Creamy and Easy Stove top Mac-n-Cheese and Weekly Menu

This weeks menu kind of came together over the course of the week. I had plug in stuff and than made changes or modifications. I’m sick of the winter food and really want some more spring like entrees but its cold and snowy, its a conundrum. Besides the fact some weeks menus are just hard to come up with. This week was a hard one but in the end I think its turned out more inspired than it started.

Sunday – Alfredo Pasta and chicken asparagus
Monday – New England Boiled Dinner
Tuesday- Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese, broccoli
Wednesday – Corned Beef hash and toast
Thursday – Chicken, spinach, avocado, mushroom sandwich oven fries
Friday – Easy night
Saturday – Freezer Soup, rolls

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The featured recipe this week is Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese which is really easy to make. There is no rue and all you need is the pot you cook your pasta in. Which I love who wants to dirty a ton of dishes making dinner. I know I don’t. This recipe is a great alternative to the boxed macaroni and cheeses out there. There are three of us and we get about 1 dinner, a side, and a bit of leftovers from this recipe.

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese
1 pound macaroni, uncooked
2 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute
Half pound to a pound Cheddar and Gouda, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil macaroni (or pasta of your choice) until al dente according to directions on the bag. While pasta is doing its thing get your other ingredients ready and set them out. Once past is done dump it into a colander and set aside. We are using the same pot to make the sauce.

Put 2 cups of the milk into your pot on medium high heat. Combine the remaining half cup of milk with the flour, you want to get this fairly smooth. Whisk milk and flour mixture into the warm milk. Add the the mustard and whisk again. When milk looks like heavy cream turn heat down to low and add the cheese. Stir well and let the cheese melt. Once cheese is melted add pasta and combine.

Cucumber and Apple Smoothie

This blend makes a pleasantly cucumbery smoothy and sometimes its nice to have a smoothie where the veg shines instead of the fruit. The apple gives it a nice hint of sweetness and body, while the cucumber still shines through. You could use green tea for the base if you want I found a sachet of roobios lurking in my cupboard and decided to use it up. My cukes were in the freezer, if they start to go bad on you cut them into chunks and freeze them. They work great in smoothies since you are blitzing them up.
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Cucumber and Apple Smoothie
2 cups cukes, cut up
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped
large lemon slice, peeled
2 cups roobios

Put cukes, lemon slice, and apple in blender with your roobios.  Blend it all up. Take about 2 minutes for my blender.

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Exercise is like brushing your teeth.

Exercise should be like brushing your teeth, something you do daily. That’s how I think about exercise. Besides not brushing your teeth for a a month or two would be pretty gross and you wouldn’t do that. At least I hope you wouldn’t. Sometimes you have to change how you think about something to start getting it into your life.

Exercise is good for you that’s something we all know, its the implementing of it that is difficult. I rarely hear an excuse that someone was just way too busy to watch the current episode of Game of Thrones, but my they were too busy to exercise. Really it should be the opposite or try combining the two. I watch movies or shows while I peddle away on the stationary bike.

I’ve been told how consistent of an exerciser I am and that is because I made a point to become one. This did not happen overnight but over years. Now I feel off when I am not active, it doesn’t feel good. Yes, there are days I don’t want to but I’ve learned that most of the time and by most I mean 99% of the time I am happy I have exercised.

There are a lot of Tv show and movie workout out there. Game Of Thrones is an easy on to do this for, try this next weekend while watching the season premiere.

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Stuffed Zucchini Recipe and Weekly Menu for 3-16-14

Menu schmenu, this past week I banged out a menu on Saturday and by Sunday I didn’t like it anymore. Haven’t really made any of the dishes that were on my menu other than freezer soup and the stuffed zucchini. I did attempt to make a scheduled meal last night but the lamb shoulder wasn’t thawed enough and I kind of space caked putting it into the oven. Yeah, I started on a move furniture project and forgot.

Sunday – Stuffed Zucchini
Monday – Ginger Pork chops, rice, and asparagus (not the planned meal)
Tuesday – Freezer Soup
Wednesday – Costco
Thursday – Lamb Shoulder, gnocchi, and asparagus Tacos
Friday – Easy
Saturday – Corned beef and cabbage

I keep trying to get the family on board with my tomato sauce over these. There is much resistance so I keep using the tomato soup from a can. Its just how it is sometimes. This recipe is easy to customize use your favorite grain instead of rice (I had leftover rice makes it so easy.) Don’t want meat leave it out. Change up the herbs if you want too. I’ve been on an Italian seasoning kick as of late so that’s what I used.
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1 pound ground meat of choice, I used beef
2 to 3 cups rice
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
3 oz. feta
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 4 zucchini, depends on size
2 cans of tomato soup or 1 quart homemade tomato sauce
2 cans of water

Brown meat and while that’s happening slice zucchini into boats and scoop out the innards. Rough chop innards and toss them in with the meat when its browned. Finish browning meat scoop off fat if needed. Saute your zucchini insides until soft and add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.

Put meat in medium bowl with rice and pine nuts and mix. Add about half your feta and stir that in. Place zucchini in 13×9 pan and put stuffing in the hollow. I just pack it on, the best stuffing is what is not in the actual zucchini.

If using the soup option dump it into the bowl with two cans of water and mix it up and pour over it all. If using your own sauce just pour it over. Sprinkle the rest of feta on top and cover with tin foil. Pop into a 400 degree oven and cook for an hour. Check zucchini for softness, you want it to be fairly soft. If you your fork won’t go through cook it longer. Thick zucchini takes longer. So give yourself plenty of time.

There Will Never Be A Perfect Time

I’m a planner and a researcher. I like to know the ins and outs of what I’m doing but sometimes all that planning and researching starts to get in the way. That’s not a good thing. When I start getting hung up on getting things just right so I can get started. I stop and take a deep breath…
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And stop getting ready to do. Because there will never be a perfect time in your life for anything. There will never be a time that you magically start exercising because its the absolute perfect time and that hour you needed for it appeared. That doesn’t happen. there is not house elf who stocks my fridge with healthy food ready for me to eat.

There’s never, ever going to be a perfect time do or start on anything. The choice to just start has to be made and made over and over again. Will it be the perfect time. I doubt it. So what do you do?

You start, just start this very second. No you do not need to jump up and exercise this very second, just today sometime. Even if its just for five minutes.

Research is not going anywhere, if anything its being added to. Starting and still learning is good. After decade plus of yoga I am still researching it and learning.

To steal a line from Nike, “Just do it.” Schedule it, yes I am big on scheduling your exercise time and treating it like an appointment.

Try things. You can read all you want but what works for me might not work for you. Try other peoples strategies and keep what works. Two of mine are carrot and celery sticks and freezer meals.

The perfect time will never happen no matter how long you plan, strategize, think, research, etc. All you can do is start now and try things out. Get started and stop waiting

Like the Weather

I’ve started and discarded more than one blog post for today. None of them are flowing or feel inspired and all of them need a lot more work. And they are not working out today. This happens every once in a while, you’d think with taking a blogation I’d be ready to go. But I am not.

Its dark and gloomy again. Last week we started out with a storm that left us with a foot of snow. A week later, today, we have another storm that is supposed to leave us another foot of snow. Welcome to spring in the Rockies. Last I heard we had 150% snow pack in the mountains so we have had a lot of weather this winter.

March is the month when I start to feel the lack of light, our days are longer but its been so cloudy, we haven’t seen much of it. It becomes hard to keep up even with the Happy Tips. Cabin fever is setting in. I want to get outside and dig in the dirt. Get my potatoes started, turn over the garden beds, pour boiling vinegar on weeds all that pre-planting stuff.

All About the Weather by 10,000 Maniacs has been stuck in my mind this morning and feels like an appropriate song for today.

Blogcation!

Hey kids.  I am taking a blogcation this week.  I need a wee bit of break this week as I am starting B-School and feeling the overwhelm of this endeavor. I’ll be back next week. I’ll leave you with a picture of Wilhelmina in a box. See you all next week.

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Weekly Menu for 3-2-14 and Chicken and Dumpling Recipe

Not much to say this week, the cooking dinner slump is starting to resolve itself which is nice. Tried a new recipe it was the pork shoulder with tomatoes, not a favorite. It had a bitter taste to it from all the paprika and it was just okay. If a recipe is just alright I know we don’t really love it enough to make again. Often the second time round got it a no. Life is too short for mediocre food.

Sunday – Stuffed Shells & garlic bread
Monday – Steak baked potato, veg
Tuesday -Turkey Tacos
Wednesday – Chicken and Dumplings
Thursday- Pork shoulder with tomatoes, noodles, green beans
Friday – Easy
Saturday- Stove top Mac-n-Cheese, spinach

This week recipe is a family favorite. The soup part is improvised depending on mood and what I have on hand. We are out of celery, used the last of it in the spaghetti sauce I made last week. So I subbed celery seed in this to give it more flavour. The dumpling recipe is originally from Fanny Farmer but I’ve modified. I also double the dumpling recipe. This recipe will freeze fine if you do not expect to have actual dumplings intact. They disintegrate and create a pleasantly thick soup. Dumplings are also an easy way to perk up leftover soup. Just make sure you have enough liquid.
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Chicken and Dumplings

Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 packet chicken breast or tenders (about a pound), cut up
2 cups carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 pound greens (I used collards)
2 quarts stock
parsley.

Saute onion until translucent add garlic celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes and add chicken, let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add stock and greens, bring it to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes meanwhile get the dumplings ready. Turn heat down before adding dumplings. You want it simmering.

Dumplings
1 cup flour
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (1 slice bread)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup milk or milk substitute

To make the bread crumbs use your immersion blender and use the bowl for the dumplings for blitzing. The immersion blender works like a dream. Otherwise use your blender. I use our everyday bread from Wheat Montana.

Put flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl with bread crumbs and stir. Add the egg, butter, and milk. Stir until blended. You can do the dry ahead of time if you want to and add the liquid before cooking.

Use a spoon and plop dumplings into soup. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Do not check, do not take lid off, its hard not to look. Put heat on low and let cook undisturbed.

Berry, Cherry, and Kale Green Smoothie

I am on a green smoothie kick.  Kale and spinach has been going into the blender with fruit and the liquid of choice several times a week.  I make a big giant smoothie so it is more than one serving. Sometimes I drink part of it right away or put it in the fridge and using it for a base for post workout protein shakes.
There was a time when the green smoothie scared me and it took me some time to work up to trying one.  Turns out they are pretty tasty and the green part is not the dominant flavour your fruit is. Do not be afraid they taste good and are an easy way to get an extra dose or two of green leafy veggies in your life.
Green Smoothie of the day
3 cups green tea
3 cups kale, frozen
1 cup cherries
1 cup mixed berries
2 clementine, peeled and segmented
Toss in blender and blend for at least two minutes. Drink. This made about a quart and some.  Which will give me a protein shake base for the next few days.

Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

Ready to get popped into the oven.
 This is an easy recipe which is mostly hands off and comes in so handy when you need tomatoes in the winter. Roasted tomatoes make a good pasta sauce, you can use them in soups, reheat and eat as a veg side, and whatever else you can think of.  

 

Nice and soft which means they are done.
They freeze wonderfully so making a big batch works well. You can use whatever tomatoes look the best just adjust cooking time for size and amount.  I like to use Roma tomatoes for this but this time I used a slicing tomato. I do not weigh out my tomatoes I just guess.

 

Ready for the freezer
Roasted Tomatoes
2 pounds or so of tomatoes, quartered if large.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh or dried herbs such as thyme or rosemary.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Quarter large tomatoes, romas you can leave whole.  Toss with oil, salt, and pepper in a 13×9 pan. Put in oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Take out and stir tomatoes and roast for another 15 minutes. Check and see if they look soft.  If they look soft they are done, if still hard or firm looking roast for another 10 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on size and how many tomatoes are in your baking dish.