Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vegetable Casserole

Casseroles are easy to make from nearly nothing. I like to prepare them when I am running low on ingredients. This recipe was created off the cuff and is vegetarian with cheese and mayo, assuming you use vegetarian cheese. (Surprise! Most cheese is made with rennet from the stomachs of baby cows, a byproduct of the veal industry.)

First, I sliced up three stalks of celery. I already had roughly half a cup of chopped onions and chopped red bell pepper. I put all three of these into a casserole dish and scooped on a few hefty spoonfuls of mayonnaise, mixing thoroughly. Over top I shook out a couple handfuls of Italian breadcrumbs followed by a sprinkling of shredded cheese.

I baked this in the oven at 350F for about half an hour. This could be a main dish with more ingredients. I served it with chicken tenders cooked in a pan with herbs.

There you have it. A simple vegetable casserole. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What To Do With Leftover Rice and Vegetables

There are a lot of things you can do with leftover plain white rice that don't involve just heating it up and eating it. You can use it to make homemade fried rice, rice pudding, or, what I made with mine most recently, create a yummy egg scramble. Here is what I did!

First, I had about half a cup of leftover rice, so about a single serving, though this could have fed two if other foods were involved (like turkey bacon and muffins, for example). After putting the rice in my 10" greased frying pan, I added 3 whole eggs and blended the two with a spatula. This is more or less how you make fried rice, by the way.

Next, I added about 1/4 cup of leftover mixed vegetables, 1 mushroom from our oyster mushroom growing kit, and a few splashes of soy sauce for flavor. It is best to cook this on a low or low-medium heat unless you prefer your eggs browned. You also need to keep a close eye on it and keep moving the mash around with a spatula to ensure even cooking in addition to no burning.

That was it. I considered adding this to a tortilla and making a breakfast burrito, but as I said before, I am cutting down on carbs and rice is carby enough.

So I got rid of a few leftovers with this concoction, the rice and the vegetables! I often mix these two leftovers together just on their own, heating them up in the microwave. This was a delicious - and simple! - upgrade. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Homemade Chicken Salad

I've been actively cutting down on carbs lately because traditionally many of my meals have been carb-based, leaving out other important foods like vegetables and protein. Over the last few years I've been pretty good about eating protein and vegetables for dinner. Not so much for my other meals. I did a sugar-free challenge a little while back (which included no dairy - no cheese! - making it extremely hard for me) and lost almost 10 pounds in 5 days. It was incredible! And opened me up to a great number of new foods and ways to eat. 

My favorite thing to eat as a result of my sugar-free challenge is the lettuce wrap. I scoffed at lettuce wraps pretty much since I learned that they were a thing. I grew up being bribed to eat ice burg lettuce which is pretty much the worst thing ever (can't decide if it's above or below lima beans), so building an entire sandwich that would otherwise be delicious around lettuce sounded awful to me. It turns out romaine lettuce is not only a thing, it's actually pretty good, so I decided to give lettuce wraps a try for this challenge. Now I bring them to work almost every day with me for lunch. And bonus - they're gluten free! If you're in need of that.

I was doing the simple deli turkey and hummus wrap, which I still really enjoy. Then I stumbled upon the idea of putting chicken salad (or tuna salad or egg salad) on a piece of lettuce and making a sandwich out of that. The recipe for this chicken salad is my own design. Here you go:

  • 1 can of chunked chicken (or equivalent size of cooked and chunked chicken)
  • a small handful of thinly sliced fresh celery
  • mayonnaise (use as much or as little as you want)
  • a small handful of golden raisins
  • a small handful of walnut baking pieces
  • a dab of mustard of your choice
Stir, stir, stir, et voila. You could, of course, put this on bread, or in a pita pocket, or simply eat it with a fork. I think I both wrapped dollops in lettuce and ate it plain with a fork. It was delicious! The celery and walnuts gave it a nice bit of crunch and the raisins sweetened things up for my sweet tooth. (Yes, raisins have sugar. So if you're doing a no sugar challenge, cut out the raisins.) 

I have used variations of this combination in the past, but this one here I think is the winner. It's too bad I used up the rest of many of these ingredients while making this. I want to eat it again now. I guess it's time to make a shopping list and send Greg back to the store.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Wolverine Grill in Downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan

I don't know if it's out of some vague cultural nostalgia or what, but I have always loved diners. They feature a lot in American culture. Lots of adventures begin and take hiatus in diners, whether real, in art, film, or literature. Nighthawks by Edward Hopper has got to be one of the most recognized paintings in the country (even if you can't name it). 

My friend has been recommending the Wolverine Grill located on Michigan Ave in downtown Ypsilanti for a while now. She goes there every weekend with her husband for breakfast (which I think is adorable, by the way). It's only open for breakfast and lunch, not when I am often free for eating out. My own husband-to-be and I finally managed to find the time last Sunday! Greg and I rarely have days off together, so it was beyond a treat to be able to sleep in together then lazily get breakfast out before getting on with house stuff and packing for Greg's camping trip to Pennsic (without me - I can't afford the time off). 

The Wolverine Grill is truly fantastic. Greg ordered the Giant French Toast which comes with a meat of your choice and 2 eggs ("no toast or potatoes"). I think he enjoyed it. I was a little distracted by the Special that I ordered in honor of the Summer Beer Festival, the "Beer-Fest Inspired Patty Sausage Gravy Bowl: 2 Patty Sausage with Beer-Infused Sausage Gravy Piled on Top of Wolverine Potatoes. 2 Eggs Over Medium AND More Gravy. All in The Bowl. Multi-Grain Toast." It. Was. Glorious. And I totally missed the part about specials being accompanied by a little cup of yogurt and fresh fruit and a shooter of "Apple OR Orange OR V-8 OR Cranberry Juice OR Strawberry Basil and Jalapeno Lemonade OR Cold-Press Coffee." And a mini cupcake.


Lest you think that I have jumped on the Red Velvet OMG bandwagon, allow me to correct you. I have liked red velvet since before it was called red velvet and I was a small child. My grandmother, who called it Waldorf Astoria cake, used to make it on special occasions. It was the best part of family reunions, in my ever so humble opinion. I don't know why it has become a sudden fad (and traded names), but I really don't mind. My grandmother has been gone for about ten years now, and having memories of her surface every time I walk into a bakery, donut shop, or the frozen food aisle is wonderful. I don't remember Grandma cooking very much (she stopped when my grandfather retired because she had done her time as homemaker) so my memory of the cake she made is that much sweeter.

As for the juice shooter, I went with the strawberry basil lemonade, which I found quite refreshing. The yogurt fruit cup was also a great way to end a rather heavy meal (yes, I saved it for last). The cupcake was almost too much. Almost. The toast definitely was. Greg ate one, so that it wasn't a total waste. I hate throwing away perfectly good food.

I have to mention the music, too. Classic motown! My parents listened to a lot of motown while I was growing up (because Michigan), so I knew almost every song that played. Loved it! The staff was also friendly and attentive. Overall, the Wolverine Grill just has a great atmosphere.

Oh, and one more thing before I close this entry. Most of the way through our meal, I noticed three people enter, a young woman and two young men wearing fairy wings. Greg was not facing the door, so amidst our conversation I said, "Two fairies just walked in." And because this was Ypsilanti, close neighbor of Ann Arbor, where fairies abound, he didn't bother to turn and look. Later, when he saw them himself as they frolicked down the street, he realized what I had meant and was amused.

Such a great welcome to our new home! The Wolverine Grill and fairies. Such is my life.