Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lasagna Roll-Ups
Tonight we had a guest for dinner, a friend of Mike's from his graduate program. I tried a new recipe that I clipped from the Gainesville Sun, Lighter Lasagna Roll-Ups. Instead of making layers, I made a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, ground beef, spinach, and other stuff, put it down the length of each noodle, and rolled it up. We also had steamed broccoli, garlic bread, and some wine that Hugh brought.
The verdict
Hugh and I enjoyed this recipe very much. Mike had the sauce with garlic bread, since I still can't get him to eat pasta. I don't think I'll make regular lasagna again! I had never made a lasagna with spinach, but I decided to try it along with some ground beef. Very good! I had three roll-ups leftover, so I froze them for later use. Overall, I give this meal 4 and a half stars for taste and 3 stars for health.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Salmon Fillets

First off, I would like to apologize for my sporadic posting. I have been stressing over school and then yesterday I woke up sick. But never fear, I'm feeling better today. I went to Publix and got a big salmon fillet for us to share and was planning on making my regular honey-mustard sauce, then I discovered we were out of mayo. This got me wondering if I could use something else in place of the mayo, because I only keep the stuff around for this one recipe. So I decided to try light sour cream, mustard, and honey. On the side we have roasted red potatoes and steamed green beans.

The verdict

The salmon was very good - I think I'll use the sour cream from now on and avoid that mayonnaise-y taste (ewww!) Also, light sour cream has less fat than mayo. It's a win-win situation!! I give this meal 4 and a half stars for taste and health.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Skewers

I was trying to think of something creative to do for dinner, and I remembered an interesting article on marinades I read a few days ago from the newsletter, Saving Dinner (scroll all the way down). According to this article, you need an acid, some spices, and some oil to make a good marinade, so...yogurt is acid, right?!? I asked Mike, "Have you ever made a marinade out of yogurt?" and he said, "...a marinade? Out of YOGURT?!" So needless to say, he was a little skeptical. I looked on the internet for an idea of what I needed to do, and ended up covering chicken breasts with lemon juice for half and hour to macerate, then covering it with a mixture of plain yogurt, chili powder, and tumeric. Then, I cut up the chicken and put it on skewers, and Mike grilled them for 3 minutes on each side. On the side we have broccoli from the freezer and roasted potatoes.

The verdict
After his first bite, Mike's skepticism was gone! This was an excellent experiment, and I plan on repeating this. It would be great for entertaining. The yogurt made the chicken very tender, and I think the tumeric was important for imparting a nice flavor to it. I give this meal 5 stars for taste and health! I love five-star meals!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Barbeque Beef Sandwiches
Last night Mike and I went to the Swamp Restaurant with people from Mike's graduate program, so no post. I've been trying to use up some stuff in the freezer, so I decided to make some barbeque beef. The beef was originally for stir fry, but I threw it in the crockpot with some ketchup, dried onion, honey, and teriyaki sauce, and it was much easier to chop than a steak. I decided to have a salad on the side, but we were a little low on romaine lettuce, so we had salads with a lot of toppings, heehee :)
The verdict
I decided to just wing it on the sauce, and I did a pretty good job! This was a "Mike" kinda meal - beef, barbeque sauce...heaven! I give this meal 4 stars for taste and 3 stars for health.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chicken Tacos

Tonight we had chicken tacos with black beans. I skipped the salt and preservatives of packaged taco seasoning and made my own with coriander, onion powder, red and white pepper, and cumin. We also had green beans and a fruit salad of bananas, pineapple, apples, and kiwi.

The verdict
I was a little concerned about my taco seasoning, because I grabbed what I thought was the cumin and gave it a generous dose, but it turned out to be the coriander. I thought it might give it a little too much earthy taste, but it was still good. I also managed to cook the green beans to just the right consistency - not an easy feat for me, since I usually either forget about them until they are mush or take them off too soon. Overall, I give this meal 4 stars for taste and 3 and a half stars for health.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I was asked by my friend Kathleen how I make my own tortilla chips, so here it is:

First, I spray a corn tortilla lightly with olive oil. If you don't have a sprayer, you can achieve the same effect with a pastry brush, just make sure not use too much oil. Then I sprinkle the tortilla with kosher salt, and maybe some cumin or something if I'm feeling ambitious. After that, I cut the tortilla into fourths and put it on a cookie sheet. I repeat this until I have the amount of chips I want, then I bake them at 375. After 5 minutes, I start checking them every 2 minutes until they are just starting to turn brown.
Done this way, the chips are delicious, and so much healthier than anything you can get at the store!
Half Whole-Wheat Foccacia

Tonight I wanted to try something new, so I tried to make Foccacia. The dough was done in my bread machine, and I replaced half of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. Once that was done, I flattened it out on a 9 x 13 pan, made indentations on it, and sprinkled it with parmesan cheese. On the side (or in this case, in the middle) I made a salad.

The verdict
This recipe was good for the first time, but I think I will keep looking for recipes until I find one I reeeally like. I think next time I'll also wait until the last few minutes of baking to put the cheese on. I give this meal 3 stars for taste and health.

I made this peach bread to bring to Clermont when Mike and I went there to visit my aunt and cousin from New Mexico. It reminded me a lot of banana bread....just no bananas. It tasted awesome with a little cream cheese on it!

p.s. - check out this picture of the cake I made for Ken's surprise birthday party on Saturday!
Cheddar Chili Cups

Last night we had a Financial Peace University meeting to go to, so I made Cheddar Chili Cups out of leftover taco soup. I hollowed out two whole-wheat Chicago hard rolls, filled them with the taco soup, put a slice of cheddar cheese on top, and popped the whole thing in the toaster oven to warm up. On the side we have steamed broccoli and a fruit salad of apples, pineapples, and the last of the peaches we got from Georgia (sob!)

The verdict
This meal is soooo easy, and it tastes so good! I just keep some rolls in the freezer and pull them out when I need them, so I don't even have to plan far ahead! Yee-haw! Mike was really quiet when we started eating, then he stopped and said, "Holy cow, this is so good!" I was so sad to use the last of the peaches, though. They taste so much better than what I got at the supermarket today. I give this meal 4 stars for taste and health.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Breakfast: Cinnamon-Raisin Biscuits

This morning I wanted to celebrate Mike's last day of freedom before school starts again, so I made Cinnamon-Raisin biscuits for breakfast. I took a picture, but it didn't turn out well. The biscuits were very good, however, and I wanted to share the recipe with you. It uses bisquick, but I used my pancake mix that is very similar. In place of half the cinnamon, I used Penzey's Chinese Five-Spice Powder that my mom gave me because she didn't know what to do with it. I think next time I will use less of the spice, as Penzey's had such high quality that it was a little strong. Overall, though, a very good, simple recipe.
Taco Soup

I knew we would be busy with running errands for school, so I threw together some taco soup in the crockpot. It has ground chicken in it, and is seasoned with a splash of some Georgia Peach Hot Sauce we got in Helen. On the side I made some tortilla chips and a salad.
The verdict
This dish is always good! I started using ground chicken instead of beef and never noticed much of a difference. The tortilla chips are good, but a little involved. I make them because we love chips, but we don't love the fat. Overall, I give this meal 4 stars for taste and 5 stars for health.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Paul’s on the River: Helen, Georgia - Tuesday

Mike had been to this restaurant with his family before and really enjoyed it, so we decided to give it a try. We got a table that overlooked the river, which was beautiful. We split a strawberry daiquiri, then had salads with fresh wheat bread.

I ordered the ribeye steak, and Mike had the all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp.

The verdict
Mike says that this place wasn’t as good as he remembered. The menu looked very good, but when I asked the waitress if the salmon was fresh, she said that all the meat comes in frozen – even the rainbow trout! They’re on the freakin’ river! So I ended up ordering the steak, which was good, but not really good. Mike seemed to enjoy the shrimp, but you could tell everything came from the freezer. The portions were huge, Mike's all-you-can-eat shrimp turned into holy-cow-I-can't-finish-this-plate shrimp! Overall, next time we come to Helen, I think we’re going to be trying some of that great German food!

Montecalvo’s Italian Cuisine Kennesaw, GA - Monday

After visiting the Civil War and Locomotion Museum in Kennesaw, we set out looking for some “down-home” cooking. Somehow we ended up at an Italian Restaurant – go figure. We started out with some Italian Bread that came with both Olive Oil with dipping spices and garlic butter. Then we split a Caesar Salad with parmesan cheese, homemade croutons, and a house dressing. For the main course I had a small portion of Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses with a homemade meat sauce. Mike had a thin-crust pizza with Italian sausage. For dessert we split a Black Forest Cheesecake with a chocolate crust and a strawberry swirl throughout.

The verdict
What really impressed me about this restaurant was the freshness. Little details, like the quality of the cheese or the olive oil really made the meal. The pasta was excellent – there’s no substitute for a homemade tomato sauce! The pizza was good as well; the crust was thin but not like eating a cracker. One of my favorite things was the dipping oil for the bread – I was glad it ran out, because I was ruining my dinner! The only thing that failed to impress me greatly was the cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it wasn’t blow-your-mind-good. In all fairness, however, it had a lot to live up to. I had been looking forward to dessert since after lunch, when we had to walk all the way back to the Georgia aquarium to claim Mike’s pocketknife, which he left at the checkpoint. He said he would buy me dessert to make it up to me! Overall, I would definitely go back.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cheeseburger in Paradise, Atlanta, Georgia

I found this place online before we left on our trip, and I knew we had to go there! It took us awhile to find the place, then we had to wait to a table, so by the time we were seated, we were definitely ready for some heaven on earth with an onion slice! By the time our server finally decided to come to our table, we were pretty annoyed at her for making us wait over 10 minutes, but darn it if she wasn’t so charming that we couldn’t stay mad at her! I ordered a blackberry swirl margarita, which came adorned with a lizard lips made of orange and lime slices. Mike and I split the “Son of a Son of a Sailor Salad.” For an entrĂ©e, we just had to order cheeseburgers! Mike ordered the “What’s Shakin’ Bacon Burger,” and I decided to try their “Not Too Particular Not Too Pressed” burger. It’s similar to their regular burger, but they put it in a presser. It had Velveeta and cheddar cheese on it and was pressed in a griddle to make it flat.

The verdict
I think people mostly come to this place for the atmosphere, but the food was pretty good, too. Although not nearly as impressive-looking as the picture on the menu, the margarita was very tasty. It came with a shot glass of tequila so you could put in as much as you wanted, which I was glad for. I would have been quite, er, inebriated if I had consumed all that tequila! Plus we got to keep the shot glass! Mike had “no complaints” about his burger. The boy would eat just about anything if it had bacon on it! I wasn’t too sure about my pressed burger when the server brought it out, but it turned out to be very good. Overall, this restaurant seemed to be on the expensive side for a cheeseburger, but you can’t beat the atmosphere, and the food was good.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Coriander Chicken

Tonight I decided to try a new recipe, coriander chicken. I had planned to put a fancy bread in the bread maker, but then Mike and I decided to go see Talladega Nights, so I needed something quick. bread again! Top it off with broccoli and we have a meal!

The verdict
The chicken was good, but it wasn't the star of the show. It needs a really good bread or rice dish to go with it, almost as if the chicken were the side dish! But beer bread is always good! I give this meal 3 stars for taste and health.

I'm glad I'm finally back to regular posting. Mike and I are going to Atlanta for a few days next week, though, so I'll try to post as often as I can.
Ham and Cheese Sandwiches for Lunch

Look what my hubby made me for lunch! Ham and cheese sandwiches on the George Foreman grill and a salad. I was so impressed with his presentation skills I told him to get the camera so I could show everyone!
Wednesday night Mike and I had a lifegroup meeting. We had pizza and a big salad, and for dessert I made a batch of brownies to go with ice cream.
This brownie recipe is a family favorite. It's so easy and delish! My mom got a microwave cookbook years ago and this is the only decent recipe that was in it. If you take out that book from my mom's pantry it will fall right open to this recipe. It has so many grease stains on it you can see shapes on it like you were cloud watching!
Bean Burritos...again

I had to do something other than school for a little while, so I decided to make another batch of bean burritos for the freezer on Tuesday. It didn't make sense to have something different for dinner, so we had the burritos with broccoli and a fruit salas consisting of mostly cantaloupe with some cherries, kiwi, and bananas.

The verdict
These were good, as usual. Sorry I haven't been posting much or doing anything very creative, this week has been very trying for me. I'm glad this week is coming to a close so I can get in the kitchen more!

Monday, August 07, 2006

On Saturday Mike and I went to Clermont to visit my family. My mom's cousin and his crew were visiting from Iowa, and they were a lot of fun. We had London Broil with Baked Potatoes, garlic bread, fruit salad, and probably some other stuff I can't remember. Very tasty! Tonight we ordered a pizza...I know, I know, what a shocker. I feel really guilty about not cooking since Friday night, but this is exam week for me. The house is a mess, and I was looking through my cookbook and I didn't even have the energy to turn the page, much less cook anything out of it!
Anniversary Dinner at Tapas 12 West
Sunday night Mike and I celebrated our one-year anniversary, so we went to Tapas 12 West for dinner. For those of you that don't know, tapas are appetizer-sized entrees that you're supposed to share. Sorry the pictures are so bad, they were taken with my camera. We started out with a Caesar salad with red onion, homemade croutons, parmesan cheese, and an oil-based dressing (I couldn't get a picture before we devoured it!). Then we moved onto grilled flatbread with white bean spread, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and oregano. After that came Gruyere and Chorizo Fondue, made with white wine, gruyere cheese, garlic and chorizo sausage, served with crostini. We finished off with pork meat balls with chard and spicy tomato sauce.For dessert we went to Cold Stone for ice cream. I had the fat free sweet cream ice cream with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and Mike had fat free sweet cream as well with Cookie Dough and chocolate chips.
The verdict
What an anniversary dinner! The croutons on the salad were made in the restaurant (as was everything else) and they were very good. The thought of white bean on flatbread had never occured to me, but it was mild, which let the high-quality cheese and oil shine through. Everything was excellent, but my favorite by far was the fondue. I don't think I've ever had Gruyere cheese or Chorizo sausage, but I had a dream about it last night. I'll be trying to think of a way to replicate this recipe myself! Mike especially loved the meatballs; the sauce was definitely made from fresh tomatoes, as it was slightly sweet, which paired nicely with the spicy-ness. For what we got we were very happy with the price, and the atmosphere was pleasant and romantic. Everything was fresh and delicious, and if you live in Gainesville you have to try this place!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Honey-Mustard Salmon with Sherri's Whole Wheat Rolls

Tonight our good friends Ken and Sherri Broadway came for dinner, so I wanted to plan something special. We started off with my own margarita recipe, which means I cut up fruit and dumped in ice until I thought it looked right. I ended up using mango, strawberries, and lime juice. Then we had honey-mustard salmon, roasted green beans, and whole wheat rolls Sherri brought. For dessert, I made my first attempt at a flan. I made it in a Bundt pan last night so it could chill. I served it with Cool Whip and strawberries.

The verdict

I bet you wish you could come to my house for dinner! Everything was good, good good! The honey mustard sauce was great with the salmon, and the rolls Sherri brought were excellent. Perhaps she'll be kind enough to share the recipe with us :) The flan was to die for, but man, was it hard to make! It took quite a while, and I don't even want to know how much fat a recipe featuring mostly eggs and cream has! I think this is one of those once-a-year type of desserts! I give the meal 5 stars for taste and 4 stars for health, and the flan 5 stars for taste and 0 stars for health.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Burritos and Fruit Salad (not too creative...)

With summer finals coming up, I had way too much to do tonight to cook anything, so I pulled two burritos out of the freezer and made a fruit salad to go with it. The fruit salad is made up of strawberries, plums, apples, kiwi, and bananas.

The verdict
Boy, I'm glad we had those burritos around! You might see another batch of these soon, because there's only one left in the freezer. I've found you have to almost completely defrost them in the microwave, then crisp them up in the oven, otherwise they'll be cold in the middle. I'll be so glad when finals are over! Summer classes are just too compressed. Although a couple of years from now I'll probably wish to be back in school after chasing around kindergarteners all day... I give this meal 4 stars for taste and health.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Grilled Chicken Salad with Cheddar Bay Biscuits
Today I felt like making something lighter than our usual fare. It's been so hot lately that I just didn't feel like using the stove. So, I sauteed a chicken breast with olive oil and washed some spinach and green leaf lettuce. I topped Mike's salad with tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and one carrot (a big step for the veggie-phob!) and green onions. Mine had lots of carrots, and not much else. I felt like going simple. I also made some cheddar bay biscuits on the side.
The verdict
This was a nice, light meal. It was nice to not have to do a lot of planning for a meal. The cheddar bay biscuits paired nicely with the salads. I give this meal 4 stars for taste and 4 stars for health.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hobo Burgers

I asked Mike what he wanted for dinner tonight, and this is what he suggested. I went to see the boys I watch in their plays today, so Mike assembled the meat packets with hamburger, sliced potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. On the side we have frozen green beans.

The verdict
I was impressed by Mike's skills! I guess all those years of Boy Scouts paid off. He said the key is putting the potatoes on the bottom and the meat on top. He made my packet waaay to big, but I think he did it on purpose because he was happy to help me finish it. I give this meal 4 and a half stars for taste and 4 stars for health.