Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

One of our favorite vegetarian meals is this grilled vegetable sandwich. It's a fairly standard sandwich, but this particular version was inspired by a dish on the menu at a little Italian restaurant where I used to work. I enjoyed working the lunch shift solely because I got to eat one of these sandwiches. So one day, I decided to try to recreate this dish at home!

These are delicious and filling and oh-so-easy-to prepare. And vegetarian to boot!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

6 hoagie rolls
1 Tablespoon of olive oil    
1 eggplant, chopped or sliced
2 red peppers, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped or sliced
1 10 oz. bag of baby spinach
3 portobello mushroom caps, chopped or sliced
6 slices of provolone cheese
1 cup marinara sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Sauté vegetables in skillet until mostly soft. (I usually do them one type at a time, and then set them aside- it's a lot!) Pile veggies into the rolls, and cover each with a slice of provolone cheese. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly toasted and cheese is melted. Use the marinara sauce for dipping. Enjoy!

Note- I have made these both by slicing up the veggies and layering them on the sandwich, and by  chopping them up small, and doing it almost sloppy joe style. Both ways are delicious!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

 I'm toying around with creating a new tag for my blog- budget meals. H and I would like to have a bit of extra spending money in some other areas, and I decided there was enough room in the grocery budget to do a bit of trimming. Who doesn't want to save a few dollars if they can? I'll be doing the cost breakdown at the bottom of the budget meal posts, below the recipe.

I consider budget meals a bit of a creative challenge. Eating healthy, delicious food is important to me, and not something I want to sacrifice. However, I strongly believe that it's not necessary to give up taste or nutrition to cook frugally. There are absolutely healthy, delicious options out there that don't cost and arm and a leg.

One easy way to make dinner on a budget is to pick a recipe that has few ingredients. Obviously, fewer ingredients means a lower cost per serving, but the flavor of those few ingredients is really able to shine through as well. Simple and delicious. And that is what drew me to this recipe for Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes from Cooking Light.

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

1 pint of grape tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1 Tablespoon of honey
2 Tablespoon of olive oil

4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to season

2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette

8 oz. orzo pasta        

Directions: Preheat oven to 450. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil, and spread grape tomatoes and sliced onion on it. Drizzle honey and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil on top, and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove the pan, stir veggies, and place back in oven for 7 minutes, or until tomato skins begin to burst. When finished, set aside in a small bowl.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil for pasta, and when ready, cook according to package directions. Then, pound chicken breasts to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Rinse, pat dry, and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat remaining Tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium high. Sauté chicken in saucepan until lightly browned on both sides and juices run clear (about 8 minutes per side).

When chicken is done, serve over orzo pasta, and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Divide roasted tomatoes and onions on top. Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light, original recipe here.

Budget Breakdown:
My definition of a budget meal will be $2.50 or less per serving. Obviously, the total cost of ingredients will be more, but these are things you'll most likely already have in the pantry, and if not, easily use again. I'll do my best to total the meals up with the actual prices we paid, but if it's an item we already had on hand, I'll be using the current price from our local supermarket.

Final rule- I'm not counting salt and pepper (or spices), because I am not even going to attempt the math involved in measuring that out, and it will most likely add up to fractions of a cent.

For 4 servings

(Ingredient @ cost)                                                  cost per serving
1 pint of grape tomatoes @ $1.99                                      50¢
1 medium yellow onion @ $6.50 for 20                             
1 Tablespoon of honey @ $3.50/12 oz.                              
2 Tablespoon of olive oil @ $22.00/101 fl. oz.                    5¢
4 chicken breasts (5 oz. portions) @ $2.99/lb                    93¢
2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette @ $1.24/16 fl.oz    
8 oz. orzo pasta @ $1.05/16 oz.                                         13¢
                                                                                       $1.76 per serving

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Here is what is on the menu for this week...

Monday: Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes and Butter Parmesan Orzo

Tuesday: Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Garlic Spinach

Wednesday: Salmon Pesto Pasta

Thursday: Pumpkin Lasagna

Friday: leftovers from the week

Saturday: Out to dinner

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flounder with Tomato Caper Sauce

Even though I'm doing my best to stick to our weekly meal plan, I do switch around the days once in a while. No harm, no foul, right? On the menu for tonight was pizza. But strangely, I wasn't feeling it. OK, it wasn't so much that I wasn't feeling it, really, just that I was feeling it more for Friday night (with some Oktoberfest beer, perhaps?). So move the pizza to Friday, and move... Flounder with Tomato and Caper Sauce over brown rice to tonight.

This dish was nice and easy and turned out really well! I heavily adapted this original recipe, as to kind of cross it with another dish that we already make frequently. It really took our original dish to the next level.

Flounder with Tomato Caper Sauce

1 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
2 Tablespoons of capers
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic

1 white onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into about 1" pieces

4 filets of white fish, such as flounder or tilapia
salt and pepper to season

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
4 Tablespoons butter, softened well

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Simmer white wine and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium high for a few minutes. Add garlic, capers, and onion, and simmer a few minutes more, until onion is slightly softened. Add asparagus and tomato, simmer a couple minutes more, and then remove from heat. Pour sauce into a 9x13" glass baking dish or large gratin dish.

Season fish with salt and pepper and place over the sauce in the baking dish. Mix butter with bread crumbs in a small bowl, until combined. Spread bread crumb mixture over fish. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until topping is slightly crispy. Serve over brown rice. Enjoy!

Adapted from epicurious, original recipe here

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Granola Bars

Another baking project on my list to tackle this past weekend was homemade granola bars. We are always looking for healthy snacks that are also tasty and filling, and these definitely sounded like they would fit the bill.

Granola Bars

2 cups oats (old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup sunflower seeds

4 Tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

Mix-ins of your choice, such as: raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter, etc.

Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Mix oats, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and crushed peanuts in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine.

Spread the grains and nuts out on a baking sheet with sides, and place them in the oven. Bake until slightly toasted, but remove them about every 2 minutes or so to stir them around so the edges don't burn.

Meanwhile, mix butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan over medium low, stirring frequently. (If you are using any liquid add-ins, such as peanut butter, add them at this point. You'll want to slightly decrease the other liquid ingredients to compensate, though.)

When dry ingredients are done in the oven, remove and pour back into the mixing bowl. Pour brown sugar/butter mixture over them and stir. Now is the time you'll want to add any dry ingredients such as chocolate chips or dried fruit. Stir well to completely coat everything with the "glue."

Cover a 9x13" glass pan with wax paper, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Pour granola out into the pan. Using a second sheet of wax paper, folded over, press down to push granola to sides of pan. Press down all over to get it nice and packed in. Leave wax paper on top to cover.

Let granola cool completely, about 3 hours. When cool, remove from baking pan and plop it onto a cutting board. Remove wax paper, cut into pieces, wrap tightly in saran wrap to keep fresh. Enjoy!

Adapted from Joyful Abode, original recipe here

I made two kinds- apple peanut butter, and cranberry with white chocolate chips. They are both absolutely delicious, and I think these will last us for quite a while!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

I decided I'm going to stick with my Meal Plan Monday post, so here is what's on the menu for this week!

Monday: Salmon Florentine with Orzo Pasta

Tuesday: Out to dinner with friends

Wednesday: Pizza with spinach, roasted red peppers, portobello, and goat cheese

Thursday: French Beef Dip Sandwiches with Streamed Broccoli

Friday: Flounder with Tomato and Caper Sauce over Brown Rice

Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish

One of the new recipes that was on the menu last week was Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish with Peach Salsa. It turned out really good! The salsa was absolutely amazing, we were lucky to still find some summer peaches that were perfectly sweet. The recipe was actually originally Chipotle Crusted, but I decided to switch that up a bit. I really like Cajun seasoning, and I've never actually cooked with chipotles before, so I decided to stick with what I knew for this one.

Cajun Cornmeal Crusted Fish

4 firm fish fillets (5-6 ounces each- I used flounder, it would be good with many white fishes though)

1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cornmeal, or cornbread crumbs
2 Tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces

2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 ripe tomato, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2  bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper


Mix all ingredients together for the salsa. Season to taste, and set aside in the refrigerator. This works best made a few hours in advance, if possible, to really let the flavors soak together.

Preheat oven to 375. For the fish, mix Cajun seasoning, thyme, salt, oil, lime juice, and garlic together in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, spread out the cornmeal. Dip each fillet in the oil mixture, coat well, and dredge in cornmeal, flipping a few times to fully cover them. Place each fillet on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. When all 4 are finished, spread the small pieces of butter out on the fish, and place in oven. Cook time can vary from 10 minutes up to 25, depending on size and thickness of the fillets. Cook until topping is slightly golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pink Parsley, original recipe here

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Sometimes my husband has amazing ideas. Absolutely amazing. Like on Saturday morning, when I had extra spiced glaze from the pumpkin scones that was quickly hardening and I didn't know what to do with. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to put it on, knowing full well we didn't have anything that it would really work on, and he said, "how about we mix it with maple syrup?" Um, hello genius! That would be amazing! And it would be the perfect topping for the pumpkin spice pancakes I have on my list, which have totally just been bumped up to today. And I'm so glad they were bumped up- these were delicious!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoon of brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 Tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir to combine. Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil or butter in a small bowl add them to the dry ingredients. Whisk together just until combined.

Preheat the oven to 200, and have an oven safe plate or serving dish ready.  Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat and once the skillet is hot, add about a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan. Let it cook until bubbles begin to form on the top. Carefully flip and cook the other side until golden brown, a couple minutes more. Transfer the cooked pancake to the oven safe dish, and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all batter has been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed. Serve with cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and/or whipped cream.

For the spiced maple syrup, halve the recipe for the spiced glaze on the pumpkin scones (here) and add about an equal part maple syrup to the glaze. Stir well.

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pumpkin Scones

It's that time of year again! What time is that, you may ask? Well, how about we just call it pumpkin baking season! There are so many delicious pumpkin recipes I am just dying to try this fall. Some of the ones on the list are pumpkin maple cream cheese, double chocolate pumpkin cupcakes, mini pumpkin cheesecakes, and a savory pot pie of sorts with pumpkin, squash, and cheeses. Yum! I'm so happy to get started.

The first one I chose to make is Pumpkin Scones. They were just perfect for a sunny, slightly cool fall morning.

Pumpkin Scones

for the scones:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 Tablespoons of cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves

2 Tablespoons of milk

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the butter pieces. Fold them in with a pastry knife until they are no larger than the size of peas, and the batter resembles large crumbs. Add the butterscotch chips and stir in.

In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla. Stir well. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Divide into about 1/3 cup rough balls and place on a parchment-lined baking pan. Place in oven and immediately turn it down to 375. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves in a small bowl. Add milk, and whisk until smooth and combined. Drizzle over scones. Enjoy!

Adapted from Annie's Eats, original recipe here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

So far, I'm following my menu for the week well! I always try to get at least one vegetarian meal on menu and last night was Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables. Now this one certainly wasn't the prettiest dinner I've ever made. I actually debated on whether or not I should even include the picture in this post, but then I figured, what's a food blog without the pictures? So I did. But what it lacked in looks, it more than made up for in taste. It was hearty and filling, even healthy, but not too heavy. Delicious!

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 6-8

2 zucchinis
2 yellow squash
2 red bell peppers
1 onion
1 (8oz) package of sliced mushrooms

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of Italian herbs (thyme, basil, oregano)
dash of salt and black pepper

1 (16 oz.) box of penne pasta
3 cups tomato sauce
2 cups ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, grated
2 Tablespoons of butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Chop zucchini, squash, onion, and peppers into chunks. Place the veggies, along with the mushrooms, into a large Ziploc bag. Add the olive oil, garlic, spices, salt and pepper and shake to combine. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes. Remove, and flip/stir the veggies and place back in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to a boil and cook penne pasta to al dente. When finished, mix with tomato sauce and set aside. When veggies are done, use a slotted spoon (to avoid getting extra liquid) to take them off the baking sheet and place into pot with pasta. Mix with ricotta cheese and stir to combine.

Spread pasta and veggies into a 9X13 baking pan. (I was actually able spread them out a bit more and use one 9X13 and one 8X8 pan. You can either pack them into one or spread them out into two). Top with grated mozzarella, Parmesan, and small cubes of butter. Bake for 10 minutes at 425, and then turn oven down to 375. Bake until cheese on top is golden brown, about 18-25 minutes.

Adapted from Ezra Poundcake, original recipe here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meal Plan Monday

Meal-planning in the beginning of the week is something I usually do. It helps me keep a good variety in our dinners, and helps grocery shopping go a lot smoother. It also keeps me organized and saves time and money by eliminating the scavenging through the cupboards and last minute trips to the grocery store when I don't know what to make. In the past couple of hectic weeks though, I fell off the meal-planning wagon. I felt too busy to sit down and actually make a list. Which is ironic, as far as I'm concerned, since they save so much time and effort.

But anyway, I'm back in the habit and I decided to write it out here, to keep even further organized! Here is what's on the menu for this week:

Monday: Philly Cheesesteaks with Oven Fries and Salad

Tuesday: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables
Wednesday: Chipotle Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia

Thursday: Dinner at my parents' house

Friday: Asian Chicken and Mandarin Orange Salad

Saturday: Leftovers or out to dinner

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Welcome Fall!

I've been MIA a bit again lately- things have been pretty hectic around here. We just spent last weekend in lovely Las Vegas. We barely had time to recuperate from our camping trip before we were on the road again. Oh well, I'm not complaining- I love it! But I have to admit, the remainder of the week was a bit rough- we were definitely still on Pacific time, and was difficult to drag ourselves out of bed at what felt like 4 AM.

However, this weekend was the type I live for. After some well needed rest, the gorgeous fall weather was absolutely perfect. I love the lack of humidity and the cool breeze and being able to open the windows. I was only too happy to start decorating.

This wreath began as a plain branch wreath, some berry garland, and an ugly fake flower arrangement (and of course a little clip on bird with googly eyes!)

I couldn't decide what to do with this garland of leaves that I had. It was part of a centerpiece on our coffee table before, but we no longer have that set-up so I decided to put them around the light fixture in the dining room. I love how it looks from sitting at the table below.

This is the jar I got last winter to fill with pinecones and mini red glittery ornaments. I don't have pictures, but in the summer I filled it with a sea-scented seashell and potpourri mix. And apples and cinnamon sticks are perfect for the fall (and smell so good)!