Bulgur Wheat With Veggies

Exotic grains are all the rage in many cookbooks and magazines these days. The most mainstream of these new trendy grains is quinoa which seems to pop up everywhere. I remember a couple of years ago trying to find amaranth because my husband had read about it in Men’s Health. I ended up having to buy some at a Whole Foods several miles from where we live. Now, you can find it in some of the organic baby food pouches.

Honestly, I haven’t cared for most of these trendy grains. The very thought of grains conjures up thoughts of lumpy, gray porridge that takes forever to cook. So, I haven’t branched out much in the grains area.

Last week thought, my friend Candace and I participated in another Cooking Club as part of our university’s wellness program. (You may recall our previous adventure making a tofu stir fry, if not you can read about it here.) Each cooking team received a recipe to try along with a grain to prepare. Our grain was bulgur.

Bulgur was definitely not something that I was rushing out to try. It doesn’t even sound good. Say it….bul-gur. Doesn’t inspire a lot of interest, does it?

However, I soon found I had misjudged this grain. It cooked quickly, and the end result reminded me a lot of a fried rice dish. In fact, I can see me sautéing some onion, tossing in some peas and carrots with a splash of soy sauce and broth, and making sort of a Mock Fried Rice. Reading up on bulgur later, I found that it’s high in protein and fiber with a higher nutritional content than rice. So, it’s definitely worth subbing in for rice when you can. I’ve already pinned a couple of bulgur recipes, and look forward to trying more of this healthy grain.

 Bulgur with Veggies

1 onion (medium, chopped)
1 cup broccoli (chopped)
1 cup carrot (shredded)
1/3 cup fresh parsley (chopped, or 2 Tablespoons dried)
1 teaspoon coconut or canola oil
1 1/2 cups bulgur (dry)
2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
8 ounces chickpeas (canned, drained)

Directions

Wash and chop fresh onion, broccoli, carrots, and parsley (if using fresh parsley).
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook until soft.
Add bulgur and stir to coat. Add 2 cups chicken broth to the skillet, bring to a boil.
Lower the heat, add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
Add parsley and stir. Serve warm or cold.

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“I Want To Marry You” Cookies

The holidays are over and many of us are trying to move past all of the cookies, cakes,  and candy we ate. But I can’t move forward without paying my respects to a new cookie recipe that I found. And loved.

Our office hosts a cookie exchange each year. In the weeks (ok, months. Ok, we’re already planning this year’s) leading up to it, we talk a lot about cookies. We look for cookies online. We remember fondly cookies of past Christmas seasons.

I had a short list of cookies/treats that I was considering for this year’s exchange. Then I scrapped the whole list when I found this recipe on The Cooking Channel’s website. There were several reasons that it appealed to me. 1) It looked easy. 2) It looked tasty and 3) I had almost everything on hand to make it.

I really wanted to change the name though. I even posed the question to my Fb friends. Suggestions included “Double Chocolate Oatmeal Delights”, “Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em Cookies” “I’m Already Taken Cookies”, and “Happily Ever  After Cookies”. Since I’m already married, I considered “So Good He Put a Ring On It Cookies”. I also kept thinking of that old episode of Designing Women where the girls sing “Wedding Bell Blues” so I kind of wanted to call these “Come On and Marry Me Bill Cookies”. But my husband isn’t Bill and we do work in the same building, so I didn’t want to start any rumors.

So, I didn’t rename the cookies. Pardon me for just putting you through a pointless story.

The cookies are a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and an oatmeal cookie. I really enjoyed them, and they were all claimed at the cookie exchange. It’s definitely a keeper recipe.

  

 I Want to Marry You Cookies

1 cup butter

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 cup uncooked rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter completely over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until sugars are incorporated and smooth. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Remove from the refrigerator and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Add the flour, oats, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and mix together.

Stir in both kinds of chips. 

Roll by hand into 24 medium-size balls or use a scoop, and chill for 30 minutes. You can place your dough balls on a cookie sheet to do this, or you can do what I did,  which was to layer them in a bowl with wax paper between each layer. 

Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Getting Organized For the New Year: The Food Pantry

Happy New Year!

I’m sharing something with you all that may forever change your opinion of me. You may judge me harshly, or drop your phone in horror.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I’m going to show you what my food pantry looked like prior to December 30.

  I know, I know. Let me explain…although I have no excuse to offer really.

Three years ago, we did a pretty major renovation of our kitchen and added in some new cabinets and this pantry for food. For awhile, it was neat and organized. Then I got pregnant.  And had said baby. And any chance of being organized again seemed a pipe dream.

I knew it was bad but I didn’t realize how bad until I took that picture and began to tackle the problem. I’ve been following FlyLady on social media and I really like her philosophy of doing chores in short increments. So, I set the timer on my phone to 15 minutes, rolled up my sleeves and tackled the pantry.

Maybe it was knowing that I only had 15 minutes to work. Maybe it was the determination. Maybe it was the sheer horrid conditions of it all. But I got the lower two shelves cleared out and reshaped with 29 seconds to go. And all of this was thrown away:

  Honestly, some of it was probably ok. Do steel cut oats really ever go bad? But I decided to toss anything that was expired whether it was truly inedible or not. True to the FlyLady philosophy, I walked away from that project and folded up some towels. But I was on such a mission and was so pleased with my progress…that I went back and set the timer again for another 15 minutes and tackled the top shelf.

This one took longer because it was mostly cans that I had to rearrange. I sorted out vegetables/beans from soup/prepared food. Sadly, I had about a dozen outdated cans that had to be pitched. I felt wasteful and disappointed in myself.

I was proud though of the finished effort.

  Back when I first added the pantry, I bought some small trays to keep spices in. Whether it was a Pinterest idea or a tip from a friend, I can’t remember but I got the idea to do one small tray strictly for spaghetti seasonings since that it’s the most frequent and consistent dish that I make that uses a variety of spices. I’d gotten so off track though that I’d let my little tray get filled with a hodgepodge of stuff. No more! The spaghetti tray is back.

  It may sound silly but this organized pantry has been a game changer this past week. I can actually find things. I made spaghetti and didn’t have to stand on my head to find the seasonings. (I also realized I need onion powder-so that’s on the grocery list). I prepped overnight oats since the oats, cinnamon and walnuts were so easy to reach. I feel like I can make a meaningful grocery list since it’s easy to check my inventory now.

I share this not to just expose my slob ways but also to encourage. If you have a problem spot in your house, don’t just shut the door on it. Set your timer and charge ahead. You might be shocked at what fifteen minutes can do!

 

 

Wrapping Up Christmas

See what I did there?

This is the final installment of my posts about using FlyLady’s Christmas Control Journal to take charge of the holidays. Previous installments can be found here, here and here

 Christmas 2015 is over. Kaput. And even though I still don’t have all of my decorations put away, I’m sad to see it go. No wonder some people start decorating right after Halloween; the season just isn’t long enough.

Our Christmas was wonderful. Lots of food, lots of laughs and especially lots of love. My son just turned 2 in October so he really didn’t get a lot of what was going on. We did what we could: watched a lot of Christmas Mickey, ate a lot of cookies, and tried to get him interested in opening gifts.  He particularly enjoyed the cookie part but I’m not sure he really cared about the rest of it.

How did I hold up? Pretty well actually. My stress level stayed low and I think being organized with the help of my journal can take the credit for that. We hosted a very nice meal for my family on Saturday and I was even organized enough to take ingredients with me to make a dip for the family gathering at my in-laws later that week. We didn’t have any last minute gift grabs. I did drop the ball in two areas though: pets and dressing for travel.

I completely blanked on making sure our cats had enough kibble for while we were out of town. This resulted in my husband having to make a mad Christmas Eve dash to Kroger before we left town. Not a disaster by any means but it could have been avoided with better planning. Better make a pet column in my journal for next year!

The second misstep was not packing enough clothes for travel. I way overpacked for my son and under packed for myself somehow. The fact that it was unseasonably warm this Christmas didn’t help; the stuff I did pack for me was way too warm. My husband wore shorts for Christmas dinner, for crying out loud! Thankfully, my sister in law had an extra short sleeve Christmas shirt which saved the day. The Journal had a page for travel planning but I just didn’t put the thought into what I packed for me. Next year, I’ll do better.

Basically, I feel like keeping a journal was a tremendous help to me and it’s something I plan to continue. If you feel overwhelmed by the holidays, I’d highly recommend giving it a try for yourself.

 

 

 

 

Honey Roasted Roasted Brussels Sprouts

If there is a list somewhere of the most hated and feared vegetables, I would venture to say that the Brussels sprout is on the list. And in my opinion, it’s very undeserved. I didn’t grow up eating Brussels sprouts; in fact, it was only a few years ago that I event tried them. Shortly after that fateful first meeting, I introduced them to my parents who liked them as well. Now, they have become an occasional side dish at my annual Christmas dinner.

My go-to method of preparing them was to simply toss them in some olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast them. I think any veggie is tasty fixed like that. But when I saw this recipe on Money Saving Mom, I knew I had to try it. The dried cranberries give a festive look that is perfect for your holiday meal or any meal of the year.

I prepared this dish this year at my Christmas dinner and it was the first time that a couple of family members had tried Brussels sprouts. And guess what? They asked for the recipe. Yep, they are that good.

IMG_3079

Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. Brussels Spouts, trimmed, cut in half and washed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350.

Put the Brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour the oil over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and season.

Put a single layer on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Roast for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees — until tender and edges are starting to brown.

Take cookie sheet out of the oven and drizzle  sprouts with honey and sprinkle with cranberries and almonds. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes — or until warmed through.

Serves 4 to 6.

Weekly Check In: Heading Into the Ho Ho Homestretch

This is the latest in a series of posts about my efforts in using FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal. You can read previous posts here and here.

By the time this posts, it will be one week from Christmas Day. And I feel like I have the heavy lifting of Christmas behind me. Gift buying is basically done. The work week is nearly over. Time to kick back and just ENJOY the holidays.

What a concept, eh?

This past Saturday, I met my two best girl friends for our annual Christmas lunch. We exchanged gifts-and I actually felt good about what I bought them for a change. I also had them purchased and bagged well in advance of our lunch. None of that last minute oh-my-gosh-I’ve-got-to-find-a-gift-by-tomorrow business. We had an amazing meal at a local place then walked around the downtown area and browsed in some boutiques. The weather was unseasonably warm-70s!-and it was just a great day to be out and about.

 On Monday, my husband and I delivered shoes to our local Chevy dealership who organizes a shoe drive each year for local kids. I also made the service department fudge. Both of these things were on my list, and I had marked the due date for shoe delivery on my calendar.  Score!

On Wednesday, it was sushi with another dear friend. I had completely dropped the ball on her Christmas gifts the past two years. One year was possibly excusable since I was home with a newborn but last year I had no excuse. This year she was on my Journal list of gifts to buy and I had a custom made ornament for her to celebrate her engagement. Score!

Thursday was our office cookie exchange. I made a list of possible treats in my Journal, narrowed those down based on time, effort and ingredients, and ended up going with a new cookie recipe that was totally out of the blue. I had considered also making Dreamsicle Fudge but decided two treats on a work night might be pushing it.

This weekend, I will host my side of the family for our Christmas dinner. This is something that we’ve done for several years because we travel to my husband’s family for the actual holiday. So, I guess the last Christmas challenge will be getting my house in order and getting a meal on the table. I’ve had the menu plan made out in my journal for a while now as well as the grocery list and I’ve already bought a few things. I’ll update on that in my next installment.

Hope your holidays are as smooth as fudge!

 

Aunt T’s 3 Cheese Cheese Ball

I love cheese ball. It is a strong weakness of mine. Cheese ball is very popular in this area and shows up often at get togethers of all sorts. It’s especially likely to be seen during the holidays. This particular recipe is one that my sister-in-law (known as Aunt T to my son) makes each year for our Christmas Eve festivities. It’s vegetarian which makes it a good office option. You can roll it in nuts or extra cheese, or you could divide in half and roll one ball in each for some variety. Either way, get the ball rolling and make one for your holiday get together!

 3 Cheese Cheese Ball

2 8 0z packages of cream cheese, softened

1 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup of shredded American cheese (Velveeta shreds)

1 tablespoon of Worstershire sauce

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Nuts or extra cheese for rolling

Combine all ingredients (you’ll have to use your hands and it will get messy) and form into a ball. Roll in either nuts or extra cheese. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with choice of crackers. I like Ritz or Socialables (my mother in law’s pick).