Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On the Grill! Fajitas, Kabobs and Salmon

I am officially off for summer! Woohoo! Near the end of the school year I always feel a little beat-up, as do most teachers I am sure. If you aren't a teacher, you might know the feeling when your kids go to school in the Fall and you can take a deep breath because you are ready to have a break from them even though you love them... that's the feeling teachers get at the end of the school year. 160 kids, ages 16-18, and usually their parents, needing something from you to the point that the 6 minute passing time doesn't allow you to pee, therefore you don't drink water even though you are pregnant and need to, gets old. It was a rough school year for me emotionally as well... losing a baby, being pregnant pretty much the entire time, I am exhausted mentally trying to keep that out of my mind as I teach and be the positive, supporting and motivating seniors who have checked out. Just as I was losing it in my final days I had a former student come and bring me a cake and a hug... she is someone who was super quiet, but so nice, and who I honestly had no idea I had impacted. 

Followed the next day by a current student, again, who I had no idea even cared for me, dropping off a note expressing his gratitude toward my teaching style and personality. That's what makes the year. It makes every shitty day feel a whole lot better. It reminds me that teaching is so much more than content. I don't know if it's the hormones or what, but a note, a hug, things that might not mean a lot to them, meant so much to me. 

PS- Jelly is perfect with cake and ice cream. Don't judge until you try it. 

I am now a stay-at-home-mom until August, I don't get paid or thanked, but man am I excited for some little things this brings, aside from time with my child. I am excited to not grocery shop with everyone and their aunt, uncle, grandma, and 85 children on Sundays. I am also excited to go to the gym or workout in the morning so I can have a less stressed evening where I cook a dinner that is not leftovers or prepped on Sundays. Don't get me wrong, meal prep for me is essential to keeping healthy and my life moving smoothly during the week, but gosh is it nice to not have to do it for 10 weeks and get my Sunday afternoon back. This week is all about the grill... it gets hot in the kitchen, Charlie wants to play outside, and it is so nice to not make my kitchen a mess. This week I went with some favorites that are easy and family friendly- well maybe for our family since Charlie eats peppers, asparagus, fish, etc. :) If I put pineapple and rice with anything she will eat it so that's a win!


These were actually made the last week of school. We did the chicken on the grill with the rest of the chicken for the week, seasoning it with cumin, garlic powder, salt, paprika, chili powder, and pepper. The same things I would put in taco seasoning- you could of course buy taco seasoning or fajita mix, but this is healthier and just as easy. I make a batch and keep it in a jar in my cupboard... recipe found here- Taco Seasoning.

- 3-4 Chicken Breasts (about 3 lbs)
- 2-3 Tbsp Taco Seasoning (see homemade recipe here or wing it)
- 4 Bell Peppers, any color
- 1 Sweet Onion

Fajita toppings!
- cheese
- salsa
- lettuce
- tortillas
- black beans
- rice
- lime juice

As mentioned above, the chicken was sprinkled with seasoning (about 1 Tbsp.) and grilled. Then cut into thin strips.
When we were ready to have fajitas I sliced the peppers and onion into thin strips and put them in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. I sprinkled them with seasoning and added the chicken. Cooking 7-10 minutes total until everything was warm, cooked and flavors were together. :) Enjoy!

Sweet and Salty Marinated Salmon

The great thing about fish is it doesn't need to marinate for very long! I put this together when I got home and 2 hours later we were ready for the grill. The sugar makes a delicious almost crust on the salmon... we ate it with grilled asparagus and rice. I used the lemon pepper and garlic powder on the asparagus as well.

- 2-ish lbs (1-2 filets) Skin-on, Wild-caught Salmon (look for it at Costco!)
- 1/3 Cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (or coconut sugar or honey or plain sugar)
- 1/3 Cup Water
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Garlic Salt
- 2 tsp Lemon Pepper

1. Rub the salmon filets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Add the remaining ingredients to a zip lock bag or bowl and add salmon tossing to coat. Let it marinate 1-2 hours in the fridge.
2. When you are ready, preheat the grill and cook the salmon, preferably on foil or a fish screen, skin side down, until it is sightly firm to the touch in the thickest part.

Chicken Kabobs

Charlie was a big help making these. She was not a fan of touching the chicken, which I don't blame her, so she did purely vegetable ones.

- 2 lbs Chicken Breasts, cut into 1" pieces
- 4 Bell Pepper, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 Sweet Onion, quartered and pulled apart
- 1 Pineapple, cut into large, 1"+ pieces

Add everything to skewers and grill! I sprinkled mine with Penzey's Salt Free Murals of Flavor- but anything involved garlic, salt, pepper, etc. would be delicious!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fast Dinners that were family hits- Mongolian Beef and Broccoli, Chicken Fried Rice, Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

 The end of the school year is upon us! While I have been criticized for being excited because it apparently takes away from my enthusiasm in the classroom I beg to differ. Wouldn't you be excited to spend the summer with your own child instead of 160 of other people's children every day? The same people that criticize me and my profession will be the ones celebrating when they send their kids back to me in the Fall... just saying. Oh you don't want to spend all day with them but you want me to? Awesome. :) In all seriousness I do love my job or else I wouldn't do it- especially with the pay/benefit cuts I have taken, pension issues, increasing class sizes and demands on me, etc.- it is just time to re-group and re-charge, focus on my family, take a break and come back ready to go again. Charlie and I started celebrating early by eating all the cookies in the house.... :) 

My food prep on Sundays is coming to an end with the school year and it has become incredible simple. Wondering how to start or how I do it? I make a list with Matt either Saturday night or Sunday morning- what are the 3-4-ish things we making for dinners/lunches? What needs replacing in the pantry? Etc. I grocery shop early on Sunday, 7-8am, because there are no crowds and we are awake anyway. 

The actual prepping takes 1-3 hours depending on what's being made- and that's not all hands on time. Matt usually mans the grill and will cook all of the meat, I throw things in the crockpot, get things in the oven and set timers. Charlie can easily help with this process, even though it makes things slower. Then lunches go in portions and containers as stuff is ready, dinners get put tupperware to be heated later and we are done!

Carrot Cake Muffins- this week's sweet treat

Staples made every week- roasted sweet potatoes for lunch and breakfast, rice, grilled chicken (8+ breasts)

Dinners this week I decided to make at night and they were hits with Matt and Charlie. She pretty much likes anything with soy sauce and rice so that's a great place to start for us. 

Chicken Fried Rice

Lots of options here- the quickest thing is to not cut more than you have to- so chicken prepped for cooking on your prep day and omitting everything else or using dried/powdered spices. Charlie loves peas and corn so we add a lot of that- if your family doesn't, then omit them... this is also fantastic with pineapple tid-bits if you have those in the pantry! 

- 2 Tbsp Oil (I recommend Sesame or Avocado)
- 3 Cups Cooked Rice, using day-old+, cold rice is best
- 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut in 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 Sweet Onion, minced (Charlie HATES onion so we leave it out)
- 1/2-1 Cup Frozen Peas
- 2 Carrots, peeled and small dice
- 1/2-1 Cup Frozen Corn
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce)
- 1/2 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger (optional)
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced (optional)
- Siracha (optional)
- 2 Green Onions (optional)

1. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken and cook through. Remove from the pan. 
2. Add the remaining oil, onion (if using) and carrot. Saute until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir frequently. Make a "well" and add the eggs. Once the eggs are cooked, stir everything together, add the chicken back, the soy sauce, peas and corn (and anything else you are adding). Toss. 
When everything is combined and heated through, turn off the heat and enjoy. :)  

Mongolian Beef and Broccoli 

-2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons oil (sesame or olive)
- 1 teaspoon Fresh Ginger, grated
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce low sodium is best)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1.5 lb flank steak (or skirt steak)
- 1/3 cup Arrowroot Powder (or cornstarch)
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 Cups Broccoli Crowns
- 2 Carrots, peeled with a vegetable peeler* optional                     
- 1 Small Onion, thinly sliced* optional 

1. Slice the flank steak into 1/4" slices, against the grain, and toss with arrowroot (or cornstarch). Gently shake off any excess.
2. Place 1 tablespoon at a time of oil in a pan or wok and heat over medium-high heat. Cook the beef in small batches for about 2 minutes until browned (It doesn't need to cook all of the way through, it will cook completely when combined with the sauce). Remove the steak from the pan.                      

3. Heat remaining oil over medium low. Add ginger and garlic and stir just until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the vegetables and turn the heat back up to medium high. Cook 3-5. Add soy sauce, water and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
4. Add the beef back and toss to combine with the sauce and heat over medium until hot and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Serve over rice. 

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry 

Not the prettiest, but it sure was tasty! This was the only one Charlie was not a fan of, too spicy and she hates noodles... but Matt and I liked it! 

- 1 Package Pad-Thai Noodles (usually 12-14oz)
- 1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 2 Tbsp Honey
- 3 tsp Red Curry Paste
- 1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar (or Apple Cider or White)
- 1 tsp Fresh, Grated Ginger
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Small, Sweet Onion Finely Diced
- 12-oz Button Mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 Carrots, chopped in a small dice
- 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Siracha* optional
- Green Onion* optional 

1. Cook the noodle according to their directions. Whisk the coconut aminos, vinegar, water, ginger, and honey together. Set aside. 
2. In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and cook the onion, garlic and carrots until they start to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes until they soften. 
3. Add the chicken and cook through. Add the noodles and sauce, toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the green onions and a drizzle of siracha- enjoy!