Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Healthy Eating Success! (and recipes)

 So far we've done really well on our new healthy eating lifestyle.  We're three weeks in and I just did our second grocery store run last week and it was even more successful than last time!  I supplied all of our needs (not quite through the end of March, but only a few days short), my cart was almost exclusively bulk stuff and produce, and my total came to less than $80!  We've also DRASTICALLY reduced the amount of times we eat out - both fast food and sit-down dinners.  We've stopped at the drive-thru for lunch/dinner twice this month, and eaten out once.  One of our favorites was the Pesto Cream Green Beans with Almonds (making your own pesto is crazy easy!) - we had it two nights in a row, as a side, it was so good - once with "floppy joes" (faux sloppy joes - vegetarian) and once with Spicy Italian Pork Chops.

Basic Basil Pesto
  1 large clove garlic
5 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
6 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put the garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped, about 10 seconds.  Add basil, cheese, and pine nuts.  Process until finely chopped, about 20 seconds.  With the processor on, pore the oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, processing until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 20 seconds.  Add the salt and pepper through the feed tube and process until blended.  Use immediately or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 year.  Use a melon baller to scoop out frozen pesto as necessary.  (Makes 1 cup)

Pesto Cream Green Beans with Almonds
8 oz green beans
2 tablespoons Basic Basil Pesto
1 1/2 tablespoons half and half (or light or heavy cream)
1/8 teaspoon salt (again, I prefer kosher or sea salt)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped almonds

Put the green beans in a steamer basket and set over a pan of simmering water.  Cover and steam over medium heat until the green beans are desired tenderness (my kids prefer a softer green bean, but older kids/adults might prefer them crisper).  Meanwhile, mix together the pesto, half and half (or cream), salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the hot green beans and toss to coat.  Put in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the almonds.  (Serves 4 - I doubled it)

Spicy Italian Pork Chops
1/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup bottled Italian salad dressing
4 pork loin chops
1 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons mild pepper sauce (such as Frank's)

In a food processor, puree the sun-dried tomatoes with the Italian dressing; set aside.  Season the chops with salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the chops and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Add the wine and bring to a simmer.  Pour the dressing mixture over the pork.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the pork reaches 160 degrees and the juices run clear (about 10 minutes).  Stir in the pepper sauce and return to a boil.  Serve the chops topped with sauce - garnish with basil or parsley if desired.  (serves 4 - I doubled it easily)

This is an awesome recipe that is super flavorful and easy.  I put it together in less than 10 minutes before a violin student came, and left it on the stovetop, on low, for an hour's worth of lessons and it was ready to go as soon as my students were out the door, which I love.  My family is hungry as soon as I get done teaching, and they don't really like to wait for me to make dinner, so I'm super fond of any recipes like this that are flexible enough to make ahead and "sit", if necessary.  I served it with the Pesto Cream Green Beans with Almonds, and my homemade bread.

Floppy Joes (they call them G.I. Joes, but my kids prefer Floppy Joes)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped (I skip, but I know most people like onions)
1 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bag (12 oz) frozen meatless crumbles
1 can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (kosher or sea)
6 soft Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onion (if used), bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the crumbles and cook until heated through, another 5 minutes or so.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili powder, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and salt.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thick enough to sit on a bum without running, about 20 minutes.  (Makes 6 servings - we doubled it)

My husband is very skeptical about meat substitutes, but he was won over by this one.  It's so flavorful that you don't feel like you are missing out on meat (my kids would hardly believe that it wasn't ground beef).  My mother-in-law cans, bless her heart, so, in doubling the recipe, I used 1 can of store-bought crushed tomatoes mixed with 1 jar of pureed whole tomatoes and it was a bit runnier than just store-bought crushed tomatoes, but yummy.  I baked my own rolls (I haven't found my "perfect" roll/bun recipe yet - I'm still experimenting with different ones, so if you have a go-to recipe, please share!) as an extra treat.

All recipes came from the book/cookbook Fresh Choices (although some are a bit modified)