Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rockin' Tacos

While grocery shopping tonight, I walked down the international food aisle and thought of how long it had been since I'd eaten a taco. Mmm. Since I'm doing the vegetarian thing, I thought I'd try MorningStar Farms Meal Starters.

What you need:
  • MorningStar Farms Meal Starters (crumbled "beef" or "chicken" strips)
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Taco Shells
  • Your favorite taco "supplies" (mine included red leaf lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese)
What you do:
  • Put taco shells in oven or toaster oven on low heat to warm.
  • Add desired amount of Meal Starter to a frying pan and add taco seasoning; brown.
  • Chop up your taco ingredients.
  • Pile in and enjoy!
These were probably some of the BEST tacos I've ever eaten! The Meal Starter has a great flavor!

Afternoon Delight

Needin' a little caffeine and something sweet! Nonfat vanilla latte and a piece of cake :)

Oh my!

Yesterday I read a blog posting about a place I adore - Costa Rica. I went there during the summer of 2006 and will be returning again this May. The author of the blog mentioned someone handing her a banana and avocado smoothie while she was on the beach. Pause. Think. Banana and avocado...hmmm....that sounds...delightful?


I have been needing a grocery shopping trip and since I put it off yesterday, I grabbed what I could for lunch today: an avocado ( meat or fish!). When I got to work I saw that I'd left a banana from yesterday. Ta-da!

Seriously, these flavors are AMAZING together. The avocado has such a light flavor and smooth texture, and the banana has a grainy(ish) texture and a sweet taste.

Just chop 'em up and mix on a plate! This weekend I'm going to try a smoothie with yogurt.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Caffeine Kick

Some days just call for a warm vanilla latte to calm you down in the afternoon...

My favorite place to go is a local coffee company that roasts its own beans. The espresso and coffee is fresh and it makes a WORLD of difference. I avoid coffee chains whenever possible. They can be stingy in their quantities (such as flavored syrup) and sometimes have a burned flavor to their beans or overheated milk. Support your local businesses, especially now :) You'll be thankful you did when you get a better quality product in return.

Personal Pizzas

Who doesn't love pizza? Okay...until I was in 3rd grade, I did not. But now I do and I love to make my own at home. The day I made this I was running late while getting ready for work, so I did not have time to make my own dough that morning to let it rise during the day. Instead, I went to the grocery store during my lunch break and picked up a package of Boboli pizza crusts so that I could make dinner right away when I was home. I've been making a lot of meals with shortcuts lately, and I don't feel like they are any less "homemade" because of that. Making your own dinner doesn't have to be a multi-hour prep-and-cook ordeal.

These ingredients were for 2 personal-sized pizzas.

What you need:
  • 1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Personal-sized pizza crusts
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 Bell pepper
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Oregano
  • Garlic cloves (enough for your personal taste)
What you do:
  • On each crust, drizzle a little olive oil.
  • Mince 2 cloves of garlic (on the heavier end of garlic flavor) per pizza and add minced garlic to the sauce or sprinkle on top of sauce; spoon desired amount of sauce onto each pizza crust and spread.
  • Slice one Roma tomato per pizza and add enough slices to cover crust.
  • Sprinkle Oregano or other desired seasonings.
  • Add cheese.
  • On one pizza I added slices of 1/2 the bell pepper.
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees and bake the pizzas for about 14 minutes. If cheese needs extra time to melt, put under the broiler.


Sopapillas are a tasty Spanish treat to get your sweet fix. I remember learning how to make them in a middle school Spanish class, and since then this has been a favorite dessert. Getting homemade Sopapillas at a Mexican restaurant often will result in having the puffed pastries. They are a little more difficult to make that way at home, so here is an easy shortcut.

What you need:
  • Tortillas
  • Oil for frying
  • Cinnamon and Sugar (mixed)
  • Honey (optional)
  • Ice Cream (optional)
What you do:
  • Cut the tortillas into quarters, then cut the quarters in half - this makes 8 triangles per tortilla. Use as many tortillas as necessary for amount of people eating.
  • Cover the bottom of a frying pan with oil and have a plate ready with a paper towel covering it to soak some of the oil after cooking.
  • Add the tortilla triangles to the hot oil; flip. They will puff a little bit from the heat. Remove from oil and place on paper towel.
  • Sprinkle hot tortilla triangles with cinnamon and sugar.
  • After all tortilla triangles are cooked and covered with cinnamon and sugar, put on serving plates, drizzle with honey and add ice cream

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Healthy Start

Yesterday I did a quick pick-up of some healthy and necessary items - Arnold's Flax & Fiber bread (no high fructose corn syrup), organic skim milk, apples, sugar free blackberry preserves, organic fat-free vanilla yogurt, crunchy natural peanut butter (only ingredient? PEANUTS), low-fat cheeses and this oatmeal:

The brand is Old Wessex Ltd. and I picked it up in what I like to refer to as the "hippie" section of my local grocery store - quite frankly, my favorite part to pick up the essentials. I often just grab the Quaker Instant from the breakfast aisle, but this caught my eye. It's a 5-grain oatmeal containing oats, rye, triticale, barley and golden flax. It has no salt, sugar, additives, preservatives and is cholesterol free. As simple as the idea is, it's increasingly difficult to find foods that contain ONLY the ingredients that are essential to what it is. For example, looking for a jam or preserve to buy was a little scary. There were inumerable unpronouncable ingredients - in preserves! If you ask me (and any grandma who makes them in her kitchen) all you need is fruit. What a shocker, hmm? The truth of the matter is, most food companies and the FDA aren't looking out for you as best they should, so you've got to look out for yourself. Carefully read the ingredients. If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Put it back on the shelf and find something else. Some of the brands that stay true to ingredients are a little more expensive, so pick and choose what your budget allows and buy the most important ones.

What you need:
  • Quick cooking oatmeal (this one is unflavored - just the grains)
  • Water
  • Flavorings of your choice (fresh fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, etc. - remember that you are starting with a very healthy base, so don't junk it up by adding lots of sugar, as tasty as it may be. Keep it healthy!)
What you do:
  • Cook oatmeal according to directions on container
  • Add in your flavorings (I stirred in a hearty spoonful of local honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon to give a healthy sweetness.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out - but not first thing in the morning. I'm usually not in the mood for any sort of food until 10 a.m. or so, which means I don't eat breakfast out at breakfast time that often. The next best thing is to make breakfast for dinner! This is another great budget meal, especially if you catch any of your meal components on sale or have inexpensive produce markets.

What you need:
  • Eggs (brown, cage free, vegetarian fed)
  • Cheese (I like to use American or shredded Mexican for eggs)
  • Butter (Smart Balance with Flax Oil vegan "butter")
  • Milk or cream
  • Season-All Seasoned Salt and Garlic Powder
  • English Muffins
  • Potatoes (I chose Yukon Gold)
  • Fruit
Note: Today I found a twin-pack of English Muffins on sale at the grocery store for $1.50 - more than 50% off the regular price. Since it is just me, I put one package in the freezer for later use. I'll be able to use the rest in time. There are several produce markets in the area and one, Produce Junction, sells a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes for $2. I can't remember how many pounds of potatoes were in the bag, but the quantity was about 15 medium-sized potatoes. My fruit is an orange - fresh from my grandparents' yard in Florida. Every winter they send me a box of fresh oranges and grapefruit - yum! This is also a super-simple version of making potatoes, using many short-cuts.

What you do:
  • Prepare the potatoes first, since they take the longest. I used two potatoes. Scrub, pierce several times with a fork, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 5 minutes to soften. Slice the potatoes and put on a sprayed toaster oven sheet. Spray the potatoes and sprinkle with Season-All and garlic powder. Put in the toaster oven under the broiler until golden brown; flip.
  • I make my scrambled eggs in the microwave for lighter, fluffier eggs. Spray a glass bowl, crack the egg into it, add about a teaspoon of milk (I'm out, so I used half-and-half) and your cheese, then whip with a fork. Microwave for 1 minute, whip again, and microwave for another 30 seconds - all done!
  • Toast and butter the English Muffin
  • Slice the fruit

Summer Lovin'

It has been very chilly in Philly and my approaching trip to Costa Rica (105 days - thank you iGoogle countdown) has me dreaming of warm weather. Growing up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, summer meant fresh, local seafood in grocery stores and any restaurant on the beach. Here in Philly, beggars can't be choosers, but I was in the mood for shrimp. To me, shrimp and tropical fruits go perfect together. My favorite is pineapple - I could probably eat an entire pineapple in one sitting if I were left alone with it ;) Here was my shrimp dinner on a budget - so filling I fell asleep for an hour after I finished it!

From the store:

1/2 pound of medium shrimp - on sale for $4.99/lb.
small can of pineapple chunks, on sale for $.94

From home:

generous helping of Old Bay seasoning
butter for melting and dipping shrimp

What you do:

  • A common mistake is to add the Old Bay and shrimp to the pot of water at the same time, then boil. Here's a hint: add your Old Bay seasoning and boil water for 10 minutes - then add the shrimp and cook until pink.
  • Melt the butter in a microwave-safe glass dish for 10 seconds at a time so it doesn't get too hot and splatter - cleaning out a greasy microwave is not me.
  • Drain the pineapple