From Mess Hall to Bistro

Trying to keep my sanity in tact, while keeping bellies full

Monday, November 17, 2014

Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls

After our October Unprocessed adventure, I haven't really gone back to cereal as a breakfast staple. I've been sticking to whole wheat muffins, and quite honestly, I was getting bored. I needed something different-and something with substance. Enter the breakfast bowl!

And the best part about these-you can make them ahead of time!

It does take some time to prepare, but it's well worth it early the next morning! Plan on about an hour and 15 minutes to cook and assemble.

Full recipe is at the bottom, but here's how I made these:

Start with potatoes. I used red and purple potatoes just to add some more color to breakfast.

While the potatoes are cooking, you can also cook and chop your bacon.

Then the eggs. Scrambled was the direction we took, but I'm sure other ways would work too.

Then top with a bit of cheese.

All that's left is to pop the lids on and into the refrigerator they go!

In the morning, I can grab one of these as I head out the door. I can heat it up at work and have a hot breakfast bowl ready to go.

Make Ahead Breakfast Bowls
Makes 9 bowls, but if you want to pack them full, then only about 6

Potatoes (enough to cover a large cookie sheet when cut into 1" cubes)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb bacon
About a dozen eggs
1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you like)

Start out by cutting potatoes into 1"(ish) cubes. Then toss them with some olive oil, paprika, garlic powder (or minced garlic), and salt. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and roast for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, or until soft in the middle with crunchy exterior. Let cool just until they can be comfortably touched.
While the potatoes are cooking (or cooling), cook the bacon. I prefer to do this much bacon in the oven. 400 degrees for about 12 minutes is perfect for us, but you may want to cook it a bit longer if you want crunchy bacon. Drain on paper towel lined plate and chop into bite size pieces.
Last, cook the eggs. I used about 10 eggs, plus some more egg whites (maybe 4?). I had a few containers of egg whites in the freezer that I had put in there over the summer. I figured they really should be eaten soon, so defrosting those and mixing them in here seemed like a great way to use them up.

Then it's time to make the bowls. Start with potatoes, then bacon, then eggs, and top with about a tablespoon of cheese. I tried to make sure each bowl had an equal amount of each ingredient, and I knew I wanted 9 bowls, so I probably only had about a quarter cup of potatoes, 2 strips of bacon, and about an egg and a half in each bowl. But, if you want a bigger breakfast, I would only use 6 bowls. Refrigerate for up to 5 days-or freeze!

To reheat them in the morning, about 45 seconds is all it takes.

These would be really good with salsa, or goat cheese with chives, or I suppose some people would prefer sausage instead of bacon, but I was making these for 3 of us, and I didn't want to mess with figuring out which bowls were mine that early in the morning, so we all got the same.

These were so good, I even got a text from my 16 year old stepson telling me how good they were this morning!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Canning Stock

It seems like this time of year, I'm going through cans and cans of stock. I love making my own, but it takes up so much room in the freezer. So this year, I finally decided to can my own. I don't know why I've never canned it before, but I'm so glad I did this year!

My stock always varies a bit depending on what I have available, but it always starts out the same:

Salt and Pepper
Bay Leaves
Parsley (if I have it fresh)

From there, I can make veggie stock, or I can add chicken, turkey, or beef bones to make stock. I add enough water to cover the veggies and bones, cover and let it simmer.

I usually let the stock simmer for at least 6 hours to make sure I get all the good stuff out of the bones. Then, strain the stock and pour into hot jars, leaving 1 inch head space. Process at 10 lbs for 25 minutes for quarts or 20 minutes for pints.

If I have a jar that doesn't seal, I just pour it out into a container and toss it in the freezer.

I think I ended up doing about 50 jars in the last couple of weeks. It sounds like a lot, but with homemade noodles, soups, and couscous, we go through quite a bit of it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I was flipping through recipes last night trying to find a decent unprocessed recipe for pumpkin muffins. I couldn't really find anything that sounded all that great, so I decided to take a regular recipe and alter it to fit my needs. I had no idea these muffins would turn out as good as they were! I didn't take pictures along the way, so you'll have to settle for looking at these gorgeous muffins in their finished state.

4 eggs
1 c sorghum syrup
1 c honey (or agave nectar)
2 c pumpkin
1 1/4 c applesauce
3 c whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1 t salt
1/3 c cocoa
1/4 c chocolate chips (I used this recipe)

Mix eggs, sorghum, honey, pumpkin, and applesauce in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until fully incorporated, then add the chocolate chips. Remove about 1/4 of the batter into a small bowl and add the cocoa. You can adjust the cocoa to taste. 

Scoop pumpkin batter into muffin tins. Fill each cup about half way. Then add a spoonful of the cocoa/pumpkin batter on top of each. Using a knife, gently swirl the cocoa batter around without mixing it in. 

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes. 

This made about 30 muffins for us. I seriously could have eaten all 30 of them! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 4

Four weeks of unprocessed foods later, we realized it's not as bad as we thought it. And by we, I mean my husband and step son! The biggest change is how we react when we eat processed foods. Let's just say it's not a fun experience for anyone! 

On the plus side, I'm down 11 1/2 lbs! It's not super noticeable, but my clothes are fitting much better. 

We have also added new foods to our kitchen, which is always fun. 

In the end, there are some minimally processed and convenience foods that will make their way back into our lives, but there are also many unprocessed foods that are staying. I'm not going to feel guilty about eating these pulled pork fries from The Mug. The slaw is made on site with whole foods and the fries are fried in lard. Not exactly the healthiest thing on the planet, but still delicious! 

The hot dog below is unprocessed-no nitrates or preservatives. But the condiments and bun, not so much!

To be honest, I'm ready for some ice cream. And maybe a Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tacos de Lengua

Last week was a little rough. I was really tired all week. I even took naps a few days. It just seemed like no matter what I did, I couldn't get enough sleep. Then Thursday hit and I got the most intense craving for beef tongue. Yeah, I know. Very random thing to crave! But to be fair, my first experience with beef tongue came from Joseph Decuis and it was Wagyu beef. It was amazing. Before I lose you completely, here's the final product-it looks a little more appetizing than the raw meat  :)

Between the exhaustion and the craving for offal, I figured I had to be a little anemic. So I started my search for beef tongue. It turned out to be a lot harder to find than I thought. I called several butchers, but no one had it. My favorite place to buy meat from wouldn't have it until this week, but I couldn't wait that long. I finally found a German butcher that had it! At that point, I didn't care they wanted $12/lb. So Saturday afternoon, I put the tongue in a brine and prepared it for Sunday.

After rinsing the brine, here's what I had:

Cooking the tongue is really easy. It only needs onions, beef stock and a crock pot. Start by laying sliced onions in the bottom.

Then the tongue and beef stock. The liquid should cover the tongue, so add a little water if you're short. Then cook on low for 8 hours.

Eight hours later, remove the tongue and let it rest. When it's just cool enough to handle, remove the skin. No one wants to eat that part and that would be a textural nightmare for me!!

Then use 2 forks to shred the meat

Now you have a big bowl of shredded beef tongue.

You can eat it just like this and it's quite tasty. It kind of has the flavor of a prime steak cut, with the texture of shredded pork. We wanted tacos, so I sauteed some red onions and garlic then added some of the shredded meat, along with my seasonings. I used oregano, chili powder, salt, paprika and cumin. Then all that's left is to top with fresh cilantro and enjoy!

I will admit, my husband had absolutely no interest in the tongue when he saw it raw. He really couldn't even look at it. I practically had to force him to try the taco. But when he did, he loved it! In fact, he took leftovers for lunch today-and this is the guy that snubs all leftovers!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stuffed Peppers

One of my favorite meals is stuffed peppers. It's a great balanced meal, all in one beautiful pepper and it's so easy to adapt to individual tastes. And I knew it was already perfect for October Unprocessed!

What you'll need:

Bell peppers
Ground meat

Start out by cutting the tops off of the peppers and cleaning out the insides. Chop the tops into small pieces to add to your meat.

Saute chopped peppers, onions and minced garlic in a little bit of olive oil, then add your meat. We opted for ground goat. Toss in whatever seasonings you like. I just used salt and pepper with the goat. While that is cooking, prepare your rice. We used the royal blend grains. 

Shred your cheese. We used Parmesan.
When the meat is fully cooked, toss the rice in the skillet and mix well. Then fill the peppers with the rice and meat mix and top with cheese.

 Bake until pepper is soft and cheese is melted. I baked ours at 375 for about 25 minutes

These are really quite filling, so I cut mine in half and saved half for lunch the next day. They are really even better reheated! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Unprocessed Week 3

After three weeks of unprocessed foods, things are getting much easier. Here's what we learned last week:

1. Some of my coworkers brought in snacks one day last week. It was a little sad to see a table full of food and know all I could eat was the fruit and veggies. There was also a big bowl of fruit salad. I was a little excited about that, until I took a bite. It had preservatives in it! I was a little surprised that I was able to taste it in just one bite.

2. Weight loss wasn't a goal of this for me, but I finally stepped on a scale last Friday. I didn't weigh myself at the beginning of the month, so the last weight I knew was from a doctor's appointment in July. I figured that was probably close to my October 1 weight. I was down 6 lbs! And, I lost another 1/2 lb over the weekend! Yay me!

3. While most of our meals this month have required some alterations, there are others that I haven't had to change a thing-like stuffed peppers.

4. So my work is pushing this "Healthy Lifestyles" website on employees. I get the agenda behind it-by making people more aware of their health, they will (likely) make better choices, leading to healthier employees, leading to less expensive insurance rates. Ok, sounds good. Yesterday, I started digging deeper into some of the tools on the website, specifically those dealing with weight management and healthy eating. I was disappointed to read that the majority of their suggestions included 0 calorie sweeteners in place of sugar and "lite" versions of products. So not to be all conspiracy theorist, but it did occur to me that Anthem and Healthways (owner of Healthy Lifestyles) are partners and they are pushing artificial ingredients. Seems a bit counterproductive to me. And I tried to figure my calorie/fat/protein/sugar/etc intake for the day by entering foods I had eaten. Imagine my surprise when I tried to enter "baked potato" but the only item that came up was "Wendy's Baked Potato"! Really??? That's how most of the foods were-very few items could be found in whole food form. I know eating unprocessed foods has made me more aware, but I find it unacceptable that an insurance company is pushing these processed ingredients rather than whole, nutritious foods. Now I completely understand that not everyone is going to home cook every meal (see below!!), but whole foods should be available in these calculators. Rant complete.

Week three confessions:

I made us donuts for breakfast one day. And not the whole wheat pumpkin donuts made with sorghum syrup-the white flour, white sugar cake type donuts. At least they were baked? Yeah, I don't really have much justification here. I just wanted something different-and donuts sounded good.

We went out to dinner last Friday. We've done really good this month, but I forgot to start dinner in the crock pot that morning and we were all hungry. We picked a local farm to curb restaurant. Most of their products come from a farm owned by the same person and they don't use any fillers in their meats, so I figured that was a decent meal without completely compromising the last 17 days. I had a pork tenderloin and a root beer. These tenderloins are huge.
This was from the soft opening of the restaurant, but you get the idea of the size we're talking about here! 
I didn't even make it 1/3 of the way though the sandwich. In fact, I didn't even get to the bread. So 1/3 of a tenderloin and about half of my root beer later, I was stuffed. As we were heading home, I started having an allergic reaction. My gums and tongue were swelling! I knew I had an epi pen at home if it got too bad, so we continued on home. By the time we got home and I got some benedryl down, my entire mouth was swollen and I was starting to have a hard time breathing. This is the third time this month I've had an allergic reaction to food that has never happened before. I'm still not sure if it was the tenderloin or the root beer, but to be safe, I'll just avoid them both in the future. I guess I learned my lesson about cheating on the unprocessed challenge!
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