Category Archives: Food

The category formerly known as “Food and Diet.” I finally caved and realized I hadn’t been on my diet for a month now. Instead, I’ve gone on the “good food” diet.

The Occasional Craving: Lasagna

lasagna

Today, I woke up with one craving: lasagna.

It’s not often that I ever crave any kind of Italian food but in this case, I really wanted some outstanding lasagna. I don’t know if I’ve ever had really good lasagna now that I think about it. So at 9:00 a.m., in a foggy haze of sleep, I started Googling lasagna recipes.

Several came up on the first page, one of which was The Pioneer Woman. After reading the ingredient list, I knew I had a winner. C’mon, sausage in a lasagna? That alone won me over.

I had almost all of the ingredients except the noodles and the sausage. I decided to go with gluten-free rice noodles. I’ve never tried them before and I always hated the heavy feeling I got after eating wheat pasta so I figured what the hell.

I bought a box of DeBoles Rice Lasagna noodles from Sprouts. Although the box said to not boil the pasta beforehand, the recipe said to, so I imagine that was because there wasn’t enough liquid in the sauce to cook them. I boiled them to a nice al dente.

This turned out to be an amazing recipe. And the verdict on the rice noodles? Not so bad. The texture doesn’t seem to be the same, but I still like it. I’d like to see what it’s like reheated though just to see if the texture worsens or improves.

Other than that, the recipe was a winner. Definitely going in the permanent recipe book.

A Poutine Story

baked-potato-poutine
Baked Potato Poutine. I tried this for the first time at White Spot in Squamish, BC.

Last night, Denver Guy said something to me that literally caused me to fall out of my chair in disbelief. I asked him what 3 things does he consider when judging a woman as a potential partner.

“The way they keep their house,” he said. “How they cook, and how affectionate they are.”

“That’s reasonable,” I said. “It’s kinda a bummer that you can only rate me on 2 out of your 3 criteria.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Because I haven’t cooked for you yet.”

He responded with a smile and said, “You don’t like to cook though.”

My jaw dropped to the floor. “WHAT?! I love to cook!”

Clearly I wasn’t doing my job. I started sending him links to blog posts of food I made, an attempt to prove to him that I did in fact love to cook. That’s when I realized I hadn’t blogged about food in a long time 🙁 He asked me why and I said I liked photographing in natural light and by the time I’m done cooking in the evening, the light is gone.

Honestly though that’s probably just an excuse. I could photograph the stuff I cook on the weekends. Perhaps really I just needed a reason to post about food again.

So here it is, it’s my rendition of one of my favorite variations of poutine. I had originally tried this “baked potato poutine” at White Spot in Squamish, BC. Seriously, who would’ve thought french fries, covered in pot roast gravy and sprinkled with cheese curd, bacon, green onion and sour cream would be a wonderful flavor combination? Those Canadians are on to something…

About This Poutine Recipe

Traditionally-speaking, poutine is french fries covered with cheese curds, green onions, and some kind of savory gravy. In a way, it’s kinda like the Canadian answer to American cheese fries. In my version, I chose convenience over tradition. While I did have french fries in my freezer, I didn’t have any ready-made pot roast gravy so instead I had to use the packaged stuff, which can be good as long as you let it gently simmer off that “packaged flavor” for a few minutes after it thickens. Also, cheese curds are difficult to come by in my neck of the woods. I’ve only come across them once and that was in the specialty market at the corner and they didn’t have any this week. I’ve read that fresh mozzarella can be a decent substitute, so I opted for a few chopped up mozzarella cieliegine (cherry mozzarella).

Recipe: Baked Potato Poutine

Ingredients

  • Frozen french fries
  • 1 package of Better than Gravy Beef Gravy
  • 1 green onion
  • 1-2 oz. ciliegine mozzarella (cherry mozzarella)
  • 1-2 slices bacon
  • 1-2 tablespoons whole sour cream (or more, if you’re a sour cream whore like me)

Instructions

  1. Cook gravy according to package directions. Once thickened, let simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Cook bacon in a shallow frying pan until crispy. Remove from heat and chop into bits.
  3. Slice green onion and set aside.
  4. Dice mozzarella and set aside.
  5. Bake french fries according to package directions until golden crispy. But if you can deep fry them, that would be much better obviously.
  6. In a small casserole dish, layer ingredients as follows: french fries, diced mozzarella, green onion, bacon, gravy, sour cream. Serve immediately (though really I won’t have to tell you this because you’ll probably inhale it before I can finish this sentence).

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

 

 

Lowering Your Food Budget: Learn Healthy Portions

Healthy chicken portion
Photo from WebMD

Understanding portions and losing weight kinda goes hand in hand. It also forces you to read labels, use measuring tools, and buy only what you need (or can consume within a reasonable time).

The restaurants have drastically distorted portions in recent years, fooling us into thinking that things like a chicken fried steak should fill your entire plate. Often times you can get 2 portions of chicken out of a chicken breast these days depending on the size of the breast, and a 12 oz. steak really ought to feed 3 people.

Here are a few things I’ve done in the name of portion control.

  1. Buy multiple sets of measuring cups and measuring spoons. Plastic sets are very inexpensive and there’s nothing more annoying than having to rinse out the same measuring cup over and over when measuring out multiple foods. Me? I have 3 sets of measuring cups (2 plastic and one stainless steel) and 2 sets of measuring spoons (1 plastic and one stainless steel). Use them diligently. The more you use them, the better you’ll get at estimating portions.
  2. Buy a digital food scale. Seriously it’s only $20, but it goes a LONG way. Get one that measures tare weight, which “zeroes out” the container and only weighs what’s been placed in it. And if it weighs in multiple measurements like grams, ounces, pounds, etc., even better.
  3. Research food portions. WebMD has a great source on food portions. They even have a couple downloadable PDFs that you can print out and tape to your refrigerator or kitchen cabinet for easy reference.
  4. If you buy meats in bulk, immediately prep them for the freezer. Double-wrap individual  pieces of meat in saran wrap and package them in large gallon freezer bags so you can take out and defrost only what you need.

I also learned to label things with a label maker, and set reminders when I needed to defrost meats so that they’ll be ready in time for a meal. Also when I portioned my food into “grab ‘n go” portions, it makes preparing lunches a lot easier.

Understanding reasonable portions can stretch your food even further and help you control your consumption at the same time, thus saving you money in the long run.

Lowering Your Food Budget: Planning Meals and Snacks

One thing I should note that if you’re on a mission to save money on food and lose weight, be prepared to put in some effort up front. I’ve been doing this for almost 3 weeks now and it actually does get easier the longer you stick to it.

Planning meals and snacks to save money on food was a no-brainer. I was already doing this for my diet, but this time around I really had to do this to save money too.

Start With a Meal Planner

I made mine in iWork’s word processing program called Pages on my Mac. It was really quite simple to do. I divided my meals into 5 per day. Sometimes I used the 2nd snack option, but not always. Whether or not I use the second snack option kinda depends on what my calorie intake is like throughout the day.

You can single meal plan.

I created a family version with enough columns for a family of 4, which you can single meal plan (legal size paper).

Make sure you keep your meal plan in an easily accessible location in your kitchen. You want it in your sight and available at all times. I keep mine on a clipboard in my kitchen, sometimes on my refrigerator door. Here’s a snapshot of mine:

Plan at Least a Few Days Ahead

You don’t have to plan out the entire week if it’s too difficult for you. The point of this exercise is to make reasonable changes within your current lifestyle, not to completely change it to where it’s difficult to adopt and maintain. I try to have meals planned from Sunday through Wednesday or Thursday, then I fill out the remainder of the week later. I do this because life happens. Sometimes I may have more leftovers than I’d anticipated and I don’t have to plan more meals. Other times, food unexpectedly goes bad and I have to improvise, but planning should ensure this doesn’t happen as often because letting food go bad is a waste!

Note Your “Dine Out” Plans on Your Meal Plan as Well

It may seem excessive, but the point of this exercise is to always stay cognizant of your meals. And try to come armed with knowledge. If it’s a chain restaurant, more than likely they have a menu available online with prices. I usually like to browse the restaurant menu and nutritional value before going to the restaurant so I’m more focused on the healthier and inexpensive option.

Details Help, But Aren’t Required to Be Successful

It helps to be as detailed as possible on your meal calendar, especially about measurements and portions. If you can package your snacks and lunches ahead of time, that would be ideal. That way your lunch is bagged and ready to go the following morning. Also, noting measurements and amounts puts all the effort up front so that when the time comes for you to prepare dinner or grocery shop, you’ll know how much to portion out. But as you’ll see on my calendar, I don’t always stick to this rule.

I make my lunch and snacks the night before. I find when I don’t do this, I end up not taking lunch with me to work and I’ll just grab something likely unhealthy and expensive at one of the restaurants near my office.

Stay Tuned For the Next Post on Lowering Your Food Budget

Ultimately, I hope what you get out of this post is that it pays to be prepared. And if planning ahead means putting in a little more time and effort into thinking about what you eat and what you buy, then you should hopefully see a return on your investment. If you’re already a seasoned meal planner, do you have any tips to add to those listed here?

Next: Learn Healthy Portions

Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Recipe

No amount of bad press and fake taco meat could keep me away from Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza. I was first introduced to this wonderful thing back in high school when my cousin and I were on yearbook staff together. Taco Bell was cheap and it was close so we would often get food from there before going back to the yearbook office and work long hours. I’ve been thinking about recreating this for a long time so I decided to do a little research. There were a lot of copycat recipes available online, some were spot on, others used strange toppings like sliced black olives and salsa (c’mon, black olives? What kind of Taco Bell were YOU eating at?). So using some of the knowledge I acquired from other recipes, I divulged my own.

Flour vs. Corn and Toasting vs. Frying

The tortillas Taco Bell uses for their Mexican Pizzas were thin, light, and crispy. So corn tostadas were out. They were too crunchy. It had to be a flour tortilla. Obviously there was some additional cooking involved in preparing the flour tortilla. I’ve toasted them different ways in a pan, varying from dry to lightly oiled. Both options yielded crispy tortillas, but neither offered the same mouthfeel or lightness as Taco Bell’s. That’s when I came across this recipe that says to fry the flour tortillas in oil. Fry them? The idea of frying a tortilla in oil is about as appealing as frying a piece of toast in oil. I was afraid the resulting product would be oily and unappetizing. I decided to give it a shot. I poured some peanut oil into a lightweight, shallow frying pan (about 1/2″ in depth) and turned the heat up to medium high. I recommend using a lightweight pan because it heats up hotter, faster than a heavy pan and you’re literally only cooking these for mere seconds on both sides. While your oil is heating, prick each tortilla several times with a fork. This will make it easier to alleviate steam from the tortilla as it’s cooking. Once the oil is hot (you’ll see it shimmering slightly), gently place your tortilla in the oil. If your oil is hot enough, it’ll instantly start sizzling in the oil and will probably puff up within a few seconds. Try your best to keep the tortilla as flat as possible by pressing down on the bubbles and pushing some of the steam out. You want the tortilla to be lightly browned on one side and crispy before turning it over and doing the same thing. The result should be a slightly puffed, lightly toasted, crispy flour tortilla–exactly like the ones at Taco Bell. Now of course, obviously these won’t be as low-fat as if you’d toasted them in a dry pan with only a little oil, but still, if you want to get as close to the original product, I’d recommend going this route. Drain these well on paper towels before building your pizza.

Continue reading Taco Bell Mexican Pizza Recipe