Saturday, March 29, 2014

ZFW: Cilantro "Pesto" Chicken and Rice

I purposely didn't meal plan for tonight's dinner. I wanted to make sure I had a night available this week to use up anything that needed to be used before it went bad. I figured at the time that tonight would be leftovers but I must be doing a good job at judging portions because we have no leftovers at all in the fridge. They are going quickly for lunches theses days which is exactly how I want it. That however left me with nothing planned and no leftovers for dinner tonight.

I played around with pinterest for a bit searching the random items I have in my fridge that were about to go bad. I have some fresh Italian parsley and cilantro and I know those will be the first to go bad (I bought them weeks ago) so they were my priority and the majority of my searches. I ended up finding this Quick Lime Cilantro Chicken and this Italian Parsley Pesto. I liked the idea of using the stems of the parsley along with the leaves to make pesto and decided to try making cilantro "pesto" with the same flavor combinations of the quick lime cilantro chicken. Now this is not a true pesto because it does not have nuts or parmesan cheese more a "kind of looks like a pesto so that is what I am calling it" version.

In the end I came up with a Cilantro "Pesto" Chicken and Rice dish.

Cilantro Pesto Chicken and Rice

1lb chicken
Olive oil
Chili Powder
1 bunch of cilantro, stems and all
Garlic, about 2 Tbsp minced
3-4 Tbsp Lime juice
2c Brown rice, precooked 

Dice the chicken breasts and add to a hot pan coated with olive oil. While the chicken browns add the cilantro, garlic, and lime juice to a food processor and pulse till thoroughly chopped.
Once your chicken is thoroughly cooked sprinkle generously with the chili powder, cumin, and salt. Then add the cilantro "pesto" and brown rice to the pan and heat through.
My favorite part of this meal? No leftovers! Everyone ate well and dinner was a success! Now to find a use for that Italian Parsley. If I had some lemon juice I would be making the Italian Parsley pesto for sure. I might have to pick up a lemon the next time I am at the commissary.

Green Smoothie: Mixed Fruit

My husband asked me last week to start buying him more salad items and less packaged junk food. I was more than willing to comply with his request, after all a  container of spinach is a lot cheaper and healthier then hot dogs and frozen pizza. Week one went well and he seemed to enjoy his spinach salads and managed to eat the entire container of spinach during the week. So with that in mind I again bought a giant container. It is now the end of the week and so far the container was still sealed. Seems he only had a week of salads in him. So since we being conscious of our food waste there is no way I am letting that spinach go to waste. I can't even tell you how many containers and bags of salad greens I have thrown away recently! So I decided the easiest way to use up the spinach was to make some smoothies out of it. 

I normally have a chocolate protein shake in the mornings because I am just too lazy to chew that early in the morning. I however am almost out of protein powder and it is $15 per really a spinach smoothie in the morning was for the best all the way around. I could for sure use more vegetables and fruit in my diet (couldn't we all?!). I did some quick searching for recipes and there really didn't seem to be any hard and fast rules. Just dump in some spinach and some fruit and thin it out with water  till it gets to the consistency you want. Easy peasy.

I chose to use mixed fruit in this smoothie because that is what I had in the freezer. So here you go....

Green Smoothie: Mixed Fruit

2 cups baby spinach
1.5 cups mixed fruit (strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, and pineapple)
1-2 cups of water

Add all the ingredients to the blender and while on high dribble in water till your smoothie gets to the consistency you like.

This recipe made about 4 cups of green smoothie. You could share with someone if you like. I however am used to having a 4 cup smoothie every morning so I drank the whole thing myself. Well to be honest I offered a taste to my husband and my 4 yr old (the only ones willing to try my strange concoction). My 4 year old wasn't interested in more than a sip and my husband said it tasted "green and wet". I guess I don't have to worry about anyone stealing my drink like I do with my chocolate smoothies!  Honestly I liked it but it takes a lot to get my family to over look the fact that there is spinach in it.

Sloppy Joes on Homemade Buns


When I was a kid I *HATED* sloppy joes. Now that I am an adult I think I could eat them every day for a week and not get sick of them. Something about that sauce is just so addictive to me now. I don't make them very often now for the same reason I don't keep ice cream in the house. I can't be trusted pure and simple. I did however make them this week! I might have had 3 in the last 12 hours. Seriously good!

I had originally planned to use store bought buns and with that in mind bought the HUGE package of buns when I went to the store. I however forgot about that 2 days into the week and decided to use up the last of the buns for lunch one day since we are doing the zero food waste challenge. Oops! Oh well, I have a super yummy recipe for homemade buns that is much better then store bought buns anyways. I was lucky that I caught the problem at noon and had plenty of time to make the buns before dinner.  

Hamburger Buns

1 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast 
Olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
Combine the milk, hot water, butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

 Add the dry ingredients and kneed for 8-10min (I use my stand mixer with dough hook).

 Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  

Punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions. They should be a little larger than a golf ball.

Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and greased with a bit of olive oil.

 After the rolls sit for a minute and relax, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until it is 3 to 4 inches wide. Set rolls aside until they double in size, about 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup or small bowl. Brush onto the tops of the rolls. I don't have a brush so I just use a small spoon to add a dab of the mixture to the top and then use the back of the spoon to spread it out evenly.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the rolls from the oven and return them to different shelves so each one spends a little time on the top. Continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top and bottom.

Sloppy Joes
1lb ground beef
1c onion, chopped
1c bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2c ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp yellow mustard

Brown the ground beef with the onions and bell peppers.

In a separate bowl combine your sauce ingredients well.

Once the meat is and vegetables are cooked through mix in the sauce and heat through.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cookie Design Class

I am all about getting my kids to learn new skills without them even realizing they are in "class". Sit them down in front of a workbook and it is all *sighs* and "This is too hard"'s give them cookies to design and suddenly the exact same material is easy and worth doing. Which lead us to today's project, Cookie Designing!

I wanted to encourage several specific skills with this project: Creative thinking, Writing, Fractions, Shopping, budgeting, and handling money. That is a lot to ask of a cookie! However with the promise of chocolate my kids were more than willing to jump right in and give it a go.

The Project: Design an original cookie and follow it through to completion.

The assignments:
*Create your original cookie in your mind (Creative thinking)
*Write your recipe down (Writing and fractions)
*Write your grocery list (Writing and shopping)
*Go shopping for your own ingredients (Shopping and budgeting)
*Pay for your ingredients (Budgeting and handling money)
*Assemble your cookies
*Eat your cookies!

I would have to say this was one of the more fun projects we have done as a homeschooling family. It could be my love of chocolate coming into play on this one! No worries about our zero food waste challenge on this one. Not a scrap of ingredients is going to escape in this household.

NFW: Santa Fe Chicken

Tonight's dinner has to be a total win in the zero food waste challenge. I only had to buy one ingredient, cream cheese, to make this meal. I could have done it without the cream cheese but it does give the recipe the creaminess that I like so I went ahead and bought it.

Santa Fe Chicken

1lb chicken, cubed
2c black beans
2c corn
2c salsa
1 package cream cheese
Cheddar cheese and cilantro for garnish

Brown the chicken in a large skillet. Once browned and cooked through add the beans, corn, and salsa. My corn and black beans were frozen so I threw them in frozen and cooked them till they were defrosted and combined.  Once the ingredients are combined stir in the cream cheese till melted and mixed well. Top individual bowls with cheddar cheese and cilantro.

This is one of my favorite meals. You can serve it over rice if you like I however just like it on it's own.

Now to figure out what to do with the rest of the cilantro before it goes bad.

ZFW: Oatmeal and All-bran granola bars!

My oldest daughter managed to eat the entire tray of Use It All Up Granola Bars I made a few days ago and was on the hunt for something else to eat today. Since we are still doing our zero food waste challenge I helped her figure out something she could make from the ingredients on hand. We did some searching and decided to try and find a granola recipe that we could tweak to use the ingredients we had on hand.  We found this granola bar recipe that looked good so we decided to use it as our jumping off point.

I left the base "glue" recipe the same, and was quite happy to use up more of our crystallized honey. However we didn't have all of the dry ingredients on hand so we changed that part up a bit. I was very happy to use up the half a box of all-bran that has been sitting in my cabinet for WAY too long.

Our recipe:

Oatmeal and All-bran Granola Bars

1/2c Butter
1/2c Honey
2/3c Light Brown Sugar
3c. Oatmeal
3c. All-Bran Cereal
3/4c. Shredded Coconut

Line a 9x13in pan with aluminum foil and set aside. In a small sauce pan melt the butter, honey, and brown sugar together till smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and then turn out into your prepared pan to mix well. Make sure all the "glue" mixture gets well mixed into the dry ingredients. Once well mixed cover with another sheet of aluminum foil and pat down firmly to compress the granola into a solid sheet. Cover and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Once set turn out onto a cutting board and cut into bars. Store in an air tight container.

I have to say I like these granola bars better then the last batch. They are super yummy and you have to love all the extra fiber in the all-bran!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taco Pizza Night

We are slightly obsessed with pizza here at our house. Okay seriously obsessed with pizza. Tonight's dinner was taco pizza and it was SO good! Bonus points for being super simple to put together. 

The recipe below is for two large pizzas.

Taco Pizza

4c flour
1.5c water
1 Tbsp Yeast
1/2tsp salt

1 lb ground beef
6 Tbsp Taco seasoning, divided (Seasoning mix recipe below)
1 lb dried kidney beans, precooked
4c. cheddar cheese, shredded
4c. Baby spinach
Black olives
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 and begin mixing your crust ingredients together. I use my stand mixer and dough hook, add all the ingredients and let the mixer kneed the dough for about 5min. When done let sit for a few minutes to rest. While the dough is resting I line my baking sheets with tinfoil (because I am lazy and don't like washing pans) and coat them lightly with olive oil. 

Divide the dough equally in half and roll out on your prepared baking sheets. Prebake your dough for 10 minutes. While the dough is baking it is time to start on the toppings. I precook my dried beans and store them in the freezer till needed. For this recipe I brought 4 cups of water up to a boil and then dropped my frozen beans in to the water. I boiled them till they were soft and easily smashed with the back of a spoon.  Once softened drain the beans and smash them into a paste and add 3 Tbsp taco seasonings. Meanwhile brown your ground beef and add the remaining 3 Tbsp taco seasonings.

Once the crust is prebaked add a layer of your bean mixture, seasoned beef, cheddar cheese, and olives. Return the pans to the oven for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Once cooked add the chopped spinach and let everyone add their own sour cream, salsa, and extra olives to their servings.

So yummy!

Taco Seasoning Mix

1/4 c Flour
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4c Onion Salt
2 tsp Garlic Powder
4 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Oregano
2 tsp Cumin

Mix well and store in an air tight container. Three tablespoons equals 1 packet of store bought taco or chili seasoning mix.

Monday, March 24, 2014

ZFW: Crystallized Honey, Rock Hard Brown Sugar, and Brewer's Yeast?

I went through my pantry last night and did some organizing. I found some things I really needed to use up but just stood there staring blankly at them for a while unable to come up with any ideas. They were just so random it wasn't working for me. So I walked away and took some time to think about it.

This morning I needed to figure out how to get the crystallized honey out of the plastic container and into my dinner recipe. I fought with the rock hard bottle for a bit then got the bright idea to stick it in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen it up. Since it was a plastic container I didn't want to leave it for very long so I heated it up for about 30 seconds. It was much easier to get loosened up and I was able to get a cup of honey out for my dinner recipe (recipe at bottom). I then tipped it over to drain into a glass jar for future use. I figured that it would be easier to get it out of a wide mouthed glass jar the next time I needed it rather than the small opening on the plastic container.

While it was draining I was talking to my husband about something random when it suddenly hit me...........GRANOLA BARS! I stopped mid-sentence and went off on a rant to my husband about all the things I could use out of the pantry to make granola bars. He of course looked at me like I had lost my mind. That however is nothing new so I was off to gather my ingredients.

Random items I needed to use up:
*Rock hard brown sugar my neighbor brought over
*Crystallized honey
*Brewer's Yeast (good source of B vitamins and no taste)
*Pine nuts
*Chopped Walnuts
*Quinoa (I bought a massive bag then realized my husband HATES it)

I added in some butter, salt, and oats and we were good to go!

Granola Bars

2/3 c Brown sugar (rocks and all, the heat dissolves it)
1/2 c Honey (again the heat dissolves the crystallization)
4 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 c Brewer's Yeast
3/4 c Pinenuts
1c Chopped Walnuts
1c Coconut
1c Quinoa, cooked
1c Oats

Place the brown sugar, honey, butter, and salt in a middle sized pot and stir till heated through and combined. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well. You need to make sure that the honey mixture is coating all the dry ingredients or your bars will fall apart. Once mixed well pour into a aluminum foil lined 9x13 baking pan. Add another sheet of aluminum foil on top and press down firmly till the mixture is flat and firmly pressed into the pan.  Leave the top layer of foil on top and place in the refrigerator till cooled. Once cooled lift the granola bars out of the pan by the bottom layer of aluminum foil. Turn out onto a cutting board and remove all foil. Cut into bars and store in an air tight container.

My verdict? Eh, not terrible but not amazing either. My oldest daughter (9yrs old) had 3 and my husband had a BIG serving though so they are getting eaten which was the point. If I were making them again I would change the walnuts to peanuts and the pine nuts to sunflower seeds.

Now on to tonight's dinner.

Crockpot Honey Soy Chicken

1 cup Honey
1/4c Soy sauce
1 Tbsp Salt
5 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 lb chicken breasts

Add the chicken breasts to the crockpot and top with the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 4-6 hours till the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is fragrant.

Serve with some quinoa if you happen to have a massive amount on hand like I do. I am starting to see some light at the end of the quinoa tunnel!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

ZFW: Carrot/squash/sweet potato muffins with almond and oat flour


Remember my Blank Slate Muffins? Well of course they are coming into play during my zero food waste challenge!

 These muffins are amazing for being able to use ANYTHING you have on hand to make a totally yummy breakfast or snack. As long as you stick to the measurements you can use any pureed fruit, any flour, any grain additive, etc.

I am REALLY testing them with this version tonight however. I have several jars of baby food in my cabinet that our youngest is now too old to eat. I also have several different types of flour that I never use these days. So I decided to use the baby food and the almond and oat flour to make muffins.

I used carrots, squash, and sweet potato puree...yes...all together at once. I am living dangerously!

Here is what tonight's double recipe looked like...

Blank Slate Muffins

2c almond flour
1 1/2c oat flour
 3/4c stevia baking sugar
2tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2c carrots, sweet potato, and squash puree
2 egg
2/3c coconut oil
1/2c. skim milk
2c. oatmeal

Mix all together and bake at 350 for 25-30min.

Having tried them I would probably add some cinnamon next time...probably about a Tablespoon. They are really crumbly but everyone really liked them, even my 9yr old who was old enough to know exactly what went into them.

Now to find some new uses for oat flour I still have 2lbs in my pantry......hmmm......oat pancakes anyone?

ZFW: Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

Another zero food waste meal here. I am still working on cleaning out all the random stuff from my refrigerator door. This stuff has been in there forever it seems and no one is eating it. So we are getting creative to get it used up instead of in the garbage when it expires. 

Tonight's dinner was inspired by a meal that a dear friend brought me right after I had my twins. The casserole was so good I might have been brought to tears when the leftovers ran out. I decided to tweak the recipe tonight to use up the half a bottle of Poppyseed dressing I don't even remember buying. 

So here we go........

 Poppyseed chicken casserole

1c poppyseed dressing
1c sour cream
1/2c mayo
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/4tsp garlic powder
1-2 pounds chicken breasts, precooked

1 1/2 sleeve of butter crackers
1/4c parmesan cheese
1 1/2 stick butter, melted

Mix all the ingredients together  and place in a 9x13 pan. In a separate bowl crush the crackers and add the parmesan cheese. Pour the melted butter on top and toss well. Add to the top of the casserole and bake at 350 for 30-40min.

This is for sure a "eat in moderation" meal. I don't know the calorie count and I don't want to! If this is a bit too zippy for you or you don't have the poppyseed dressing you can use a can of cream of chicken soup instead. I personally love this homemade version instead of the canned version.


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