...one woman's decision impacts her family's diet....how long can they last without a trip through the drive-thru?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 16-Oven Fried Chicken

We have been internet-less here the last few days which is why there have been no posts. I've been craving fast food in the worst way for the last couple of days. Some french fries sound so good. It got to the point yesterday that I was actually tempted to take the leftovers from Panda Express that someone offered me.

Sadly....I did take a bite. Does that one bite push me all the way back to day 1? I have to say, it didn't taste as good as my orange chicken. I am definitely glad I have a good recipe for that now! I have to wonder, has anyone even tried my recipes? And if so, what do they think?? Is my family just humoring me when they say they've been good???

The other night (while internet-less) I made some oven fried chicken. Checking out some of the nutrition facts for fast food chicken, I realized that I am actually reducing my sodium intake quite a bit by cutting out those places. (Plus, have you heard about the chicken head found in a bucket of drumsticks? Ew....)

Here are the "nutrition" facts for an extra crispy thigh: (all info is in grams unless otherwise noted:)

I don't know how my oven fried chicken compares, and I know it's not as healthy as some other recipes out there. But my husband was quoted as saying it was "the best fried chicken I've had in awhile". I noramlly choose chicken that is boneless and skinless. But since the crispy skin is one of the things I love most about some fast food chicken, I left the skin on for this recipe. Turned out so good. I wasn't able to get a picture for this recipe. But I will try and get one uploaded later on. 

Oven-fried Chicken
serves: 6

6 meaty chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs, or breasts with skin on)
1/3 c each: cornmeal and seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp each: garlic powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, dried rosemary (crushed up)
1/3 c (approx) grated parmesan
olive oil

1) pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 2) take a shallow baking dish and pour about 2 Tbsp olive oil into pan. In a bowl, combine cornmeal, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, chili powder and rosemary. 3) take chicken pieces, dip them in the olive oil, roll them in the crumb mix and place them on the baking sheet. (add more olive oil if needed). Make sure that none of the chicken pieces are touching. Sprinkle each crumb coated piece with a little parmesan cheese. 4) bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 min or until the chicken is cooked through, and crust is crispy. There should be no pink in the chicken, and the juices should run clear. 

Serve with mashed potatoes, or you can toss some carrots and onions in the baking dish along with the chicken to have some roast veggies. I would add them when you have about 15 minutes left. 

The family reviews:
Dad: "This is the best friend chicken I've had in a long time. I wish you would have made all the chicken we had, not just 6 pieces."

9 year old girl: "Is there more? That was really good."

8 year old boy: "I need a knife and fork to eat the chicken, but it is soooo good."

Baby: For once, there was not a single crumb of food under his high chair. He ate it all.

Side note: My husband says that I am "fired" for eating a bite of fast food yesterday. He says that he has still not had a single bite of fast food. Good for him. I am really proud of him. And you know what....I work with a bunch of people who eat fast food everyday. Do you know how hard it is to resist when your entire office smells of french fries....or panda....or.....? Well, you get the picture.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 12-Spaghetti

Ok, maybe this blog title is a little deceiving. It's not real spaghetti. And, you might be asking yourself what does spaghetti have to do with fast food....well, I'll explain both.

First, we have a fast food (drive-thru) restaurant here in Temecula that serves Italian food, including, but not limited to spaghetti. Second, the reason this is recipe does not include real spaghetti is because it's made with spaghetti squash.

Now, if you are like my husband, your reaction might be "Ew, I do not like squash." And if it is, good! Because this recipe is a great way to eat squash if you don't like it! (It was actually really funny trying to get him to try it...he was so reluctant, and when he finally tasted it, he couldn't resist having more than one serving!)

Spaghetti......Squash (casserole)
serves: 6

1 small spaghetti squash (1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
1/2 c water
1 lb organic ground beef (can substitute ground turkey)
1/2 c diced red onion
1/2 c diced sweet red, yellow and orange peppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 vine ripe organic tomatoes, cut into small chunks
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt (I used 1/4 tsp)
Pepper (I used 1/4 tsp)
Olive Oil
1 1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

1) pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out (and discard) seeds. Place cut side down in baking dish, and add water. Cover and bake for 20-30 min or until a fork can be easily inserted into skin. After cooking, reduce heat to 350 degrees. 2) while squash is cooking, cook ground beef in a warm skillet (wiped with olive oil), along with onion, red yellow and orange peppers, and garlic until meat is browned and cooked thoroughly, drain off any excess liquid. 3) while meat is browning, carefully scoop out squash with a fork, separating strands to resemble the pasta this squash is named after. 4) when meat is cooked, add tomatoes, italian seasoning, salt and pepper (to taste) and squash. Cook, stirring slowly for 1-2 minutes, or until any remaining liquid is absorbed and ingredients are mixed well. Squash should not be lumped together, but stringy like pasta. 5) transfer ingredients into an un-greased 2qt baking dish, cover with cheese, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. (This dish is like a casserole)

(There is no picture, because honestly the dish doesn't look as good as it tastes. All you could really see in the picture was the melted cheese. If you comment and request a picture, I will post it.)

The family reviews:
Dad: "The taste was delicious, I couldn't tell I was eating squash. However, the texture was not like pasta. I would eat it again. I was surprised by this dish!"

9 year old girl: "It was super delicious!"

8 year old boy: "I don't like the cheese, but I want another helping of the inside stuff."

Baby: Ate his before the rest of us had a chance to sit down at the table.

Success all around. I am glad I got my husband to eat the squash, he doesn't really eat a lot of cooked veggies unless they are deep-fried. It's great that he ate more than one serving, it just proved to me that he wasn't just being nice by eating two helpings.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 10 and 11-Pumpkin Pie

Yesterday morning we decided to take a trip down to the Temecula Farmer's Market in Old Town Temecula (Saturdays until 12pm). It had been awhile since we had gone, and since the weather was nice we were all pretty excited about going.

In the past, I had found an organic cabbage that was bigger than my head, so you never know what amazing things you will find when you go. We managed to find some great veggies, including a pie pumpkin. I love baking and cooking, but have never had any formal training in either except from what I picked up from my Grandma Honey growing up. That's why a lot of my recipes are comfort food items, it's what I remember her making when I was a kid. So, when we found the pumpkin, my husband instantly wanted me to try to make pie.

I've made pies....apple caramel, apple cranberry, plain old apple, blueberry, but never....never....pumpkin. Unless of course it was frozen and only required heating. This sounded like a fun challenge to me, and I was curious if I could actually do it. I don't know if it was the early morning adventures in the Farmer's Market that added to my confidence, but I thought that if anyone could make a pumpkin pie from scratch, then it would be me. So, we bought the little pumpkin, and headed on our way home with the rest of our treasures. (Which included: okra, a tiger melon that the baby picked out, some jujubes, and a spaghetti squash for Monday's dinner.)

Where to start....well, I have some cook books, so I figured that I would look through those and see what I could find. First, my beat up Better Homes and Gardens. Found the section and the page, but...it requires 3 cups canned pumpkin. Ok....I know I could get 3 cups cooked pumpkin out of my pumpkin, but it wouldn't be the same.

Next, my Southern Living at home cookbook. Again, 3 cups canned pumpkin. A little disappointing. I have a very old copy of the Joy of Cooking, but it is very old, and a little hard to read, and since I was a little frustrated by this point I decided to just google a recipe.

I found several, and after comparing notes, comments, ingredients and reviews I combined the most common elements into my own recipe. And I used the crust recipe from my Southern Living at home book.

All I have to say is that pumpkin pie should never come out of a can or box again. It was worth the steaming, the peeling, the rolling and cooling of the dough, and every other little detail that went into it. The pie is already gone. I even made cinnamon whip cream from scratch to go on top. My new true love is homemade pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin.

It was quite the adventurous day.

Today has been a lot more low-key. We had a great morning at church (iamridgeline.com to hear the message), followed by an awesome nap. Tonight it's just me and the baby at home while my hubby is at Elevate (Ridgeline's teen group), so I think we are going to watch some movies, read some books and make something simple for dinner. Tomorrow night: Spaghetti Casserole. The only reason Spaghetti is on my fast food list is because we have an Italian restaurant here in town that is a drive-thru.

I suggest making the crust as the pumpkin is steaming so it has proper time to cool in the fridge. You can use a store bought crust if you wish, but it will never be the same as making it yourself.

Pumpkin Pie
makes 2- 9"pies which should serve lots, but if you are like us, then it won't last long

Organic Pie Pumpkin (enough to make 3 cups pureed pumpkin)
1 c sugar (or 3/4 c honey, but the pie will be more dense)
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp each: ground cloves, ground allspice
1/2 tsp each: ground ginger, vanilla extract, salt
4 large eggs (whisk until a little foamy in small bowl before adding to ingredients)
18 oz non fat evaporated milk
2 pie crusts in 2- 9 in pie plates (use your favorite recipe)

1) was outside of pumpkin using warm water, but no soap. Dry with a clean towel, and cut in half. 2) scrape out the insides, and if you wish, save the seeds (to roast, or grow). 3) cut pumpkin in chunks, removing stem but leaving peel intact. Steam in a steamer pot on the stove, the chunks of pumpkin until tender (a fork should easily slide into the skin and flesh) 6) scoop out the flesh from the peel, discarding the peel. Place the flesh into a food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth. 7) in a large bowl, mix the contents for your pie: sugar (or honey), cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground ginger, salt vanilla. After you stir dry ingredients well, add your whisked eggs, 3 cups pumpkin puree, and evaporated milk. Stir until all ingredients are mixed well. 8) pour pie mix into pie crusts, leaving 1/2" room from edge of crust to allow for expansion while baking. 9) bake at 425 degrees for the first 15 minutes (helps pie to set), then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of pies comes out clean. Allow pie to cool before serving. Serve with whipped topping or ice cream.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tbsp confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, you can use more or less depending on how sweet you want your cream)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) using a mixer, whisk cream for 1 minute. 2) slowly add in remaining ingredients and mix until texture changes from cream to a light and fluffy whipped topping. (Don't whisk too long or you might end up with butter!) 3) use to top pie, ice cream, hot cocoa, or anything else that might require a little whipped topping!

The family reviews:
Dad: "Oh babe.....Oh, BABE! This is sooo good. Mmmmm....."

Baby: we normally don't give him sweets, so he was super excited to get some. Since it was made with organic ingredients, and didn't have any preservatives or high fructose corn syrup, I felt alright giving him a sliver. Needless to say, he devoured every crumb.

Picky Pregnant Friend #2: "It was delicious! Flaky warm crust....cinnamon pumpkin filling. I don't know what else to say, it was amazing." (it's actually funny, she saw on my Facebook page that I had made pie, so she sent me a text to see how it was, of course I invited her over for some and I personally think I made her night, especially since I sent her home with 2 pieces.)

Picky Pregnant Friend #2's Boyfriend: "Cinnamony!"

Super-athletic Friend: "I normally don't eat sweets. This pie was a little slice of heaven."

Side note: I consider my friends family, so when they share food with us, I will be posting their reviews along with my family's. I just want to clear that up in case anyone is wondering why I have friends listed under family.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 9-Biscuits and Gravy

I didn't post anything for day 8 since I spent most of the day on the road with my hubby. We had to take Sara and little Addie to the airport so they could fly home to Oahu for 6 weeks. Boy I am going to miss them. I think that's why I was inspired to make biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning. (Thank you Sara for the recipe) Comfort food, and Sara just made me breakfast a few days ago and that was what she made. So there we go, comfort, and happy thoughts on a day when I am missing my dearest friend.

Sara made the gravy using a little leftover bacon grease that she had in the fridge. I didn't have anything like that, so I just used the little bit of grease that was left in the pan after I cooked the sausage. Since I used a really lean chicken sausage, there wasn't very much grease left at all. It actually worked out well, and I think it was a healthier alternative to the biscuits and gravy you can get at restaurants and one fast food place that only serves chicken...

I consider gravy making an art form. In previous years, I always thought it was easier to just open a jar or can than to try and make my own from scratch. I have gotten braver in my advancing years (that's for my husband who teases me endlessly because I am 1 year, 11 months older than him), and can now make gravy from scratch. It is a process though, and if you have never done it before, just take it slowly. For me, there is no exact science or measurement. I do it all visually, and after some practice, you will see what I mean. It's just easier to play with the thickness, and texture of the gravy while you are cooking until you have the gravy you want!

Biscuits and Gravy
serves: 4

1 can biscuits-makes 8 (we used Pillsbury Grands honey butter which added a sweet taste to the meal)
1 lb chicken (or turkey) sausage

1) pre-heat oven according to package directions on biscuits. 2) prepare sausage according to package directions, cooking thoroughly. While sausage is browning, put biscuits in oven and cook according to package directions. 3) after sausage is browned well on the outside, remove from heat. Place sausage in a bowl. Use the pan to prepare the gravy. 4) slowly pour milk in hot skillet over low heat and stir with whisk. The amount of milk depends on how much gravy you actually want to make. I used 2 cups of milk to start, and added more as needed to thin out the gravy. Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper over the surface of the milk and whisk in. Using a teaspoon, slowly add flour to the milk and stir continuously with a whisk to avoid lumps. Continue adding flour until the gravy begins to thicken. Stop stirring, and let it simmer over low heat. You may need to add more milk if the gravy gets too thick too quickly. Make sure you stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. 5) when gravy has reached desired consistency, add sausage back into gravy and stir together. Pour gravy over biscuits and serve warm.

For this recipe I used Isernios all natural chicken sausage. I prefer organic meats, but this tasted good and only had 80calories per serving. It was listed as having 87% less fat when compared to the USDA information for pork sausage.

The family reviews:
Dad: "I like it better than Chick-fil-a's biscuits and gravy. It was delicious. Downside is I ate too much, which doesn't actually make it healthier in the long run"

Baby: signed more, absolutely loved the flaky biscuits. Happy kicks and giggles were a sure sign he was happy with the meal.

This week's weight: Mom: 172

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 7-Burgers

My hubby was studying late, my best friend is getting ready to go on a trip, and the kids weren't home. So today it was just me and the baby. With the rainy weather it was nice to just veg on the couch and watch Bear in the Big Blue House all day. Luckily for me, I didn't have the car today because I wanted to run for some fries and a nice juicy burger.

I like the number two, sometimes three. Grilled onions. No sauce. I don't like the burgers that end up all over the place. So I made up this recipe that includes all of the amazing ingredients inside the meat. That way, you don't end up with stuff all over the place.

This burger definitely satisfied the burger craving.

You can substitute the ingredients for anything you choose. I really like adding bacon. You can also use lettuce if you aren't much of a spinach person.

Everything Burgers
serves 4

1 lb organic hamburger meat
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (try it with pepper jack, soooo good!)
1 Tbsp diced onion
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg white
1 Tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
4 Orowheat sandwich thins
Spicy Brown or Yellow Mustard  (I prefer the Jack Daniel's Horseradish Mustard)
Fresh Baby Spinach

1) place shredded cheese, garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce, egg white and bread crumbs in a bowl. Add meat, and mix thoroughly. 2) heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, separate and roll the meat mixture into four equally sized balls. 3) when skillet is heated, flatten meat balls into thin patties and place on skillet. The meat will shrink as it cooks, so you want to make the patties as thin as possible. Sprinkle the top of the burgers with salt and pepper to taste as they cook. When the meat has browned halfway up the patty, flip the patty to cook on the other side. Drain grease as needed. 4) when burgers are cooked throughly, remove from heat. Put the sandwich thins on the skillet briefly to toast slightly, you can add butter if you wish. Spread desired condiment on bread, then add burger patty, top with spinach. Serve warm, and with sweet potato fries for an added treat. (see Day 2 for recipe)

The family reviews:
Dad: "Best burger I've had all year"

Baby: wore more than he ate, but he kept asking for more!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 6-Tummy Troubles

Didn't make anything from scratch tonight. My wonderful husband made come chicken burgers from Costco. They are really delicious if you are looking for something super yummy and super easy and don't have time to cook from scratch.

After dinner I tried to go to our Community Group (part of Ridgeline Community Church iamridgelin.com) but my tummy is just killing me. I don't know if it's just withdrawals from all the fast food I am used to eating, or if it was something else. But, I am just not feeling well.

So no entertaining blog tonight...I will be making an alternative to fast food's famous cheeseburgers tomorrow so check back for the recipe.

Point is: I have made it 6 days without any form of fast food.  Longer than I thought I would!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 5-Orange Chicken

Sometimes my adventures in the kitchen can be a little comical. Picture if you will, a small boxy kitchen, and in it, a ferret on crack determined to turn basic ingredients into something not only edible, but also tasty and attractive. Sometimes, I end up destroying my kitchen and leaving covered in half of the ingredients I was trying to create a meal with as well as several burns, a few cuts and maybe a bruise or two. Some other times though, I am able to keep everything neat and pain free. Tonight however....let's just say I am lucky I lived to tell the tale.

My husband had run to the store leaving me alone with the baby and a mission to create something that would be similar to something found at Panda Express or some other 'walk-in and get-it' Asian cuisine joint (yes folks, it is consider fast food!). So I popped in a Disney flick (we are a Disney family through and through) and hoped that would work it's magic on our 15 month old while I set to work in our tiny kitchen.

Yeah, right. As soon as I started getting the ingredients together disaster happened. He followed me in, knocking the magnets off the fridge. Ok Mom, stop prepping, pick magnets up so you won't trip over them, slide baby out of kitchen since you can't pickup anything over 10 lbs still, and get back to it. A minute later, I feel a tug on my pants. I look down, and there's Baby. "Hi" I say, and he waves in his cute little way. Scoot baby out again, this time I grab a pre-dinner baby snack and sit him in his chair in front of the big flashy TV.

Things are going well...sort of. I spilled the marmalade all over the counter and my hand which lead to a tasty if not sticky clean up. Then, just as I am putting the diced onions back in the fridge the baby makes another appearance in the kitchen, this time reaching for anything he can reach inside the fridge. "Ah!" was about the only word I could get out before the red onions decided to dive out of the fridge, landing lid down. What happened when I picked them up? Of course the lid stayed on the ground, the container stayed in my hand and red onions went all over my nice clean floor.

Any parent can guess what happened next....

The baby dove for the onions, and since I was trying frantically to scoop them up and toss them in the sink he decided it would be fun to smoosh them into the floor and eat whatever he could get into his mouth before I could stop him.

By this point I am silently cursing my husband for not buying a baby gate during his last Target trip. I manage to get the onions off the floor, the baby out of the kitchen and the dinner in the oven. Woo...ok, at least I haven't cut burned or bruised myself. And the only ingredient spilled was the marmalade and onions....as far as I knew I didn't have anything on my face or in my hair so I was actually in pretty good shape.

Never, and I mean NEVER count your chickens before they're hatched.

Making the "fried" Quinoa for this dish meant dicing a clove of garlic. Me and sharp objects have an interesting history. So somehow while I had one eye pointed on the baby, and the other on the garlic, I managed to slice my finger. Ouch. Not too bad, I've had worse. Of course, there I go, counting chickens again. I burned my finger trying to move the pot. Again, not so bad. There was one Thanksgiving where I burned myself 14 times. I mean, I didn't hurt myself anymore....but I did leave my kitchen covered in flour. Not my kitchen covered....me covered.

How? I was trying to clean things up and thought the bag of flour was sealed. As I was trying to put it into the cabinet, the bag came unsealed and dumped about a cup of flour on my head, clothes and counter.

If it was only Halloween, I would already have my costume on.

At least dinner was to die for. No need to worry about a pesky orange chicken craving anymore. And I would like to thank my Aunt Gael for the inspiration for this recipe....she suggested a recipe for apricot chicken, but since my husband doesn't fancy apricots, I went for orange chicken instead. The kids weren't here tonight, so I only made enough for two people.

Consider this a lower fat version of the Orange Peel Chicken you could find at a fast food joint. It's baked instead of breaded and fried, and there is no MSG.

Orange Peel Chicken
serves: 2

4 organic chicken breast tenders
1 cup marmalade jelly or jam
1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicier!)
Oven Bag
Sesame seeds

1) pre-heat oven according to the directions on the oven bag you purchase. 2) cut chicken into bite size pieces. 3) if oven bag instructs you to flour the inside of bag, do so, then place chicken pieces inside bag. 4) in small bowl, stir together marmalade, chili peppers and salt/pepper to taste. 5) spoon marmalade mix over chicken until chicken is completely covered. 6) bake according to directions on oven bag. Lightly sprinkle with sesame seeds prior to serving, as to your personal preference.

Normally, I eat fried rice when I go out for some Panda. Instead of frying up some fattening goodness, I took some diced red onion, a diced clove of garlic and sauteed them together in some Smart Butter. I then boiled water and prepared some Quinoa according to the package directions. The result: a yummy tasting substitute for fried rice. Next time, I will add some diced veggies and a little cooked egg for a real fried rice dish!

I also made some edamame to go along with our Asian cuisine theme. If you haven't tried it, you're missing out!

The family reviews:
Dad: "Just as good as going to a restaurant." (Wow! I got more out of him then just 'delicious!' a good sign indeed!)

Baby: other than getting covered in his Quinoa, he ate every bite, asking nicely for 'milk please' in baby sign when he finished and making the sign for 'done'.

A successful meal. Next time we have an Asian food night, I think we will have to try one of my favorites, broccoli beef!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 4-BBQ Chicken Salad

Tonight one of my favorite people came over for dinner. I figured she would be a great choice for taste tester since she's 21 weeks pregnant (for you who might not know how long that is, she's half way through). I've always tried to order the different kinds of salads available at fast food establishments, but have never really been satisfied with the selection or quality. It seems like the lettuce is always wilted...and there was this one time....at McD's....and it involved a cucumber that made me sicker than I care to remember.

I created this salad while trying to come up with an easy, enjoyable, filling, and yummy dish that I could make for lunch or dinner. I really wanted some BBQ, but since I was trying to eat healthier, I decided to turn it into a salad. We didn't have any croutons available, so I cut up some sweet potatoes into 1-inch segments and baked them until crispy. They were the perfect substitute and one that I will continue to use! This salad is what I like to call "topping heavy", meaning that there is a lot more of the filling toppings than of the salad stuff.

BBQ Chicken Salad
serve: 6

6 organic chicken breast tenderloins
3 slices low sodium bacon
1 bag organic spring salad mix (you may need to use a bag and a half depending on how many helpings your family wants!)
Cheddar Cheese
Red Onion
Sweet Potato Fries (see recipe on Day 2)
1/2 cup Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup Low-fat Ranch Dressing

1) place chicken in freezer bag along with 1/4 cup of the BBQ Sauce, set aside the remainder for later. Pre-heat grill. Cook the bacon according to package directions or personal preference. Set aside for later. 2) cut the sweet potatoes into small 1 inch segments and prepare according to recipe (found on Day 2's recipe) 3) slice red onion thinly, cut as much as you would like depending on your personal taste. 4) grate cheddar cheese, again as much as you would like depending on your personal taste. Mozzarella also works really well with this recipe. 5) place chicken on grill and cook through (should be white all the way through and have an internal temp of 165 degrees). Shred chicken (see below for easy shredding tip) 6) mix together remaining BBQ sauce and Ranch Dressing. 7) in bowl, combine all ingredients, cutting the bacon into small pieces. Toss prior to serving, and allow your family to dribble on their own dressing.  

Shredding cooked chicken is easy. Place chicken on plate, and using two forks, pull in separate directions. Repeat until all chicken is shredded.

Slicing onion thinly is also easy. Just cut the onion in half and peel off the dry outer layer. Place half of the onion into the freezer. When frozen, you can almost shave off slices with a sharp knife. It's such a nice easy way to get super thin slices of onion.

The family reviews:
Dad: "It was delicious."  (I am so surprised...aren't you? This is the same thing he says anytime I make anything and ask for his review. haha)

Picky Pregnant Lady: "It was really good, all the flavors were good. It was really simple and wasn't too much. It's something you could BBQ a lot of chicken and throw together in less than five minutes which makes it really nice." (Sara wanted to be labeled as the picky pregnant lady, she said there isn't too much to say. She ate three bowls. I am very happy I was able to satisfy her!)

9 year old girl: Two thumbs up

8 year old boy: Two thumbs up

3 year old girl (Sara's daughter): "I want pizza"  (So we made her cheese pizza)

Baby: Devoured the chicken, cheese and sweet potatoes. Happy smiles and kicks.

Needless to say, I will be making this again. Let me know if you have any questions about the recipe, I am a little tired tonight and am not really thinking while I type.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 3-The Fall

Oh great. So I have had a little bit of a roller coaster day, and I thought that I was going to mess everything up and hit the drive thru early this morning. Lucky for me, I had my best friend (aka partner in crime) with me, and since she was driving I didn't fall like I thought for sure I would.

My best friend's husband was deployed very early this morning. We stood there with him for three hours while he checked in, got his weapon, and waited to leave for Afghanistan from 2am until 5am when we left. It was an amazing experience to witness and I feel truly blessed that I was included in the good-byes. Brad will be missed, and I am praying that he remains safe and that the next seven months fly by quickly for all of us, but especially his family.

Anyway....I thought that I was going to have to go through a 24-hour drive-thru in order to keep my energy up. I normally have a great deal of energy, (being described as a ferret on crack, or hummingbird on speed, or just plain high strung) but pulling an all-nighter is hard for me (especially since I just had surgery 7 days ago). I didn't do it though. Thank goodness....

However.....my husband had to drive to Bakersfield.....and on the way back he stopped and got Jack in the Box for our kids. He assured me that it was ok though, because although he allowed our kids to get fast food, he himself resisted the temptation.

Yes dear, that makes me feel so much better.  (I really hope my sarcasm is coming through as I write this. I am rolling my eyes, but of course, none of you can see that....)

He said the reason that he stopped at Jack was because our 6 year old needed to use the restroom, and the baby began signing frantically the word "eat". Ok.....then why didn't you run to a grocery store? I know that Bakersfield is the middle of nowhere California, but really, they have to have a grocery store somewhere, and it was the middle of the day....so if they have a grocery, it should be open. It would be better to grab a sandwich from the deli counter or even a pack of Uncrustables compared to Jack....

Oh well, I guess I should let it go. He said that he couldn't find a market.....ugh. This is why we have GPS on our cell phones! Men.  (side note: I may be venting, but I truly love and appreciate my husband, and I am amazed that he didn't partake of the Jack. Good job sticking to it!)

I didn't cook today....so no recipes to post. I ate poorly too. Because I didn't get to bed until 6am, I nibbled on cold left over pizza (which was delicious, and is not fast food since we made it ourselves last night). Then, we had our 7, I mean 8 year old's birthday party (Army theme!) so I noshed on some chips and french onion dip, and one slice of chocolate cake. Now that I think about it, that's all I ate. I made the kids some organic, all beef hot dogs for dinner.....hmmm, maybe I should have a snack before bed.....

Now I'm rambling, which means it's time for bed.

We decorated the house today for Halloween, and handmade all the decorations (except the spider webs). I'll post pictures tomorrow of the party, the awesome cake, and the amazing decorations we six made. Good night!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 2-Breakfast Sandwiches (using pancakes)

In 2003 McDonald's officially sealed the grip it had on my heart when they introduced the McGriddle. If you don't know what a McGriddle is, or have never had one, I encourage you to take a day off from this experiment and go try one. Actually, on second thought, DO NOT take a day off, just make the recipe below. It's a healthier version of the McGriddle you can make at home, and for a fraction of the cost since the home of the happy meal hasn't added the sandwich to it's breakfast value menu yet. (side note: the breakfast value menu was an amazing idea which just increased the number of fast food trips I made in one week, especially since our local McD's is open 24 hours. Very convenient when I had to work at 4am.)

Anyway, the McGriddle....bacon, egg and American cheese served between two small pancakes injected with maple syrup flavoring. What's really cute is the pancakes are stamped with an imprint of the golden arches. To those of you who haven't had this sandwich before, you might think it sounds a little gross. But to me, it was bacon and egg laying between two little pieces of maple flavored heaven....and hell on my arteries (not to mention wallet).

To give you an idea about how unhealthy this sandwich is, I'm posting the "nutrition" facts:


Ok, so this morning's recipe is a healthier take on the McGriddle that is super easy to make. If you are a working parent, and don't have time to actually make pancakes from scratch, then use the frozen pancakes you can find in the freezer section of your local market. Since I was strapped for time, I just used Jiffy pancake mix. You can also use any other kind of pancake mix. Just prepare according to the directions, and make the pancakes "silver dollar" size, or about 2 1/2 inches across. You can also use pre-cooked bacon if you are really in a rush!

Breakfast Sandwiches (using pancakes)
serves: 4 (serving size is 1 sandwich)

8 pancakes (prepare according to package or recipe directions. chocolate chip is great, and blueberry too)
4 pieces low sodium bacon
4 slices American cheese (optional)
4 eggs
1/4 cup low fat (2% or lower) milk
Olive Oil

1) cut bacon in half prior to cooking, and cook according to your personal preference. Do not save bacon fat to cook eggs in. After bacon is cooked, set aside. 2) mix eggs together with milk in bowl using whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind that bacon is salty, so you do not need to flavor eggs using a lot of salt). 3) put a splash of olive oil in skillet, and wipe with paper towel. Heat skillet over medium heat. Slowly pour eggs into hot skillet. When eggs are firm on one side, flip them over to cook fully on other side. Cook eggs completely, and until no liquid remains. 4) remove eggs from heat. Cut into 4 sections. 5) place 1 pancake on plate, fold 1 piece of egg on top of pancake, place bacon in X shape on egg (you should use 2 halves on each sandwich=1 piece of whole bacon), place cheese on top of bacon, and then place second pancake on top. Serve warm.

My husband was the only one who wanted cheese this morning. We substituted cheddar for American and he said it worked well. You can also use skim milk Mozzarella if you are really watching what you eat, and buckwheat or some other healthy form of pancake. I put chocolate chips in the pancakes, it's easy to control how many you put in each one if you add them after you put the batter on the griddle. I just put 4 chocolate chips per pancake, and used semi-sweet dark chocolate chips. This was such an easy breakfast, I will definitely be making it again soon! I would say it's a delicious substitute for the McHeaven I usually crave.

The family reviews:
Dad: "Delicious" (I tried to get more out of him, but he just said that's how he felt about it and if I wanted more details to just make something up myself, which I am not going to do!)

9 year old daughter: "1,000 thumbs up mommy! The pancake was a little crumbly, but it was goooood."

8 year old son: "I took mine apart and ate it separately. Mmmm, it was good. It would taste even better with syrup!"

Baby: we served his separately with no bacon, and he ate 2 helpings of eggs, and then in sign language demanded a drink.

I would say this was a success all around!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crispy Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries

The great thing about this recipe is what you can do with the leftovers (if you have leftovers). If you plan on taking this for lunch, you can easily re-heat it in the microwave. Or, cut it up and put it on a salad with dried cranberries and shredded cheese for a nice chicken tender salad. I also like to cut up the leftover chicken and saute it with fresh garlic and serve over pasta with a marinara sauce (I'll post the detailed recipe in the future). Here is what my husband and I had for lunch today:

Chicken Tenders
serves: 6 (serving size is approx. 2 pieces)

1 1/2 lbs organic chicken breast tenderloin
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1) in a small bowl beat eggs and milk until smooth, set aside. 2) in a medium bowl combine bread crumbs and chili powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. 3) over medium heat, heat olive oil in skillet. 4) dip chicken tenderloins into milk bath, then dip into bread crumbs, coating evenly. 5) carefully place coated chicken into hot oil. Turn chicken over when one side is golden brown, and cook the other side until it is also golden brown. Cooked chicken should be white all the way through and have an internal temperature of 165 degrees. 6) place chicken on paper towels to drain off extra oil.

Sweet Potato Fries
serves: 6 (serving size is approx. 12 pieces)

3 sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili powder (or Grill Mates Cinnamon Chipotle Rub by McCormick)

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 2) roughly peel sweet potatoes and slice julienne style. 3) place sliced potatoes in bowl and coat with lime juice. Sprinkle with seasoning. 4) place fries in single layer on non-stick cookie sheet. 5) bake for 20 minutes or until crispy on the outside. Make sure you flip them after 10 minutes to make sure they brown evenly. Adjust time based on your oven.

I was out of chili powder today which is how I found out how great the Cinnamon Chipotle Rub works. It really does taste amazing on the sweet potatoes. For the chicken, I left out the chili powder today and substituted with some Cajun seasoning I had. The nice thing about cooking for yourself is that you can experiment with ingredients until you find a recipe that works for you!

The family reviews:
Dad: "Delicious!" (held up two thumbs as he said this, so it must be good, right?)
Baby: (devoured his fries and then made the sign for 'more', I'm taking that as a positive comment!)

Day 1

The project: Drop fast food from my diet and, since I am the mom, my family's diet as well.

What does this mean? Creating healthy meals at home instead of hitting the drive-thru.

The problem: My family and I have a serious fast food addiction. Why? It's convenient. And although it's rare to have really, outrageously good tasting fast food, some of it is crave-worthy. We eat fast food at least once a week, if not more. (My husband and I tend to eat more fast food when the kids are at school or on nights when they aren't home for dinner.)

This means that we are probably eating fast food at least sixty times per year. Compared to some people, this may not seem excessive. But, when you think about the quality of the food you are eating, it is excessive to eat it more than just once in a blue moon.

Fast food chains have started offering healthier options on their menus for people who are "health" conscious. In reality though, if I had to choose between a garden salad and a double bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings, the burger would win hands down. I don't think I am alone in that....

Maybe you're thinking that I just have a problem with self control. You are probably a little right. But the fast food industry has saturated every part of the modern American life. Just this morning, I was on Facebook and there, on the right hand side of my screen was a little 'like' ad. What was it for? One of the most crave-worthy burgers around....Great. Now all I can think of is stopping there for lunch and grabbing a #2 with grilled onions, no sauce and a Dr. Pepper.

Something has got to change, and since the fast food companies aren't changing anytime soon it has to be me that does the changing! As Ghandi said "Be the change you want to see in the world". The change that I want to see in my world involves living a healthy life, which means making healthy choices. A major part of that would be curbing my fast food addiction and in turn become addicted to healthier foods that I prepare in my own home.

Sounds easy right? Keep in mind that we are a family of six, and the time it takes to prepare food for all of us is sometimes impossible with me working full time, and it's easier to just run through the drive-thru and take advantage of the dollar menu. So my goal is going to be to make meals quickly, that are healthy, affordable and satisfy our craving for the fast food. I think I have my work cut out for me.

First challenge: Lunch. The kids are at school, so it's just me, the hubby and the baby. Normally, we would hit one of the many fast food joints that surround our house...but, since we are saying goodbye to fast food, I need to think of an alternative. I think I will make chicken strips similar to what I would get at that place with the happy star. Stay tuned for the recipe!

Although weight has very little to do with the reason I started this project, I will record my weight weekly to see if there is any change as a side effect of this project. I am also going to record my hubby's weight. Thank you honey, for going along with this, even if I had to twist your arm.
Starting weight: Karen: 176.6 lbs
                          Mat: 242.2 lbs

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Break-Up

Dear Fast Food,
     I've started this letter a dozen times, and can't think of any other way to say this...I'm leaving you.
     I will always cherish the artery clogging times we shared, like those many midnight burrito runs. Or the time I ate an entire bucket of fries because the fries were 'to die for'. But when it comes down to it, your food isn't worth dying over. I deserve better. I deserve food that will actually fuel my body the way it's supposed to be fueled. I should never again eat a whole days worth of calories in a single meal.
     This is going to be hard. I really wish I could say "It's not you, it's me" but, it really is you. The fat, the calories, the grease soaking through the bottom of the paper bag. It's all just too much for me, and I know you will never change.
     I've moved on Fast Food. No more golden arches, cow promoted chicken, or crunchy cheesy melted tacos. You can tempt me all you want, but I'm done! Take your shakes, fries and tasty temptations, I don't need them anymore!
     Good bye Fast Food.