Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chicken Three Different Ways

I haven't felt much like cooking, or eating, this week, but decided to roast an entire package of Costco organic boneless chicken breasts just so that we would have something healthy in the fridge. It has saved me time in the kitchen for the past few days so I thought I would share the ways in which I put those breasts to good use.

First, I roasted 5 or 6 boneless chicken breasts, seasoned with olive oil and Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper seasoning (comes in a grinder) in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. That night we went out to dinner with friends, but I left the chicken for the kids and the babysitter to enjoy with boxed mac n cheese and steamed frozen green beans.

My son and I went to a late matinee yesterday so my husband was in charge of dinner. He added some chicken to Barilla Plus Farfalle pasta and Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash sauce(featured in a post last week), and served it with steamed broccoli. This man does not cook so if he can handle that meal, anyone can!

Finally, today I cubed the rest of the chicken and made low fat Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad. After two previous meals, I still had three chicken breasts left and now have enough chicken salad to get us through lunch tomorrow. All of these meals were healthy, delicious, and ready in minutes. Most importantly, I have not been thinking much about dinner all week! I will definitely try this method again in the future. Here is the menu and recipe for Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad.


Lemon Pepper Chicken with Mac n Cheese and Steamed Green Beans

Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Sauce, Chicken and Barilla Plus Farfalle with Steamed Broccoli

Low Fat Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad
3/4 cup non fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon honey or 2 teaspoons sugar
3 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into cubes
1/2 cup celery chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries or 1/2 cup grapes halved
1/4 cup toasted almonds
salt and pepper to taste

Mix yogurt, mayo, lemon zest and juice, ginger, honey or sugar in a large bowl. Add chicken, celery, cranberries or grapes, and almonds. Season with desired amount of salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of lettuce or with slices of cantaloupe.
** You can always substitute the mayo or sour cream found in most chicken salad recipes with non fat Greek yogurt. It has the same thick consistency and provides rich flavor without the calories! You can find it in most grocery stores, but I recommend Trader Joe's brand because of the price-about $2.00 less.**

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pantry and Refrigerator/Freezer Essentials

A friend asked me today for some tips on stocking the pantry so I decided to post a list of the food items I cannot live without. I have included some basics, but not all because I'm assuming most of you have sugar, flour, salt, pepper, etc?

olive oil
vegetable or canola oil
balsamic vinegar
red Wine vinegar
rice Wine vinegar
basic dried herbs and spices
brown sugar
brown rice
grain, like quinoa or couscous
Old Fashioned Oats (not quick cooking oatmeal)
whole wheat pasta (preferably Barilla Plus in various shapes)
canned beans (black, pinto or kidney, cannellini)
canned diced tomatoes
tomato paste
jar marinara sauce(whatever is on sale)
canned Rotel tomatoes or canned diced green chiles
canned chipotle chili peppers packed in Adobo sauce
lite coconut milk
soy sauce
barbecue sauce
low salt chicken broth
raisins and dried cranberries
peanut butter

2 -3 different types of meat (usually ground beef and turkey, flank steaks, pork tenderloin)
chicken nuggets
frozen pizzas
Amy's chicken sausages(sold in bulk at Costco, but any kind is fine)
whole wheat bread
Lite English Muffins and/or Arnold's Thinwiches
nuts (pine and pecans or almonds preferred)
jumbo bags of Veggies (organic sold in bulk at Costco)
sweet potato fries
tator tots or french fries
blueberries (Trader Joe's brand is always delicious)
Dorot's frozen herbs and garlic cubes (sold at Trader Joe's)

nonfat Greek yogurt (Trader Joe's brand most affordable)
light mayo
dijon mustard
mozzarella, blue, and feta cheeses
citrus and other fresh fruit(whatever is on sale)
mixed greens or baby spinach

Other Produce: onions, shallots, apples, bananas
Special Spices: smoked paprika, ground chipotle chili pepper, lemon pepper(Trader Joe's grinder), Old Bay Seasoning, herbes de provence

Of course we also have various snacks and some other kid friendly junk, but this should be enough to give you many different dinner options. These are the ingredients I pull from every day to cook healthy meals for our family and for the recipes I post on the blog. I buy all of my meat, fresh, at Costco, then freeze it when I get home. I'd rather have a freezer full of meat and veggies than go to the store twice a week. If you prefer fresh, go for it! Hopefully this list is helpful and feel free to share any great tips you have for stocking the pantry.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thomas Christmas Dinner

I did review this week's grocery store flyers, however there really isn't much to report. I'm sure this is a popular week for takeout and who really wants to do more shopping? So, I decided to post the Christmas dinner I served tonight and follow up later in the week with a few more easy weeknight meals.

For the last couple of years I have hosted Christmas dinner for my husband's family and have stressed about cooking a large, expensive cut of beef, only to be disappointed with the final result. I do not have a full size oven so if I cook with a roasting pan, nothing else fits. I have to cook everything else in advance, reheat when the beef is resting, and hope that it doesn't dry out in the process. I hate to ruin $100+ of premium beef!

This year I decided to cook an easy pork tenderloin dish and it was well worth it! It was tender, roasted on a shallow jelly roll pan, and all of the dishes were ready to serve at the same time. Here is our menu and the links to the websites where I found the recipes. I would make the pork for an elegant dinner party, or even on a Wednesday-just substitute with store bought fig preserves.


Herbed Mushrooms
(recipe below)

Pancetta and Herb Pork with Fig Jam

Creamed Spinach
(recipe below)

Barefoot Contessa Penne with Five Cheeses

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream Sundaes with Holiday Cookies, Candy Cane Pieces and Fudge

Sister Shubert Parker House Rolls
(Best roll on the planet!! Everywhere in the south. Only sold here at Fresh Market)

Just a note about the pork. I substituted four 1-2 lb pork tenderloins for pork loin, marinated them in dried herbs, no fresh at Dominick's, overnight, seared in a pan(earlier today, before guests arrived), then finished cooking right before dinner in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. I forgot the pancetta and it was not missed! Not sure what we would have gained from it, except too much salt? Fig jam was delicious and well worth the extra effort. *Picture posted above copied from Epicurious website.*

Herbed Mushrooms
1 16 ounce package mushrooms, rinsed
1 (5 ounce package herbed goat cheese (Boursin), softened
2 tablespoons olive oil

Remove stems and inside of mushrooms. Spoon cheese into mushrooms until slightly bulging out of top. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes until mushrooms have cooked and cheese mixture is slightly toasted.
**This is one of my favorite appetizers to make. One of my favorite friends and home cooks gave me this recipe and it is a crowd-pleaser. I usually stuff the mushrooms in advance, then cook in my toaster oven right before party time.**

Creamed Spinach
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 lbs of baby spinach(large bag available at Costco for around $3.00)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

Saute shallots and garlic on medium heat in a large pan until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add spinach in batches and cook until wilted and juices cook down. If extra juice remains in pan, remove with spoon. Add cream, Parmesan, cream cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Cook a few minutes more until mixture is thickened and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to an oven safe dish. Let cool, refrigerate, and reheat when ready in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until bubbling.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet and Smoky Beef Chili

Here is an easy beef chili that I make at least 2 to 3 times a month. I created this recipe one night when I was craving Cincinnati style chili. I added the spices from my favorite barbeque rub to ground beef and onions, then threw in some cinnamon, beer, tomatoes, and beans. A quick simmer later and I was enjoying what I knew would become a regular dinner in our house. You can use any kind of bean you prefer in chili. I love pintos and tonight used hominy because that is what was in my pantry. I also recommend adding a little ground chipotle pepper or chopped chipotles in adobo sauce for extra smoke and heat. Serve with pasta if you like chili mac, or with tortilla chips or cornbread and your favorite chili toppings.

Sweet and Smoky Beef Chili
2 pounds lean ground beef, preferably grass fed
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 (14 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or ground chipotle pepper
(or 2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce seeded and chopped)
1 (12 ounce) beer
1 cup low sodium chicken stock

Brown beef in large pot. Drain any excess fat with a spoon, add onions and cook 5 minutes more. Add canned tomatoes(including juice), beans, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper or ground chipotle pepper (or chopped chipotles), beer, and broth. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until chili reaches desired consistency.

**This may also be cooked in a slow cooker. Brown beef in a skillet, then place beef and remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low. **

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

There are so many fun treasures at Costco, but my new favorite find is Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce.

It is delicious and so rich it must be loaded with cream. No cream and only 100 calories and 4 g of fat per 1/2 cup serving! The ingredients are very simple: butternut squash, water, tomato paste, red peppers, evaporated cane juice, butter, celery, onion, garlic, sea salt, citric acid, and black pepper. I'm sure you could make something similar, but why go to the trouble when you can get two 25.5 oz jars at Costco for $6.99.

You must try this sauce, either with Barilla Plus pasta for a healthy, 5 minute, weeknight dinner or bake in a casserole dish with grilled chicken or browned sausage, pasta and parmesan cheese.

**Picture posted was copied from Dave's Gourmet website**

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Brown Rice Salad with Citrus Thai Basil Vinaigrette

My husband loves pork tenderloin so I cook it at least once a week.  I have a few favorite recipes, including Food Network star Tyler Florence's Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri which I posted last week.  Last night I was craving Asian flavors so I decided to try marinating the pork in few spices and soy sauce, then glazed it with a classic Trader Joe's product, Trader Ming's Soyaki.  This is a great product to keep in your refrigerator!  It is a wonderful substitute for plain Teriyaki sauce and can be used as a marinade, glaze, dressing for pasta or rice, or sauce for meats.  
I served the pork with a brown rice salad recipe from the Food Network website.  I loved this salad and would definitely try the dressing on other salads, including greens or fruit.  It would also taste delicious with spicy grilled shrimp.

Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Soyaki Glaze
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup Trader Ming's Soyaki sauce for glazing
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, vinegar and oil in a large ziploc bag.  Add pork tenderloins, seal and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Grill all sides of pork, or sear in a large pan, on medium high heat, about 2 minutes per side.  Pour Soyaki sauce over pork and finish cooking in oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  
**In order to avoid burning the sauce in the oven, place pork on a piece of tinfoil with sides folded up around outside of pork and cook on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.**

Friday, December 18, 2009

Deals for the week ending 12/23

This week it's all about stocking up for holiday meals and it's a battle for best price on Rib Roasts!  Here are some highlights from this week's grocery store sale flyers.


Premium Black Angus Beef Semi Boneless Rib Roast $7.99/lb
Crown Roast of Pork $5.99/lb
Premium Black Angus Beef Beef Tenderloin whole or half $19.99/lb (save $3.00/lb)
Acorn, Butternut or Spaghetti Squash $.89/lb
Sweet Potatoes $.79/lb
Blueberries or Blackberries 4 oz package $2.99 each
Fresh Green Beans $1.59/lb
Also great deals on Palermo's Pizza's, Barilla Pastas, Del Monte canned diced tomatoes, Triscuits, and more!

Rancher's Reserve Bone-in Beef Rib Roast $4.97/lb 
Boneless Whole Pork Tenderloin $4.99/lb
Perdue Lean Ground Turkey
Rancher's Reserve Flank Steak $5.99/lb
Clementines 5-lb box $3.99 each (save $6.00)
Sweet Potatoes $.49/lb
Eating Right Salad Blends Buy 1 get 1 free
Fresh Blackberries or Raspberries 2/$5.00
Bush's Beans 10/$10.00
Ken's Salad Dressings  Buy 1 get 1 free

Stockman and Dakota Premium Angus Bone-in Rib Roast $4.99/lb
Boneless Chicken Breasts 50% off
Fresh Blueberries and Blackberries 2/$6.00
Navel Oranges 10/$10.00
Wild Harvest Fresh Herbs 2/$4.00
Edy's Ice Cream 2/$5.00


Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Citrus Brown Rice Salad

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs 

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup or Grilled Chicken with Roasted Grecian Potatoes
**On sale at Sunset in the Prepared Food Section**

Beef Chili with Salad
(recipe to follow later in week)

Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Sauce
**My new favorite item from Costco-more info later**

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pot Roast Review and Ziti with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Gorgonzola Sauce

I finally made it to Dominick's today, three screaming kids in tow, and purchased almost 5 lbs of Rancher's Reserve Roast on sale for $9!  I saved $14 on a huge amount of beef and for the next couple of days we will be enjoying leftover Pot Roast with Winter Root Vegetables (
Epicurious recipe I posted yesterday).  It is delicious and very wintery tasting with bacon, thyme, paprika, red wine and hearty parsnips, carrots and celery root.  This is not the quickest cooking recipe so save it for a lazy Sunday afternoon, or start it early while the kids are at school.  

Now, a very quick cooking recipe that you need in your recipe books for those busy weeknights. Cooking Light's Ziti with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Gorgonzola Sauce.
Creamy, yet not made with cream, and rich with huge pops of flavor from the fresh tomatoes. My kids like this dish because it is sort of like mac-n-cheese, I like it because it is simple and healthy.  Try it as the main dish or serve as a 
side to grilled chicken or flank steak.  Barilla pastas are currently on sale at Dominick's 10/$10.
(Picture above was copied from Cooking Light website)

**Just a funny side note:  My son loved the parsnips and bacon in the pot roast, but was very amused with his discovery that the word "roast" sort of rhymes with "gross"!**

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pot Roast with Winter Root Vegetables

For the last three days I have been trying to get to Dominick's so that I could take advantage of the sale they currently have on Rancher's Reserve roasts.  I am actually not a big fan of Pot Roast, but it is great cold, wet weather comfort food and a deal is a deal!  I found this recipe on Epicurious which I intend to cook tomorrow.  It received 63 reviews with a 4 fork rating so it must be delicious.  One reviewer even compared it to Julia Child's famous Beef Bourguinon.   We'll see!

Look for my review tomorrow evening and hopefully a better picture than the one I copied from the website!  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deals for the week ending 12/16

Here are the highlights from grocery store sale flyers for the week of December 10th-December 16th.  

Premium Black Angus Boneless Chuck Roast $2.99/lb 
Boneless Pork Tenderloin $3.99/lb (save $2.00/lb)
Cauliflower $.99/lb
Limes $.99/lb
Avocado $.99 each
Spanish Onions $.59/lb
Driscolls Raspberries $2.99 1/2 pint
Progresso Traditional Soups 3/$5.00 (save $3.670
Honey Maid Graham Crackers 2/$5.00 (save $3.67)
Kraft Deli Fresh Cheese Slices 2/$6.00 (save $2.98)
Pam Cooking Spray 2/$5.00

Plus other great deals on Barilla pasta, tomato sauces, and canned tomato products, Kraft cheese cubes and Kraft American singles, Dannon yogurts and much more.

Winter Rancher's Reserve Roast Sale, including $2.00-$3.00 off Beef Chuck Rib Roast, Bottom Round Roast, and Boneless Beef Round Tip Roast (sale per pound)
Fresh Tilapia Filets $5.99/lb (save $3.00/lb)
Baby Carrots 10/$10.oo 16 oz package
Large Hass Avocado 2/$3.00
Fresh Blackberries or Raspberries 2/$5.00
Desert Glory Cherub Tomatoes 2/$5.00
Barilla Whole Grain Pasta 10/$10.00
Classico or Barilla Pasta Sauce $1.99 each
Wish Bone Salad Dressings 2/$5.00

Jewel Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast $1.99/lb
Wild Harvest Ground Beef $4.79/lb
Fresh Asparagus $
Sargento Shredded Cheese $1.79 8 oz package

**Noteworthy Price Comparisons**
Daisy Sour Cream 
   Sunset Foods: 2/$3.00 (save $2.18)          Jewel: $1.79 each (save $.70)

Land O' Lakes Butter
   Sunset Foods: $1.99 (save $2.00)            Jewel: $2.99 each (save $2.00)

Pillsbury Rolled Pie Crust
   Sunset Foods: 2/$5.00 (save $1.98 on 2)    Jewel: 2/$5.00 (save $2.90 on 2)

Miller Lite 24 pack 
  Dominick's: $12.99                                 Jewel: $14.99


Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri

Coconut Milk Tilapia 

Chuck Roast with Cauliflower Mash
(recipe posted later in the week)

Ziti with Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, and Gorgonzola Sauce

Fig Pinwheels

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zucchini Soup

We are in the midst of our first winter weather advisory here in the Northwest Suburbs which had me craving a big pot of soup.  Zucchini Soup is one of the first homemade soups I made when I first starting cooking.  It is very simple, full of flavor and refreshingly healthy.  Zucchini is on sale at Sunset and Dominick's right now, but can be found in abundance in all grocery stores.  It is the perfect quick, low calorie dinner on a cold night like tonight!  


2 pounds Italian Turkey sausage
2 cups chopped celery
2 pounds zucchini, roughly chopped
2 (28 ounce) cans Italian diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 bell peppers, diced
 Parmesan cheese for garnish

Remove casing from sausage.  Roll into small balls.  Brown sausage in a large stockpot or Dutch oven.  Drain off excess fat.  Add celery and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in zucchini, tomatoes, seasoning, sugar, garlic powder, onions, salt, oregano and basil.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Add peppers.  Cover and cook 10 minutes more.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sales for Week Ending 12/9

Sorry for the break!  I was out of town on vacation and enjoying Thanksgiving.  Upon my return, I reviewed the grocery store sale flyers for this week and here are the highlights, along with a few menu ideas to finish out the week.  

Premium Black Angus Beef Strip Steak $6.99/lb (save $6.00/lb)
Fresh Mussels $2.99/lb (save $1.00/lb)
Boneless Pork Chops $2.99/lb (save $2.00/lb)
Comice Pears $.99/lb
Green or Yellow Zucchini $.99/lb
Premium Red Potatoes $.59/lb
Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream and Yogurt 2/$5.00 select varieties (save $3.78)
Dannon Yogurt 10/$5.00 6 oz. cup (save $4.90)
Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables 5/$5.00 10-16 oz bag (save$4.95)

Stock your pantry with great deals on Grey Poupon mustard, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, Kraft barbecue sauces, Tabasco hot sauce, Heinz chili or cocktail sauce and many more on sale now at Sunset Foods.  

Boneless Whole Pork Loin $1.79/lb (save $4.40/lb)
Rancher's Reserve Boneless Beef Top Sirloin Steak $2.99/lb (save $4.00/lb)
Perdue Lean Ground Turkey 2/$5.00
Medium Navel Oranges 2 lbs for $1.00 (save $1.98 on 2 lbs)
Fresh Blueberries, blackberries or Raspberries  buy 1 get 1 free (save $3.99 on 2)
Green Zucchini or Yellow Neck Squash $.99/lb
X-large Russet Potatoes $.69/lb

Strip or Sirloin Steak with Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Frozen Veggies
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and worcestershire sauce
are all you need for great steak and burgers

Mini Barbeque Turkey Meatloaves with Sweet Potato Fries and Green Beans
(see recipe below)

Zucchini Soup 
(recipe to follow later in the week)


3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons smoked or reg. paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
1/4 cup barbeque sauce, plus extra for tops of meatloaves
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and pepper, egg and rolled oats in a bowl.  Add ground turkey and mix well.  Scoop meatloaf mixture onto a greased muffin tin, filling each muffin pocket 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, add desired amount of extra barbeque sauce on top of each meatloaf and bake 5-10 minutes more.  Should yield 10 or 11 mini meatloaves.
Serve with frozen sweet potato fries (Trader Joe's are the best!) and steamed frozen green beans. 

Meatloaf is my favorite last minute, easy dinner.  You can take any hamburger recipe and turn it into meatloaf just by adding an egg, rolled oats or breadcrumbs, and whatever kind of sauce matches the recipes flavors.  Assemble the meatloaf mixture in the morning while the kids are at school.  Later, pop them in the oven with your favorite frozen potato or side dish and dinner is ready in 25 minutes!  There is no standing over the stove while kids are pulling on your leg, screaming for attention.  The oven does all of the work while we play.  (Kitchen dance parties are my favorite way to get through the bewitching hour.  Raffi, Justin Roberts and Dan Zane are a few favorites!)