Recipe for Easy Cooking…and Life

I realize that as I’ve gotten older, reading a recipe is of little interest to me.  In my younger years I collected cookbooks, read them and couldn’t wait to try the recipes.  It was fun, and I now have quite the collection of books…displayed nicely on my book Book caseshelves.  My Southern Living collection still has to be my favorite, even though it is quite out of date compared to the new cookbooks coming out now.  My pies and cakes cookbook stoolare all a variation of something from Southern Living, still the best tasting recipes around.

Now cooking is about how I feel, what my tastes are at that moment and what my body needs.  It can also reflect what is in the fridge or pantry at the moment.   How will it work together to make a great, nourishing, satisfying meal?  Simple is the main ingredient.  After a day at work, or just being out and about for the day, sometimes cooking is the last thing of interest.  But, for me, it’s a better alternative to going out.  So…simple, quick and delicious are my main focus.  That seems to be what life is about for me now too.  Just like cooking, life has gotten less complicated.  I enjoy the small simple things, just taking in this moment.   I realize that all of the prep for a meal, that I used to think was the only way, is just time consuming.  As with decisions and plans in life.  They don’t need to be prepared and contemplated over for hours.   You’ll never get to the meal…the nourishment…the satisfying experiences of living.   

I heard someone say that when roasting an onion, he puts it in the oven skin and all.  Comes out the same and the skin peels right off without the hassle…and tears.  I’ve found the same to be true with most of my vegetables that have a skin.  Spaghetti  and Butternut Squash are perfect examples.  They go straight on the sheet pan, in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour and, once cooled enough to touch, cut open, discard the seed and you have an easy to work with ingredient.  So simple.  root veggies

The ingredients for life, just as simple.   If we don’t explore and take the risk, we sit and do nothing.  There is nothing complicated about that.  Try a new food today, try a new adventure today.  When I turned 60, I made a conscious effort to start doing things I’d never experienced before.  That birthday I went paddle boarding.  Living in Charleston, I saw it everywhere.  Why had I not done that before?  What fun I had been missing.  That year I moved to a place I knew nothing about.  The only things that were certain were that it was time for me to move and I needed a welcome change of scenery.  The mountains were definitely a change from the beach.  Not sure this is forever, but that will make itself clear when necessary.  So simple.  

Sixty one was brought in by a whitewater rafting adventure.  Never tried it, but so much fun.  The decision was easy.  I’m in the mountains, so why wouldn’t I?!  If we take notice of the great things around us, these adventures take shape on their own.  Nothing complicated about it.  Same with the wonderful foods around us.  There are new things to try always.  I never had Brussels Sprouts until I was 55 years old.  Now it is a regular Okrain my meal menus.  And oh, so simple to prepare.  This is one that you let cook itself, whether roasting, sauteing or even caramelizing.  Not even completely necessary to cut, just put on or in a pan, a bit of seasoning, and let it go.  Okra was the same for me.  A late in life find, but easy to prepare in so many ways.  And yes, it is one that can be cooked whole, without any preparation.  Why wouldn’t you try it?!    I have just discovered celeriac, or celery root.  A sweet root vegetable from the celery family, but cultivated mostly for the root.  Again, cook whole and work with it after cooked.  Adds a celery like flavor to your meal, but a bit sweeter.

I’m not sure most culinary experts would agree with my methods of cooking.  I don’t cook from a technical side, but from a savor the moment, and the food approach. Savor life’s moments the same. There are so many easy and flavorful foods to choose from, to explore.  As there are so many wonderful and exciting adventures around us to explore.  Take advantage of both.  When we cook, it is so rewarding to enjoy the meal created.  When we explore, the rewards are endless.  It’s amazing how the simple things in life can be the most rewarding. What makes your life more simple?  What changes have you noticed in your routine, or cooking habits?  Have you tried a new food or adventure lately?  Take care of you.  Enjoy life, as well as a good meal…simply put!

 

Celeriac and Cauliflower Mash

1 Celeriac Root, peeled

1 Head of Cauliflowerceleriac mash

1-2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

½ t Ginger, ground or fresh

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Place celeriac, cauliflower and garlic on roasting pan.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Rough chop celeriac and cauliflower and put in food processor, along with garlic.  Add ginger, salt and pepper and process until completely blended.  This is served in a Spaghetti Squash Bowl.

Until next time..

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

 

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The Great Salad Quest

To know me is to know that my obsession with salads is borderline absurd.  Ask my family or close friends!  There is nothing better to me than a great, well thought out, memorable salad.  One that is full of healthy, yummy ingredients that make me want to keep eating after every morsel is gone.  Packed with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seasonal options and a variety of greens to nourish every part of my body, and then some!  Where all of the ingredients marry together to make me want to come back again and again.  You see, a salad can be just as satisfying, filling and enjoyable as any other item on the menu, whether cooking at home or dining out.  So…Therein lies my dilemma.IMG_20170630_141324_880

When the subject of going out to eat comes up, the first question is, of course, where do you want to go?  The next 15 or 20 minutes are occupied by extensive due diligence, trying to locate a mouthwatering salad on many menus filled with burgers, pasta, seafood delights and other trendy, although I’m sure, delicious items.  The salad is never thought of as a main dish, never as many choices, and sometimes overlooked all together.  So, again, where do you want to go?  More times than not, the final answer is the grocery store and I’ll cook something at home.  

Likewise, when you read reviews of restaurants or a new restaurant opens in town, the judgement is always on the main meat, pasta or specialty item of the establishment.  There may be a slight mention of a yummy side salad, something to start your meal, but generally focus is on the spectacular entree.  My conclusion…the salad lover is out of luck when it comes to enjoying a night out!

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Well, have no fear, salad lovers!  I am here for you.  My quest is to explore, pursue and taste test salads of all varieties: around town, or around the state, take out, when I travel, or if you have any suggestions!  I know I am not the only one…have you ever explored Pinterest, Instagram or other social media sites?  I find some of the most mouth watering salads in pictures and know that they are out there in the food world to discover.  We should be able to go out to eat and finish our salad with the same full belly as the meat lover – only not as uncomfortable!  Please, don’t misunderstand, I am a meat eater.  I enjoy a great chicken, pork or seafood dinner with the best of them!  When eating out, though, I tend to head straight to the salad section of the menu.  There are several reasons for this.  One of the biggest is that there is always too much food on a the main entrees and usually ingredients that I tend not to eat.  Therefore a salad is the perfect choice.

While this may not be a world changing dilemma, it has caught my attention and curiosity.  Over the next coming weeks, months, or however long it takes, I will be in search of the menus with outstanding, healthy, unique, vibrant, well thought out salads to share with you.  I will be keeping a journal and share my thoughts, critiques and yummy factor for all that I taste.  Sometimes you just want a great salad, and I will let you know where to find just that.  Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest at Ann E’s Perfect Portions and we will discover what’s out there together.  If you have had a salad you can’t forget, please let me know.  I’d like to add it, and try it.

Stay tuned for a must try…or sometimes maybe not try…directory of unforgettable and nutritious salads.  I am excited about this journey and look forward to sharing my findings.

Eat well, and until next time…

Embrace your age! It’s who you are

Where do You Shop? Do You Have a Favorite, or Shop Around?

I finished up what I wanted to accomplish before work this morning, leaving me with questions about why and where others shop.

Date-Nut Butter was on my to do list.  Needing to pick up some dates for this yesterday, I decided to give Aldi’s a try.  I keep hearing people talk about how much they love it.  I’ve been in a few times and walked out, not really getting the big deal.  The first thing as you walk in the door is an entire aisle of chips, candy and other bagged and processed items.  I also don’t do well with warehouse shopping.  It feels like a Rack Room for food.  The out of date items, the brands that no one can sell, sitting on the shelves for who knows how long.  I’m NOT saying that’s true…just feels that way to me.   But, yesterday I was going to see what I could purchase!  I found some trail mix selections.  Different nut and seed varieties.  I like to buy a couple of different ones and mix them together.  Price wasn’t bad.  Ok…first purchase.  Next, I found spicy mustard.  I needed some, and it looked as good as any.  The produce didn’t look too bad.  I found my dates.  They were Medjool, although the price wasn’t any better than Trader Joe’s.  But freshness is the most important element.  Let’s try them.  That was about all I needed, so that would be my first buying experience with Aldi’s.  As for other warehouse stores, I’ve tried Sam’s with no luck, but never been in Costco.  I know they are loved by many, so call me crazy!

I opened the nuts when I got home.  These were nuts I would use in my Date-Nut Butter as well as make my own trail mix.  They weren’t as fresh tasting as I’ve had, but mixed in with other things, probably wouldn’t make much difference.  This morning I used them for my nut butter.  After processing them in the food processor, it was time to add the dates.  Definitely not as fresh as Trader Joe’s.  Some were hard to cut open in order to remove the pit.  Some were fine.  I added my warm water and turned on the processor.  Gonna need a little more water to get these to break down.  Fresh dates don’t need too much added water, but these were a little harder.  Again, making me wonder how long they had been packaged.  I added the water, got things mixed and processed.  Date-Butter ready.  The taste was good, I can’t complain about that.  Not feeling like I’m eating fresh ingredients, I can question.  It didn’t seem like the price savings was great enough to compromise quality.

Which brings us to the many other choices out there.  I have mostly been a Harris Teeter shopper.  I find their rotisserie chickens to be the best, and I usually feel pretty good about their produce.  Like most places now, you can opt for organic or not.  They have the best deal on kale…large bunch that seems to be fresher than anywhere I’ve shopped and a great price.  I was never a Trader Joe’s shopper until my daughter started working there.  It was nice, of course, for the discount, but I also found out what the fuss was about.   Everything is good quality and usually at a very good price.  I now only buy my meats and eggs there.  And…as you well know…dates!  I also find their nuts to be fresh and reasonably priced and I love their bags of already prepared produce.  If you hate the preparation of vegetables, this is the way to go!  I am such a fan of the cauliflower rice.  It’s so versatile and adds a great texture to any dish.  I use it as a side dish, or add other ingredients and make a meal of it.  So simple and ready in no time.  That’s a great one for  a “too tired to cook” night.  Throw in a few of the already 20170526_184432prepared veggies and you have supper before even thinking about how going out might be a good idea.

I do occasionally try the higher end stores.  Whole Foods has some good choices and sometimes you can find a good price or a sale that will make you glad you came in!  Fresh Market is a beautiful store, but I only shop there when I’m feeling a bit extravagant!  Where is your favorite?  I think we all gravitate to one place as our go to, maybe venturing in another on occasion.  I’ve tried most in my area – oh, I left out Ingles.  Never knew of them until moving to this area.  I do find them expensive and some things are very questionable.  They are a last resort for me, but will go if needed.

I don’t think most people like to shop around, it can be very time consuming.  But, after years of looking for the best deals, watching all of these stores evolve and wanting the freshest quality at a reasonable price, I feel like I know exactly where to go to get what I need.  Funny, but it actually makes shopping easier.  If I know what I’m after, I can go right to that store and I’m done.  No shopping around, wandering through the aisles, or wondering if I got the best deal.  So, although I may travel to different places, it has, for me, become a time saver!  What are you looking for in a store?  Do you shop around, or stick with what’s close?

How about a Cauliflower Rice vegetarian dinner tonight?

Easy Vegetarian Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Rice

1 Bag Snow Peas

1 Pint Heirloom Grape Tomatoes

1 Red Pepper, chopped

1 Red Onion, diced

2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped20170526_190926

1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

Juice for 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic.  Sprinkle vegetables with a pinch of salt.  Turn heat to medium/low.  When onions are a bit translucent, add tomatoes and red pepper.  Let cook 3-4 minutes and add snow peas, stirring into other vegetables.  Cook 3-4 minutes and stir in garbanzo beans.  Add cauliflower rice last, along with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Stir to incorporate all of ingredients.  Let cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Serve with sliced avocado.  It is a meal in itself!  Mix it with chicken or salmon the next night, and you have a completely new meal.  Enjoy!

Until next time –

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!

I’m Too Tired to Cook, but I Don’t Want to Go Out…

When I lived in Charleston, the one big question of visitors to the Holy City was “Where should we eat?”  Such a great question in such an incredible foodie town!  There is a charlestonrestaurant on every corner and in each building in between.  Rest assured that if one closes today, there will be one in line and ready to open tomorrow.  It’s almost like the line at Home Goods, each customer waiting for the cashier to yell “Next”!  How could you not find a place?  Problem is, I am the wrong person to answer that kind of question…   Eating out is not my thing, even in a town with so many fabulous choices.

 

Going out to eat is one of the most frustrating activities I seem to encounter.  There are too many decisions involved, and I can’t ever seem to resolve them.  Many a night on my way home from work, I would think grabbing a bite out would be a great idea.  So, I’d call my daughter and start the process.  And it was a process…where should we eat, what do you feel like eating, that’s really expensive, I’m too tired to go back out…the list was endless.  And, after 30 minutes of deliberation, we would always realize that what we felt like eating, what was the least time consuming, what was most cost effective and where we should go, turned out to be a meal at home.  Truth be told, I’d rather eat my own cooking anyway, since I know from whence it came!

 

Much to most people’s disbelief, cooking at home is the easiest solution to that satisfying dinner after a long day.  You know what you are putting in your body, dinner can be made, eaten and cleaned up faster than going out, you certainly don’t have to change or freshen up to eat at home, definitely less expensive, and by far the healthiest choice.  Don’t get me wrong, a nice meal out with good company, when I’m looking forward to it, is a lot of fun.  And a spontaneous night out can wake up a boring week.  That’s what the eating experience should be…fun, enjoyable and savored.  But for the night after a long day, I hear many folks say that it’s too much trouble to cook for one or two.  I do it every night and find it much easier than going out.  My routine is usually to come home, a nice long walk with my little furry friend, maybe water the plants or take care of something

kipper at craggy
Kipper

 else that needs attention around the house and then prepare my meal.  I do, sometimes, think I don’t feel like going through the motions of preparation, but once I have put the day behind me and start the process, I rather enjoy it.  As I  start getting a feel for the direction of the meal, putting it together is very satisfying.  On most occasions I have enough for leftovers and I feel like I’ve treated myself to a wonderful night out if I dine on the patio. If my daughter is home, nothing is more fun than preparing a meal together.  And the benefits of a  meal prepared with love and fun are far greater than any restaurant can offer.

 

I have since moved to Asheville, another foodie town, and nothing has changed.  Although the thought of stopping to get something on the way home, or going out to grab a bite still enters my head, I find myself continuing to enjoy my meals at home.  Many weeks I’ll pick a day and cook some things for that night as well as the week ahead.  My

roasted chicken
Lemon Roasted Chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet

favorite food to cook for the week is a whole roasted chicken.  Cooking meat on the bone is so much more flavorful and excellent for the health of your bones. Wow is it good when it’s fresh out of the oven, but, oh the things you can do with it after that.  And you never feel like you’re eating leftovers!  I can almost eat an entire week on a chicken, at least 4 or 5 days.  With nothing being too complicated or time consuming.  I am all about simple!  Roasted Chicken and Avocado Chicken Salad is an entire meal in one, and great for this time of year.  Chicken vegetable soup is a very quick fix.  Grab some chicken broth and whatever veggies you might like to add, if none at home.  I love the bags of cauliflower rice that you can cook quickly and add anything you want for an entire meal.  Add some cut up chicken to that, with some baby spinach and mushrooms,  or grape tomatoes and you are all set for night 4.  If there is any chicken left for night 5, make it a stir fry.  Onions, snow peas, broccoli and your cut up chicken.  You’ve had lots of good meals, with little fuss.  Don’t forget the bones of the chicken left to cook up some broth for the next chicken soup or a special treat for the pup!!  Mine loves chicken broth in his supper!  Everyone is happy!

 

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Chicken Veggie Soup

 

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Cauliflower Rice
20150710_212109
Chicken Stir Fry

So, go on, live a little…create that great, healthy, inexpensive, time saving meal at home and enjoy all of the love and happiness you’ve put into it!  Let me know your favorite meal to prepare for the week.  How do you mix and match your leftovers?

Try my tasty Roasted Chicken and Avocado Salad and let me know what you added to make it your own!

 

Roasted Chicken and Avocado Saladchicken salad

 

1 Whole Chicken, roasted or 4 Bone-In Chicken Breasts, roasted

1 Small Sweet Onion, diced

1 Pint Grape Tomatoes, cut in half

½ C Pumpkin Seeds

1 Avocado, cut into pieces

Juice from Half Lemon

Juice from Half Lime

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Pull chicken off of the bone and rough chop.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Serve over mixed greens or spinach.  One of my favorites is Arugula.  Add Blueberries for a little fruit sweetness, if you like.   Enjoy!

 

Until next time…

Embrace your age…it’s who you are!