back to you Mike!

Well now that Sarah has finished her portion of this installment we can wrap this meal up and assemble the troops for an assault on the taste buds of the mouth.  I try to think my taste buds are season and grizzly troops eager for the next battle.  Like a bunch of Marines that have been on a boat with a bunch of Navy guys.  They get off the boat and are looking for that excitement and ass kicking.  So to combat the veteran taste buds I found a Birds Eye frozen mushroom and green bean risotto for a side.  Chicken, rice and crostini sounds like a formidable foe for the taste buds.   If you noticed a normally have red plates for my dishes but I wanted a little better pop from the white plate and colors from the orange and red colors of the crostini, the green from the risotto and the red from the chicken.

Well that is it, no more of me rambling.  Hope you enjoyed today's blog.  So go out and cook and enjoy life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

St. Louis weekend getaway and meet the family

Well hello there bloggers and readers and anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog Mike and I call ours.

This past weekend we did not cook or even remotely try. I can't say I have really baked either. I did bake Gooey Butter Cupcakes (sorry, no recipe for you, I think only one other person has my recipe and she's not telling).

I made the cupcakes so that when visiting St. Louis I could give some to Mike's parents as well as leave two for Roomie while the rest went to work with me to be devoured and made to vanish. Those things are dangerously addictive and I blame Mike for introducing me to this evil thing called gooey butter cake. But then again I'm not complaining and neither is he, provided I don't bake it for a month straight. Sorry honey, was experimenting and thank you for being my Guinea pig ;)

So we were off to St. Louis on Friday afternoon. I drove to the halfway point where we swapped and picked up McDonald's for lunch. A mid twenties couple walking into McDonald's and ordering two chicken McNugget kids meals. That's not strange at all. Well, it's not in our book. It was easy, fast, and relatively low in calories considering the other options at said establishment. So we were off, with food in our bellies and 2 more hours to drive.

We arrived in St. Louis to stop at the local sporting goods store in Pevely, MO to pick up a new Benelli shotgun that Mike has wanted. Was a fun detour as we walked around and waited for paperwork to be processed.

Once we were finished it was off to the hotel to check in before meeting up with the parents to have dinner.

Can I just say, the hotel bathroom was fan-freaking-tastic!! We have stayed in other hotels where you have to slide into the bathroom to even shut the door, basically stand on the toilet to do so. We have also stayed in hotels where you feel as if the walls are closing in around you as you shower. This was none of those. Sure it was just a standard king room but the room was big enough for both of us, plus exercise room (this is important when doing Insanity). Then the bathroom had the marvelous shower with the giant shower head, a little seat and just a great amount of room to be able to move comfortably. We I actually said goodbye to the shower when we left Sunday morning.

We ate at a local Chinese place for dinner that night and conversation was a bit on the quiet side, was a little strange, but really meeting people for the first time is always a bit strange. The food was tasty, I confused the poor waiter by asking for my chicken and vegetables to be steamed with the sauce on the side. I know, so difficult. Mike ended up explaining that for me while you could see the light bulb finally turn on for the waiter. I always enjoy trying to explain to the oriental waiters and servers. It's challenging and fun all at the same time.

So then after dinner we went out with some friends and then crashed so we could be up at 7 AM to go shooting with his dad. So off we went to the range to shoot pistols and a bit more.

Putting the new toy together
Shooting down those pesky metal plates
Father and Son investigating a small problem
No I didn't just stand around and take pictures of the men-folk shooting guns. AK, Revolver and .45. I got in on that action too and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Mike said he was impressed with how I did and told me I did very well for never having shot a pistol before. My cluster was pretty consistent and I did hit center a few times :) That made me happy. I have a great teacher and I definitely will be wanting to shoot again.

After shooting we went to see what the cowboys were up to, not the football team, actual people dressed up like John Wayne. Shooting competition. It was comical to see the costumes and get ups but also fun to watch them do their thing. There were even old men scampering to get to their next station to get a better time. It was interesting to watch for sure. It was even set up in this little ghost town feel section of the gun range. So fun.

So after shooting it was back to the hotel where we were to workout and do insanity, after only doing 1/2 my insanity Friday and still feeling sore in the knee and foot Mike and I decided to hit the hotel fitness room and run and do weights - sadly we came to find there were no weights so we were limited to just treadmills and bikes. I ran my 2 miles, Mike ran 1.5 I believe and then he got on the bike until I finished my run. After that we did a little bit of calisthenics and called it a workout.

Soon we were off again after freshening up and headed back to the parents house so we could go to Gramma's and check on some things. We ended up taking some things home, cupcake pans and a spring form pan with an insert for me (you will be seeing recipes hehe) and then he took home some silver, a tray, electric pitcher, candle holders, and fondue type pot. Then he also had pot holders, you know the homemade kind from yarn? yeah, those. Well evidently he had burnt one of Roomie's homemade ones and wanted to replace it. It's not THE potholder but it's the gesture and thought. She laughed when seeing it and said "But mine was from my grandmother, who is dead." So then Mike just said "this is from my dead grandmother." Even Stevens right? hehe, Roomie is a good sport and just laughs and says thank you for the thought and kindness. He also found an electric carving knife - which will be well used on roasts and birds - then a carving knife set with the knives and fork. So we came home with some fun little extras.

We did eat well at mom and dad's for dinner Saturday. Enjoyed pork steaks, quail, mac and cheese, corn on the cob and some salad. Was a good Missouri dinner, with the Missouri Tigers football game on in the background. MIZ-ZOU! (and EMAW for my team). We had a great time with the family, lots of laughs and I just get a kick out of them. They are good people and funny to be around.

Mizzou did win as did KSU so both sides are happy for NCAAFB.

Sunday morning we awoke early, 6 AM, to go skeet shooting. Well, I went in thinking I wasn't going to hit a damn thing. I figured I would get laughed at by the old men and just shrug and say, "Oh well." Come to find I'm not as bad as I thought. I hit 7 out of 25 clay birds on my first real skeet shoot!! WOW!! :) Super stoked that I was able to accomplish that.

Dad, Mike, and Dave
We had a great time shooting and I shot Mike's new shotgun, too long and a righty to boot. :) I'm just awesome like that. I guess I even impressed the old guys there by hitting what I did and as many as I did with the little experience I have. Of course being a lefty they all noticed right off too. I found that being a lefty had it's benefit. Loading a righty shotgun as a lefty is a WHOLE lot easier than it is for a righty. I'm not reaching around the gun to load. Hehe, points for me.

Dad shooting Mike's new gun
I also enjoyed just chilling out with the boys - not unusual as men are more fun typically to hang out with than women, less drama, easy going, and laid back. I also just had fun shooting.

Mike setting up and looking awesome
So while I was shooting I was just waiting for someone to bring up that I was a girl. Well, I was the only woman there that morning. It took a bit but at one point I was all set up ready to go, much like Mike is in the picture directly above, and Don, one of his dad's friends, was behind me and said "That's the best view we've had here in a long time." I just turned and smiled and laughed. I then said "I'll play along," and proceeded to shake my booty. We all just laughed and had a good time. Don apologized and said it would be the only time but it doesn't bother me with old guys. It's comical and it's really hard to offend this Kansas girl.

All in all the weekend was a total blast, had sooo much fun and wish it had been longer.

We made the 3 hour drive home that night and proceeded to not cook, again. Stopped at Taco Bell for lunch and had a local restaurant for dinner upon arriving back at Mike's. We then vegged.

And Mike played with my phone. It was nice to chill and not move at that point after being in the car for 3 hours. 

The next day it was back to work. Boo Monday's. But we both made dinner for ourselves too. Mike had bought two great steaks and cooked those with some mashed potatoes and asparagus while I went with rotisserie chicken, sweet potato, and peppers and onions.

Dinner a la Sarah
Dinner a la Mike
So go out and cook folks, even though we didn't until Monday. ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Time for a recap - where have we been!?

Ok, ok ok, yes we went a little MIA there. 

I can't say we have cooked or baked much, I have gotten into a rut lately of when I want to bake I stick to the norms. Right now norm means making beer bread. I am FINALLY getting through all the beer that was in my fridge that I knew full well I wouldn't be drinking. I've kind of lost my taste for drinking beer on a regular basis, I'm more sophisticated now - thanks to the wonderful Mike - now I drink Jack and diet Coke. (more expensive too). I blame you dear. ;)

So the weekend of Labor day I had made beer bread and was intending to take to Mike's house when I left. Well, it came out great, I almost over cooked it and burned it since I dropped by my local Hyvee and then ran into a friend, whom I cannot talk to for just 10 minutes, it's always about an hour or more with him. So then it dawns on me when I'm talking to him that "OH CRAP! I LEFT MY BREAD IN THE OVEN!" So then I rush home with thoughts of flames coming from my kitchen window. I arrive home to my sauna kitchen and find the bread perfectly baked! *PHEW* Heart attack averted.

So it was perfectly baked and when I let it sit for a few before cutting (I like to slice my bread then keep in my Tupperware to stay fresh so I can just grab a portioned slice and go) Well when I went to slice the bugger it just fell apart on me. That has NEVER happened.

In any event it still tasted good and Mike and the roomie thought it was delicious.

So that Sunday we decided to make a breakfast skillet. It was quite delicious. It was a quinoa veggie skillet with egg and bacon. Bacon is a must.

As much as I like to believe that you need to rinse the quinoa, unless you have a sieve or cheesecloth, it's a pain and will not be done next time. The veggies included: small sweet potato, green and red bell peppers (1/2 each), onion (1 small), garlic (1-2 cloves to taste). Then there was quinoa. A few strips of thick cut bacon for a topping and and egg cooked your favorite way. I prefer my eggs gooey and over easy so it can be sopped up with bread or just drench this skillet to a delicious goo :) Mike likes his over hard, basically a flat hard boiled egg. I have yet to perfect how to do that for him. I WILL do that, I WILL learn to over cook an egg ;) I jest, I don't mind, those eggs are great for sandwiches.

So you add quinoa to the veggies once the veggies are all cooked up (we forgot mushrooms and decided that white potatoes would have been better or even red). Then you have to add chicken stock/veggie stock or beef stock or water (your preference) to the mix and let the quinoa soak it all up. TOOK FOREVER! Well, seemed like it did due to us being hungry and ready and the smell of bacon floating around the kitchen while the bacon bits sat and mocked us from the counter.

The skillet was worth the wait, could have used some salt and pepper to taste and I had a hard time cooking eggs that morning. In the end regular potatoes would be better, won't forget the mushrooms next time and will use more bacon to top it off with. All in all, not bad. (recipe will be below)

So then when I returned home the next week, Tuesday, I felt like making bread, so I did. I made a no yeast bread. Which I was ultimately hoping would be like Mighty Melts bread, but alas, it is not. Still tasted decent and was tasty while it lasted.

I pulled this out of the oven, all excited because it doesn't take long and is super easy to make. It came out quite crusty and quite pointy. Was not fun to cut. Was quite difficult actually. I think this is due to the fact that they didn't have me put any egg wash or butter wash on the outside before baking and also the bake time was a bit long. I even pulled it out a little early. Next time I will egg wash the crust and then butter, like I did, after baking as well.

As you can see it requires buttering the crust after baking, to soften it. Yeah right, still hurt my hands to cut and the bottom crust - OH MY GOODNESS - was almost un-cuttable! I had to work at it. Tasted good though, especially hot out of the oven with some butter. YUM!!

It was really really really dense and tasted like a soft pretzel, more so than the pretzel bread recipe I made a while back. I think I may try turning this into pretzel bread instead next time I get the craving. Either way the recipe is a keeper, just need to tweak it.

Makes 4 servings

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped (will probably double this)
1 small sweet potato, chopped (will use regular potato – red or russet next time)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed (will not rinse, was a royal pain)
1 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock (or water)
4 eggs, cooked your desired way
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add bacon. Cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy, then remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reduce heat to medium-low and add sweet potato, onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic to the skillet, tossing to coat. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring once or twice, until soft.
Add uncooked quinoa to vegetables and stir for 1-2 minutes, allowing it to lightly toast. Pour in stock or water and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-ish minutes until quinoa is cooked through. While quinoa is cooking, prepare eggs as you'd desire. Once cooked, taste and season to your liking.
Serve quinoa in bowls topped with eggs and cooked bacon.

No-Yeast Bread
Makes 12 servings

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vinegar (cider or white)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients and mix. Combine water and vinegar. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for two or three minutes (no need to overdo it). Shape into a round (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches high), then place on pan. Dip a sharp knife into flour and cut an 'X' into the top of the loaf.

Bake 40 minutes. Remove, and while hot, glaze with melted or softened butter. The butter glaze gives flavor as well as softens the crust.

(depends on ingredients and brands you use, this is a rough estimation)
165 calories, 1 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein per serving. 

Yes, I included nutrition on the bread - why? Mike and I have been doing the "Insanity" workout. I am on my 4th week and he is on his 3rd. I personally can't say I see a difference but then again, that's me. I'm hoping for the best. I can, however, see a difference in Mike. He's looking great. So we are eating healthier (we still have our treats mind you), and exercising hard. I will definitely be ready for my 5k Rugged Maniac in October. 

So folks, that is what we have been up to, Mike cooked pork chops and black bean salsa Friday last weekend but we didn't take pictures. He was so kind to make dinner while I worked out and sweat my booty off. We then pretty much didn't cook after that and ate out, probably not practical. We will see what the weekend holds this weekend since we are off to St. Louis to visit his parents, the official official meeting of the parents. Should be interesting. Granted from what I have seen of his parents, they are a normal mom and dad. It's gonna be easy. We will share what we can from our St. Louis adventure, the local joints and local favorites. Time to get our foodie hats on. 

Go out and cook folks!