Just another lazy Sunday

Don’t you just love Sunday mornings?  I adore snuggling with my hubby while sipping coffee and reading a good book. We lounge around until noon and then leisurely make our way downstairs to watch movies all day. Oh wait….that was life BEFORE the kids.

Nowadays, Sunday morning is a non-stop tornado of activity!

7:00 a.m. my darling daughter calls me from her crib, desperately needing a diaper change. My loving son stumbles into our bedroom begging to play video games. My eyes flutter open and I realize that the mad Sunday rush is here yet again. Time to get the kids dressed, fed and presentable for church. Somewhere in this mad rush I manage to get in a shower and find an outfit that is appropriate for public viewing (no yoga pants in church…thankyouverymuch!). It’s insanity. You would think that I’d learn to plan ahead.

On those rare Sunday mornings when I actually have my act together, I like to spoil the family a bit by making a good, hearty breakfast. Santa was kind enough to buy me a waffle maker this year. I tell you, next to my mini van and my engagement ring, it was the best Christmas present ever! Yes, I truly am that low maintenance.

I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with different recipes for waffle batter. I’ve found that Bisquick mix, while it makes outstanding pancakes, makes pretty dry and tasteless waffles. Other waffle mixes I’ve made have been too dense or not puffy enough. After much trial and error, I finally found the perfect mix!

I give complete credit to Mr. Alton Brown and the Food Network for this recipe. I had nothing to do with it. I just thought I’d pass it along and share the love.

  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 4 3/4 ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • Vegetable spray, for waffle iron

Directions

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl beat together eggs and melted butter, and then add the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Ladle the recommended amount of waffle batter onto the iron according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Close iron top and cook until the waffle is golden on both sides and is easily removed from iron. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Here’s a handy-dandy tip from your old pal, Liz:  If you don’t have any buttermilk, just add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk. Viola! Home made buttermilk substitute!

Yum!

There you have it… the best food that Sunday morning has to offer! Top these golden beauties with syrup and butter or berries and whipped cream. You could even go hog-wild and make a fried egg, bacon and cheese waffle sandwich. Not that I’ve ever done anything THAT unhealthy. *ahem*

Speaking of healthy eating….Liz Land is going to get a bit healthier. It seems that my love of all things creamy and buttery has caught up with me. Time to lower the fat and cholesterol intake. I’ve been experimenting with some new healthy alternatives to my old favorites. Hope you stick with me on this.

Chicken Kiev… Land of Liz style.

Every year I make the same New Years resolution; Lose weight and get fit.  I search through my back issues of Cooking Light magazine and compile an arsenal of recipes that are guaranteed to get me back to my “before I had the children” weight. With grocery list in hand I march confidently into the grocery store ready to conquer the food world. I just know THIS will be the year I fit back in my favorite jeans (the ones at the back of the closet, covered in a layer of dust).

When my cart is full of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and healthy snacks I stroll up to the checkout counter. As I put my groceries on the conveyor belt, I have this fantasy that the checker and the other housewives around me are admiring just how healthy my family must be with all of this wonderful food in the house. I can just tell they are thinking “What a good wife and mother she must be!” To add to this delusion, I even browse through a fitness magazine before paying my bill. I walk out of the store feeling very good about myself and my new healthy lifestyle.

Then it happens….about a week after bingeing on carrots, spinach, fiber muffins and Special K cereal I hear a little voice calling from inside the fridge. It says to me “Psst…Liz….come here. I miss you! Please don’t abandon me. Come back!”.  It is the sweet voice of my dear friend, butter. I curse The Land O Lakes Indian and swear she is an evil little temptress. One thing leads to another and I come up with a recipe like this: Chicken Kiev, Land of Liz style.

The Betty Crocker cookbook has a basic recipe for Chicken Kiev that involves parsley and tarragon but, I didn’t have those things. I improvised this recipe and I’m really happy with how it turned out. Hubby even said it was ‘blog worthy’! It’s a little more labor intensive than some of my other recipes but it’s totally worth it. I’d be proud to make this meal for guests.

Here’s the cast of characters:

  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • all purpose flour
  • seasoned salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 thinly sliced chicken breasts (or you can go through the trouble of pounding regular chicken breasts with a mallet…I’m too lazy for that)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • two cloves minced garlic
  • 12 basil leaves, minced
  • two mozzarella string cheese sticks (or, if you want to get fancy….use fresh mozzarella)
  • salt and pepper

Step 1:  Get out three shallow bowls. In the first bowl mix eggs and 1 tbsp water. In the second, put in the bread crumbs. I the third, mix flour and seasoned salt.

Step 2: Cut butter into quarters, lengthwise and then in half (you’ll have 8 little rectangles of lovely butter). Do the same with the mozzarella cheese sticks.

Step 3: place a little bit of the minced garlic, basil, 1 butter rectangle and one of the pieces of mozzarella into the center of the chicken breast and roll it up into a tight little bundle.

Step 4: Dredge chicken roll in flour, then dip in egg, dip in bread crumbs, back in the egg again and one more time in the bread crumbs. Got that? The double dip in the crumbs makes for an extra crispy crust.  Repeat steps 3 and four until all six chicken breasts are rolled.

Step 5: Heat up oil in a frying pan and fry up the chicken breasts for about 5 minutes (or until all sides are browned).

Step 6: Place all six rolls in a baking dish and place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes (or until chicken is cooked through). Pour any drippings over the top when serving. You don’t want to waste any of that fabulous butter. It’s a sin!

Mmmm.... look at that glorious butter and cheese! When I fall off the wagon, I fall HARD!

Enjoy….you can always return to the diet the next day!

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Spread

There are few things in life I like more than the smell of roasted garlic. If I had my way I would have a roasted garlic air freshener hanging from my rear view mirror and large bowls of garlic, basil and onion potpourri in my living room. The smell of garlic warms my soul and makes me feel at peace with the world. Other people in the Land of Liz don’t feel quite so passionate about these delightful little bulbs of joy, so I limit my love of garlic to cooking.

Ordinarily I’m perfectly happy just roasting up a bulb of garlic and spreading it on a loaf of crusty Italian bread, but today I decided to get a bit more creative. I made a big batch of white bean and roasted garlic spread. This is a very simple recipe but it tastes out of this world!

The first step is roasting up the garlic!

  • Crank up your oven to 400. 
  • Cut off the top half of two bulbs of garlic
  • place them on a square of foil
  • drizzle on some olive oil and wrap them up
  •  Once the oven is heated up, roast those babies for 45 minutes.

When they are done they will be soft, easy to spread and delicious. 

When your kitchen starts to smell like a high-end Italian restaurant, open up a can of Great Northern beans. Rinse, drain and heat them on low on the stove top.

When the garlic is ready, squeeze it out from its paper shell into the bowl of a food processor.

Add the following:

  • warm beans
  •  a handful of cilantro (omit if you are not a cilantro fan….I am a BIG fan so I added extra!),
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • a drizzle of olive oil

 Mix it up in the food processor until it’s smooth.

Bean really liked it on her sandwich!

Peanut really liked it on her sandwich!

This is a great dip for veggies! I’m using it as a sandwich spread this week. It also stores really well in the fridge. It should be good for up to two weeks. Keep some on hand for any unexpected guests. They’ll think you eat like a gourmet every day!

Split pea and ham soup…. it ain’t pretty but, it’s so good!

Oh my goodness… it’s been 7 months since my last blog post! I’d like to give you all a list of excuses, but truth be told, I just got lazy. Hope you can forgive me! Hope you can also forgive how rusty this post might be. I’m out of practice! I’ve made a New Years resolution to start writing more. Bear with me, please.

So, it’s freezing here in the Land of Liz. We’ve had a very mild winter so far and my body just can’t seem to adjust to this cold snap. I can’t get the chill out of my bones and the only cure I can think of  is a huge vat of split pea soup! Yes, I know that for many people, the thought of split pea soup conjures up images of Linda Blair’s head spinning around, but if you can get past that visual, I highly suggest trying this awesome soup.

This is such an easy and cheap recipe! I had a bag of split peas that I soaked overnight, a leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner, an onion and some carrots. Next thing I know…. I had soup! Ok, maybe it wasn’t that easy but, close!

As you may remember, Hubby is not a ‘soup guy’ and it turns out, neither is Bean. Thankfully, Peanut is turning out to be a foodie like her mama!  Here’s her reaction to my soup:

She hasn't quite mastered the spoon yet. Soup through a straw works for us. She looks a little nervous doesn't she?

 

I think she likes it!
This was a huge success. Peanut drank the soup and even started dipping her crackers in it! 
Ok, here’s the magic recipe:
1 ham bone (the meatier, the better)
1 bag of split peas, soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
chopped carrots (to your taste)
Salt & pepper to taste 
 
Start by sauteeing the onion in a bit of olive oil. Dump in the split peas, ham bone, a little salt & pepper and the carrots. Pour enough water over the top to cover. Cook on medium heat until the peas have all turned into a lovely green liquid (about two hours). Remove ham bone & serve. Doesn’t get much easier!  Enjoy!
 

Yum!

 
 

A light lunch

Last weekend I packed a bag and headed out to Chincoteague Island, Virginia with my two BFFs for a girl’s weekend away. Prior to our escape, I had been doing very well on my diet.  I’m not a calorie counter but for two weeks I was mindful of eating sensible portions, lowering my fat intake and limiting in-between meal snacks. Once on the road, however, my diet flew out the window, landed somewhere on interstate 95 and became roadkill.

Crab dip, cream of crab soup, shrimp stuffed with crab imperial, french fries, crab balls, tortilla chips with cheese dip…. ooooh… I fell off the wagon and it proceeded to roll over me.

Now that I’m back home and my brain is no longer on island time, I realize that I must get back into good eating habits. I fear someone may try to harpoon me on my next trip to the beach.

This is a modified recipe for a roast-beef sandwich recipe I found on the Special K website. I don’t succeed with diet food that tastes like diet food. This sammy was filling and I felt like I was eating something on the naughty foods list.

Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich

  • 2 teaspoons fat-free plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 slice multigrain bread, toasted
  • 1/2 cup mixed spring baby greens
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced, lean roasted beef
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese (optional)
  • sliced hard-boiled egg
  • sliced tomato

Directions

  1. In small bowl stir together yogurt, mayonnaise and horseradish. Spread on toast. Top with greens, roast beef, tomato, egg and blue cheese.

    Grab a fork and knife and dig in!

You are eating WHAT?

  I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing a recipe for a healthy potato chip substitute. Before I get to that, let me explain why I’m attempting to better my eating habits.

It all started when I signed up for the 2011 Susan G. Komen walk. In September, I will walk 60 miles to raise money to fight breast cancer. I remembered how my poor knees had suffered at the hands of the 2009 walk. I hadn’t properly trained (and by that I mean I went from walking three miles once or twice  a week to walking twenty miles a day for three days straight). I knew that the only way I could possibly survive this year’s walk was to start training early.

I shopped Craigslist and found a double jog stroller for $40. I was so proud of myself that I immediately took Bean and Peanut out for our first two-mile walk around the neighborhood. Bean, Peanut and I sailed through the first mile of our trek. I felt so confident that I decided to throw a little jogging into the mix. Keeping in mind, I hadn’t seriously jogged or ran since I was a sophomore in high school, I decided to take it slow. I visualized the graceful long-distance runners I always admired in high school. They looked like gazelles: graceful, determined, focused and poised. I wanted to be a gazelle. 

I took the first step and jogged one block. I walked the next. I did this for two and a half blocks and noticed that something was happening to my body. That something was PAIN! First, my knees started to ache a bit. Then I noticed my thighs were feeling the burn. It was then, when it felt like my jiggling love handles were on fire, I realized that I may need to go into this fitness routine a wee bit slower. I suddenly thought back to my vision of the gazelles. I realized, if my life were a National Geographic Special ,  I would be the lame gazelle that gets devoured by a pride of lions. It was a sobering thought.

As I let this morbid image sink in, it occurred to me that I needed to make some changes. I had some very unhealthy food habits. The worst of these habits is my constant snacking. I can’t seem to pass our pantry without peeking in and taking “just a bite” of something. I admit I’m guilty of chowing down on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching The Biggest Loser. I shared this information with my mom and she passed on a fantastic and healthy snack. Thanks Mom!

Kale Chips

1 bunch of Kale

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt (or seasoned salt)

  • Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  • With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

I was the only brave one in the house to try these. I managed to eat the entire bowl and I didn’t feel one bit guilty about it. They are surprisingly crispy and flavorful and incredibly healthy.

All of this healthy eating is making me feel pretty good about myself.  I may just give jogging another try.

Snack away little gazelle! Snack away!

Reduction

I am a fan of reduction. I’m reducing my sugar intake. I’m trying to reduce my grocery bill and frivolous spending. To save on gas (at $4.00 a gallon, who isn’t trying to save?), I am reducing the number of car trips I make. And, in an effort to reduce my waist line, I made this recipe with a reduction sauce. Ok, yes…I was grasping at straws to tie this theme together but give me a break….my writing skills are rusty these days.

I looked up reduction sauce online and here’s the best definition I could find (from wisegeek.com):

A reduction sauce is a sauce made for food which uses the drippings and juices left over after cooking meat. Since these drippings are often quite flavorful, the resulting reduction sauce is also dense in flavor, and it tends to complement the food very well, since it uses the juices exuded by the food while it cooks. An assortment of ingredients are added to these drippings to create a reduction sauce, ranging from cream to balsamic vinegar, depending on the desired effect.

Wise Geek said it a lot better than I would have. I really love reduction sauces. They add a lot of flavor to an otherwise ordinary meal.

I just started the Special K diet. I’m on day three and I’m proud to say I haven’t cheated one bit. The diet plan is: one bowl of Special K cereal for breakfast (with skim milk), a Special K snack mid-day, a bowl of cereal for lunch, a Special K snack mid-afternoon, and a sensible dinner. The cool thing is that I can have as many fruits and veggies as I want throughout the day.  This goes on for two weeks & then I’m supposed to maintain a sensible eating plan for the rest of my life. Hrmm…we’ll see how that goes.

Special K’s website was nice enough to provide a few creative and very tasty recipe ideas. For my first official “diet night” I chose to make the following:

Pork Chops with Pomegranate Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 boneless pork loin chop, cut about 1 inch thick (5 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sliced green onions

Directions

  1. In small bowl stir together salt, cinnamon and pepper. Rub on both sides of pork chop.
  2. In small nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray cook pork chop over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned and nearly done, turning once. Remove from skillet. Keep warm.
  3. In same skillet combine pomegranate juice and sugar. Bring to boiling. Boil, uncovered, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture is reduced to half. Return pork chop to skillet. Cook, uncovered, about 1 minute more or until sauce thickens slightly and pork chop is done. Transfer to serving plate. Sprinkle with onions.

 

Don't you just love the funky design on these plates? $1.00 each at Target. Gotta love a bargain! I even have coordinating bowls.

I served this up with roasted potatoes and a salad. Hubby and Bean really liked it. Even Peanut ate a little bit of the potatoes (mushed up, of course).

Darn it…I’ve been writing this blog post and thinking about all the good food I ate last night. Now, in accordance with the Special K diet I shall go forth and chow down on some carrots. Wish I could have some of that pomegranate glaze to dip them in!

Tune in tomorrow for a sophistocated and healthful substitute for potato chips.