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Lazy Tacos

I’m a fan of tacos, and it’s pretty much one of my essential food groups.

So, my general taco recipe is super lazy.  Brown Morningstar Farms “beef” crumbles or “chicken” strips, add taco seasoning packet and water, and cook until thickened.  Spoon onto warmed tortillas, add sour cream, shredded cheese and some salsa, and I’m good to go.

It’s sad that I tend to rely on the pre-packaged seasoning packets, which I didn’t really think of until the other night when I was making the tacos.  I have a spice cabinet full of spices, so why am I relying on those dang packets?  And furthermore, why am I just throwing everything together instead of actually looking for something interesting?  Seriously, I need to put more effort into my tacos every once in a while.  I am considering adding tacos to the menu for next month, but we’ll see.

Plans for the next couple weeks include getting all the ingredients I need to actually bake, then do some of the baking, and work on July required cooking.  Note to self: make sure that all necessary ingredients are on hand when you want to bake.  Anyway, that’s the plan, so I’ll be busy!

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Required Cooking: Flop Or Not?

So.  Required cooking.

It was a success, in that I have made a couple of the things I said I would.  But looking over all of the baking I wanted to do, I felt overwhelmed.  With a week left, there’s no way I could get through everything.  And even if I did, I’d spend most of my free time baking.  I love baking and all, but it’s too huge of a task.  I’ll make what I can, of course, but I definitely need to rethink how I want to do my required cooking.  Maybe cook and bake 1 thing a week?  That seems much more manageable than just listing random stuff and seeing what sticks.  `

I don’t have to know which things I’m making which week, but 2 columns and picking them every Sunday or something, could work.  Maybe I just need to try different things and see what works best.

I haven’t really looked through Super Natural Cooking a lot, but that is a project for the weekend.  And trying to find millet.  I really need to do that too. My other weekend cooking plans?  Make what I can over the next week, and just save what I don’t get to for next month.  Hey, that sounds like a plan!  Only time will tell if I actually stick to it, but I am determined to bake something!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Risotto-Style Barley

I’m slowly becoming a big fan of barley.  There is something very hearty and comforting about barley.  What I don’t really get is why barley needs to be made like risotto.  I mean, if I want something risotto-like, I should probably just make risotto.  But it is probably a slightly better for you version of risotto, and while it seems like I’m giving the recipe a hard time, I’m really not.

Because this recipe is so good!  It’s from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking, and it came out really well.  I didn’t add any parmesan cheese, because I thought I had some, and then realized I didn’t have any, but it was still really good!  The lemon and orange makes it feel like a summer dish, but there is something wintery about it too.  It’s definitely a keeper!

Risotto-Style Barley

Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 cups lightly pearled barley
  • 1 cup dry white wine (or water)
  • 6 cups water
  • Zest and juice from 1 orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 big handfuls of arugula or spinach, coarsely chopped

Recipe:

  1. Heat butter over medium heat in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and salt and saute for a bout 4 minutes, or until onion begins to soften.
  2. Add the barley and stir until coated with a nice sheen.  Add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed some of the liquid.  Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer as necessary.
  3. Add the water, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between each addition.  This takes around 40 minutes.  The barley is cooked when it doesn’t offer much resistance when cooking.
  4. Add the juice of the orange, as well as the orange and lemon zest, the Parmesan cheese and the sour cream.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Stir in the arugula, serve and enjoy!

Food For Thought

Here’s something that popped into my mind the other day: why is it so much easier to eat fast food/processed food than actually cooking something and using fresh ingredients?

There is the convenience, you know?  It’s easier to heat up a cup of noodles or a t.v. dinner than it is to make something.  Right now, it is a little bit strange to be cooking during the week, mostly because I just want to relax.  And on the weekend?  I get a little bit lazy- but I’m hoping my required cooking will help me out with that.

But back to today’s topic.  It feels like it’s cheaper to eat all the processed stuff.  I don’t mind it every once in a while, but do I really need a candy bar and a bag of chips everyday?  Of course not.

I seem to go through this really random periods where I do my best to eat healthy (but still enjoy things like chocolate) but then I’ll just go through this period where I don’t care at all.

It’s something I struggle with, and I definitely want to find a good balance between cooking and eating well, and yet still enjoy junk food.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other for me, and I do think it’s possible to do both.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything else for now, but with only a couple weeks to go, I really need to get started on that required cooking!

Cheesy Beefy Mac

I finally did some cooking over the weekend, mostly because I needed lunch.  But also because I just really need to post a recipe of some sort, since it’s been a while.  I definitely have some plans for cooking over the next week or two, because I have some fresh veggies I need to use up!

I’m not the biggest fan of mac and cheese, but I loved this recipe!  It’s full of cheesy goodness.  And vegetables!  It seems like you can throw in whatever vegetables you have on hand, and after I made it, I wish I added some brocoli.  Maybe next time, because this one is a keeper.  I would never think to add carrots, but they add a nice crunch and I can totally see carrots in a mac and cheese recipe.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Beefy Mac

Adapted from Never Enough Thyme

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of elbow macaroni (the recipe says an 8 ounce package, but half of a 1 pound box works just as well)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 pound ground beef (or a suitable vegetarian alternative, like Morningstar beef crumbles)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 9 x 13 inch dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions.
  3. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray.  Heat it over medium heat, and add onion, carrots, and garlic.
  4. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Add ground beef and brown.  Drain fat if neccessary and return to skillet, along with the vegetables.
  6. Add the tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.  Stir well to combine.
  7. Add macaroni to beef and vegetable mixture, stir, and pour into the 9 by 13 inch pan.
  8. Place flour, remaining salt, and milk into small saucepan.  Whisk until well combined.
  9. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until thickened, whisking constantly.  Add 1 cup of cheese and stir until smooth.
  10. Pour the cheese mixture over the macaroni, and stir to combine.
  11. Top evenly with remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Candyfreak And More Required Cooking

I finished Candyfreak this week, and it was interesting.  It’s written by Steve Almond, and it follows his journey through regional candy factories.  It’s definitely an interesting look at candy, and how the smaller companies are getting edged out by the bigger companies.

You have Nestle, Hershey’s and Mars (the big 3) and then you have everyone else.  I hadn’t even heard of most of the treats mentioned in the book, and it was a little sad to see that the smaller companies are slowly disappearing.  There wasn’t as much history as I thought, because the book focused more on Almond’s stories and experiences with candy.  It was still interesting though.

As for required cooking, I flipped through Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, and found a couple things that looked really good.  There’s this risotto-style barley that looks really good.  And the fried rice millet look really good.  Unfortunately, the millet wasn’t at the grocery store, so I’ll have to look at the local health food store to see if they have it.

I really like how it’s organized.  While it’s not set up in the really cool table format like the other cookbook I looked at, it’s still easy to understand.  Each chapter focuses on a different ingredient, and I can’t wait to look through it some more.

That’s all for today, so have a great weekend!

June: Required Cooking

A lot of people do required reading, so I thought I’d do my take on that, with required cooking.  Or menu planning, if you will.  I like the idea of required cooking.

Here’s what I plan on making this month:

  • Cheesy Beefy Mac, from Never Enough Enough Thyme
  • Browned Butter Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats, from the Joy The Baker cookbook
  • Peanut Butter Birthday Cake (because I never made one for myself last month), from the Joy The Baker Cookbook
  • Simple Vanilla Cupcakes, from the Joy The Baker cookbook
  • Cookie Cheesecake Bars, from Betty Crocker’s Best Baking Recipes magazine
  • Coconut Swirl Brownies, from Betty Crocker’s Best Baking Recipes magazine
  • Chocolate-Glazed Pecan Pie Bars, from Betty Crocker’s Best Baking Recipes magazine

So, right now, it’s focused on baking, because I’m still waiting to pick up Supernatural Cooking by Heidi Swanson from the library, so I’ll be cooking from that cookbook this month.

Speaking of required reading, though, I’m almost finished with Candyfreak, which is an interesting read.  I’ll either post a link to my review or talk about it here when I finish it.  Maybe even both.  I think it’s time to make to sure I have all the ingredients I’ll need, so I’ll have to make a list and head to the store.  It’ll be fun deciding what I should make first.