Creamy Orzo with Bacon and Peas

Getting back into a groove after the holidays can be rough. I know I’ve felt a little off my game. And with it getting dark so early and quickly, it seems like it magically is dinner time RIGHT NOW every night. Any one else?

I’ve resorted a lot to quick meals. This one is nice because it is enough like macaroni and cheese that my kids will eat it; has bacon so my husband likes it; and has vegetables and is delicious so I like it. Wins all around. And it cooks in 1 pan. So easy clean up. Enjoy!

Creamy Orzo with Bacon and Peas (Serves 4)

Creamy Orzo with Bacon and Peas

4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 cups orzo
3 ¼ cups water
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon pesto

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until mostly browned. Add in onion. Sauté 2-3 minutes.

2. Add in orzo; cook until toasted. Add water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until water is almost absorbed.

3. Stir in tomatoes and peas; cook 2-3 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and parmesan together.

5. Turn off heat. Stir egg/parmesan mixture and pesto into pasta until well combined and creamy. Serve warm.

Recipe notes: I turn off the heat but then keep it on the burner to make sure the eggs actually cook. You could also cook it on low. You just want the eggs to cook slowly or you’ll have scrambled eggs.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving):

Calories: 366
Protein: 18 g
Fat: 23 g
Saturated Fat: 9 g
Cholesterol: 133 mg
Carbohydrates: 22 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 708 mg

Source: lightly adapted from Giada de Laurentis

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New Year, new plans?

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a great start to your 2019. Mine is frigid cold, unfortunately. But otherwise, 2019 is starting good on my resolutions.

I’ve talked about resolutions on here A LOT before. I think they are great. I am still solidifying mine for the year. We traveled a bit for the holidays, so I’m starting some of mine today, the second. Some may start next week when my daughter goes back to school and life is in more of a routine. But it’s ok. Just pick any day and start.

Did you make any food or health related resolutions? This is my third year making the exact same resolution – only eat “treats” 2 days per week. The first year I didn’t do well. Last year, I did awesome until May then was pretty hit or miss (mostly miss) for the rest of the year. But that’s ok. I’m not perfect and never will be. But I can keep trying to be better. What are you trying to be better at in 2019?

One goal many people have is to meal plan better. Meal planning is GREAT for your budget, your daily stress level, and your health. You eat more healthful foods if you plan it out. However, planning can be a chore. I do it every week, so I know.

One solution many seek are either menu services or meal delivery services. I tried out Hello Fresh recently, so I thought I’d give a quick review here. (I previously reviewed Blue Apron here.) I am not sponsored by Hello Fresh. I used a discount coupon I got in the mail, but it was a generic coupon code. Hello Fresh doesn’t know I am reviewing them and did not give me anything to do so.

Hello Fresh Review

I was fairly impressed with the different recipe selections they had. It seemed a wide variety and food my kids would eat. When the box arrived, I felt like the ingredients were good quality for the price I paid. Of the recipes I got, I’m sharing today about the Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops with Garlic Herb Couscous and Roasted Broccoli.

And the food…

Hello Fresh Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops

was delicious! I was actually pretty impressed. I’m not always a huge fan of couscous, but this was really good.

Pros:
– The food was good. Close to restaurant quality. Not an average weeknight dinner for us.

– It was fast and easy to make. This recipe in particular was pretty quick and straightforward. I even felt like it worked well. Pork and I have a hard time, but I felt like it cooked in the amount of time it stated (I often find I need to cook pork much longer than suggested cooking times to reach appropriate temperatures).

– I could make this again. I liked that I know exactly how much of all the ingredients were included so I could easily make this on my own if I wanted. Blue Apron was not that way, which I found frustrating. I wouldn’t keep ordering the same thing from a service, so I like getting the recipe for myself.

Cons:
-Price. Hello Fresh is at least $7 per serving. I try to budget around $10 per DAY at my house. I’m not always successful. But more than half of that at dinner kills me.

-Serving sizes. I personally found the serving sizes a little odd. The pork chops and veggies were good sizes. The couscous was a little scarce for 4 servings at my house (and 2 of my servings are little kids). But that just may be my house. A relative of mine says she serves 6 people fine off of 4 serving boxes.

-What is it saving you? Meal box services always kind of confuse me. They provide 2-4 dinners per week. So…I still have to plan and grocery shop for all the other days and meals. To me it just doesn’t move the ball enough to be worth the money. If that doesn’t phase you, great! Go for it!

Hope you are having a great new year! Let me know in the comments your experiences with Hello Fresh and any resolutions you have for 2019!

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Beef and Spinach Enchiladas

Do you have recipe pet peeves? If you do, I’d love to hear them in the comments. I have a few. I don’t love when something is listed in a smaller unit of measurement than necessary (don’t say 4 tablespoons, say ¼ cup, for example). I prefer when something says the whole amount need in the ingredients list rather than list it 3 times (say 1 teaspoon of salt, divided). But those are mostly my preferences.

I do have conflicting pet peeves, actually. I hate when recipes call for an amount of cooked meat, like chicken. I rarely have precooked chicken just sitting around. And without the steps in the recipe, sometimes I find myself half way in and realize I need to cook the darn chicken. BUT another pet peeve is to have a million steps to make something that is just one part of a larger whole that also has a million steps.

Unfortunately, this recipe hits those pet peeves. There is no way around it. Enchiladas need cooked meat. BUT, the good news is this recipe for meat is super easy and delicious AND makes more than you need for the enchiladas (or easily does) so you could have sandwiches, meat on salad, etc for awhile afterwards. So forgive me for doing what I actually hate myself. The end result of these is pretty darn delicious! And please pardon the photo. I tried several times and couldn’t get an appealing shot of enchiladas. While tasty, they aren’t photogenic.

Beef and Spinach Enchiladas (Serves 6-8)

Beef and Spinach Enchiladas

3-4 lb boneless chuck roast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ onion, chopped
9 ounces fresh spinach
2 tablespoons water
½ cup low fat sour cream
16 corn tortillas or 8 large flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2. Combine salt through cumin. Rub on all sides of chuck roast. Place in a shallow baking pan. Cover with onions, broth, and tomatoes. Cover pan with a lid or with foil.
3. Bake for 3-4 hours, or until meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
4. Remove meat and shred. Pour juice/tomato mixture from pan into a saucepan. Heat over medium heat to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Puree. Add ½ cup sour cream. Set aside.
5. Heat a large nonstick skillet with oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and water. Cover with a lid. Cook 2-3 minutes, until spinach is wilted, stirring as needed. Remove from heat. Add shredded beef to spinach mixture.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Fill tortillas with beef mixture and cheese, placing in pan seamside down. Reserve ¼ cup cheese for topping. Pour remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with cheese.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese melted.

Recipe notes: I use my Traeger to cook the meat at 275. If you have a meat thermometer, you want the meat at about 195 degrees F. My meat was quite frozen the last time I made this, and it only took 3 hours to get there. So I recommend watching it. I’ve cooked thawed meat for over 3 hours to get it tender as well. Also, it seems like a lot of sauce. I’ve put all of it and not put all of it. More sauce is always better.

Nutritional information: (amount per serving)

Calories: 453
Protein: 44 gm
Fat: 18 gm
Saturated fat: 8 gm
Cholesterol: 131 mg
Carbohydrates: 32 gm
Fiber: 4 gm
Sodium: 623 mg

Source: adapted from Traeger and various sources online

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Pressure Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

So this makes the third recipe in a row that requires a pressure cooker. But I feel like almost everyone has an Instant Pot at this point (or is getting one for Christmas). I actually don’t, but I do own a stove top pressure cooker.

The awesome part of pressure cookers is how quickly things come together. I love using mine to make brown rice in about 30 minutes, much faster than the hour suggested on the package.

Meat dishes are a little trickier since you can’t know if it is “done” without opening it. But the chicken pieces in this dish cook quickly so that isn’t a concern.

This dish is as good as take out. And can be made very quickly, if you are in a rush (which who isn’t this time of year?). Enjoy!

Pressure Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken (Serves 6)

Pressure Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
½ tablespoon canola oil
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup ketchup
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon sesame oil
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water
2 green onions, chopped
4 cups cooked brown rice

1. Preheat pressure cooker. When hot, add the oil, onion, garlic, and chicken to the pot. Sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens.

2. Stir in the soy sauce, ketchup, and red pepper flakes. Lock the lid in place. Once the cooker comes to pressure, cook for 3 minutes.

3. When the cook time ends, a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. Add the sesame oil and honey to the pot and stir to combine.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Add to the pot. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the green onions. Serve over rice

Recipe Notes: I really like to serve this with a cooked bag of stir fry vegetables as well. Really rounds out the meal.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving):

Calories: 531
Protein: 47 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 132 mg
Carbohydrates: 66 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 945 mg

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

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THE Potato Soup

Earlier this year, I decided to try using my pressure cooker for more than rice. I have a stove top model, but I found it isn’t too hard to adjust most Instant Pot recipes (which are EVERYWHERE online) to work in my cooker. On a whim one night, I decided to try a potato soup recipe to use up some potatoes I had left over from a different recipe.

OH MY GOODNESS. I was not prepared for my family’s lives to be changed. My oldest daughter has dubbed this “her” soup and is upset anytime I make any other type of soup. We even went to a restaurant and she ordered potato soup there. Partway through, she turned to me and said, “I still like yours better, Mom.” I don’t know how else to sell it to you. This is good. You should make it. But beware that it may become a frequent find at your dinner table.

THE Potato Soup (serves 6-8)

THE Potato Soup

½ tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces lowfat cream cheese
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups skim milk
1 large can shredded chicken
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Add onions and garlic, cooking for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, 1 cup broth and pepper.

2. Secure lid. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release pressure.

3. While cooking, combine cream cheese, flour, milk, and 2 cups broth in blender until smooth.

4. Once pressure is released, remove lid. Add cream cheese mixture. Cook over medium heat until soup simmers and thickens a little. Stir frequently.

5. Add chicken and corn until heated through. Stir in cheese just until melted. Remove from heat and serve.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving):

Calories: 383
Protein: 20 gm
Fat: 15 gm
Saturated Fat: 7 gm
Cholesterol: 44 mg
Carbohydrates: 45 gm
Fiber: 4 gm
Sodium: 385 mg

Recipe notes: You could use any variety of potato you liked. I did make this one with unpeeled red potatoes. While the adults in our house liked it, the kids found the variation unacceptable. I’ve also added chopped carrots with the onions and garlic for an extra vegetable punch. You can skip the chicken or use some leftover shredded chicken if you have it around. I just like using the canned chicken from Costco. Then pretty much everything except the potatoes is something I always have around.

Source: lightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Lentil Chili

It’s fall and starting to feel like winter. That means fall festivals, football, and the beginning of holiday/family gatherings. I have lived in a lot of places around the country. No matter where I go, this time of year is ALWAYS the time for chili cook-offs. I admit I’m not usually craving a big bowl of chili. I prefer chili as part of a meal – on a baked potato, on Fritos, as part of a taco salad, etc.

This chili is different though. The flavors in this are spot on, and it is quick and easy to make (especially if you have a pressure cooker). It seems a little strange to have chili with lentils instead of beans. But everyone will love it. Even my little kids ate it!

Lentil Chili (Serves 8)

1 pound 93/7 ground turkey
½ large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrot
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups brown lentils
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Pressure Cooker
1. In pressure cooker, sauté the ground turkey with onions, carrots, bell pepper, and garlic until meat is brown and vegetables soft.
2. Add the tomatoes, broth, lentils, chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, and pepper. Close pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure and cook for 10 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release to open. Serve with ¼ cup shredded cheese per serving.

Stove top
1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, saute the ground turkey (if using) with onions, carrots, bell pepper, and garlic until meat is brown and vegetables soft.
2. Add the tomatoes, broth, lentils, chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a boil Reduce heat, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve with ¼ cup shredded cheese per serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 378
Protein: 29 gm
Fat: 16 gm
Saturated Fat: 7 gm
Cholesterol: 70 mg
Carbohydrates: 33 gm
Fiber: 6 gm
Sodium: 322 mg

Source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Eiffel Tower Salad

Earlier this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Paris. I went for a few days back in college, so it wasn’t my first trip. But it was fun to go with adults and not with a college mind set. Art and museums and culture were very exciting, but delicious FOOD was high on my priority list. And Paris delivered (of course).

This salad blew my mind away. I got it at a little restaurant right next to the Eiffel Tower. Everything about it was just amazing. This is my best recollection of it. Enjoy!

Eiffel Tower Salad (Serves 1)

Eiffel Tower Salad

2 cups spinach or mixed greens
⅓ cup chopped tomatoes
1 inch of cucumber, sliced thin
½ cup cooked and chilled green beans (see note)
1 ounce blue cheese
1 hardboiled egg, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons light honey mustard dressing

1. Layer ingredients, top with dressing. Serve immediately.

Note on green beans: While you could use canned green beans, they are among my absolute least favorite foods in the whole world. To be delicious and authentic, you want fresh green beans. Cook these for 2-3 minutes (just until they turn bright green) in boiling water. Then remove and put in ice water to stop the cooking. Chill until ready to use. You want the green beans cold.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 293
Protein: 16 gm
Fat: 17 gm
Saturated Fat: 7 gm
Cholesterol: 207 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 gm
Fiber: 4 gm
Sodium: 694 mg

Source: my memory from a restaurant in France

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