With Valentines Day quickly approaching, I thought it was a good time to re-decorate my dinner table. I think it puts the family in a good mood at dinner time. Decorating the table is an important — and fun — part of the holiday season.
I try to make the table as festive as possible. Instead of pulling out the same old decorations year after year, I switch things up and buy or make new table decor. I didn’t have time to make anything this holiday so I picked up a couple things from my favorite stores.
I bought a table runner, hearts, and string lights. I really like to add magic to the dinner table with decorative lights and candles. The lights in the pics below are cool because they came with a remote. Instead of turning them off one by one, I click them all on/off in one motion. It’s so awesome.
I am not sure if my husband cares but the girls love when I re-invent the table for the holidays. I’ll probably be on Etsy searching for Saint Patrick’s Day decor soon. When I finish that table, I’ll post new picks.
I’ve been really good about sticking to my dinner strategies for the last couple of weeks. I planned out my meals, bought my groceries in bulk and made great food with little waste (I still have some cilantro I need to do something with though). After working hard in the kitchen I decided to eat out and have a fun family meal. Eating out, after all, is one of my top dinner strategies.
There are a ton of restaurants in my area and I was really wanting a burger. I was hungry. I had a TOUGH Pure-Barre workout earlier and then I took the kiddos to gymnastics. I worked up an appetite.
I know what you are thinking. All those calories burned are going down the drain with the burger. That’s ok – I’ll work harder next week to count calories.
Since I wanted a burger, my options were limited because we don’t really have many local burger joints. I’m a foodie and generally try to avoid chains but I made an exception because I had no choice. I decided to eat at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar. I haven’t wanted burgers in forever so I was a first-time diner. I must admit, the food was good and so was the service. I had a mozzarella burger. It was perfectly cooked and the toppings were great.
The kids had sliders and hotdogs. Their meals were perfect for kids and were brought out fast. I appreciated that because kids can only go so long without food.
All in all, this restaurant satisfied my burger craving. There was a good family friendly vibe and the menu had tons of non-beef and a couple vegetarian options. The food was great, kids were happy and we all got out of the house. If I have any future burger cravings, I’d definitely go back.
Ok so I am posting my last leftover recipe for pork loins because (1) I used all my pork loin and (2) my family will disown me. I did have fun re-inventing pork loins for four days. Transforming leftovers is one of my favorite things to do. Depending on what I have in the fridge, tacos are my number one “go-to” dish to flip leftovers. In this case, I had left over pork loin, but I normally use whatever I have. I’ve also done this with leftover chicken and beef.
I chop up my leftovers into small pieces, season them and sauté them in a skillet along with cooked onions and taco seasoning. I have actually made taco seasoning from scratch – but not this time. Just a couple of simple, fresh, and in some cases canned additions can give pork loins a whole new flavor. Usually the finished product in no way resembles the original dish.
I usually don’t have time, patience or tools to make my own taco shells so I use store bought. I found these amazing store-bought taco shells at a new Sprout Grocery store that opened in my neighborhood. I will try to use these often because they taste amazing and authentic.
I just lightly fried them on each side and served the tacos alongside some fresh salsa and corn, cheese, canned pineapples, sour cream and sliced avocado.
I must admit, pork loin is more exciting as tacos. And I can finally use my left over cilantro. My recipe card says 1 cup but I put as much in my food as possible. I am the biggest cilantro fan.
This meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare. I am always short on time, so anything I can do to get food on the table fast is a win-win for me. Try it and let me know how it worked out.
Click the links to see the original pork loin crock pot meal I made a couple of days ago. You can probably make some spanish rice to go with it.
This left over recipe is an easy way to re-enjoy all that extra pork loin still in the fridge. I know the deal, it’s not as exciting as the first night but it is too much to throw away. Well hopefully this post can change your perception of that old piece of pork.
I actually eat leftovers quite often and have learned a lot. My #1 piece of advice is – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER – use a microwave to re-heat food. It sucks the life right out of already lifeless leftovers. If you put a day old pork roast in the microwave, good luck trying to chew it. It will be like chewing rubber.
When I re-heat meat, I normally cook it on the stovetop in the juices it was originally cooked in. If you don’t have original juices, the next best option is to cook it in either a stock (chicken or beef) or a wine/bouillon cube mixture (a bouillon cube add to cooking wine). This usually re-energizes the flavor, moistens it, and makes it edible.
Best of all, this is the quickest thing you will probably make all week. Let’s face it, we are all short on time, so this technique is definitely a winning dinner strategy that will allow you to spend more time at the table and less time in the kitchen. Try it and let me know how it worked out.
This Honey Maple Butternut Squash is an easy way to enjoy butternut squash – steam roasted with honey, maple syrup and butter. You can’t go wrong with this winning combination.
I hadn’t planned on cooking squash but I couldn’t resist after I saw the pics online. I did, however, have to make some changes. I omitted the rosemary and nuts because I didn’t have either.
I made this dish on a weeknight, not knowing what to expect. I had my pork loin in the crockpot so all I had to worry about was a side when I got home from work. My husband thought I was crazy for trying to tackle squash on a weeknight. I decided I had to prove him wrong.
After making the dish, I found out how wrong I was. This was harder than I thought. First, actually cutting the squash in half is a feat – squash has extremely hard skin. I had to put some serious muscle into it. Next, I had to de-seed, gut and peel it. Again, the skin is hard so I really had to bear down. My final under-estimation was the time it takes to cook squash in the stove – at least 45 minutes to an hour.
In the end, after tasting this dish, I would do it all over again but I would use a different strategy. I would cut, de-seed, and peel the squash in the morning and put it in the fridge so I can baste it and pop it in the stove when I get home. I would do this after putting my pork loin in the crock pot since I have more free time in the morning, before work.
If you strategize, you can make this amazingly sweet, sea-salty squash during the week. It’s too perfect to save for the weekends.
2. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the squash and discard. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin to expose bright orange flesh. Place on prepared baking sheet, cut side down. Brush squash with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Cut the squash in half
Remove the seeds
Remove the skin
3. Remove squash halves to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut slits 1/4-inch apart in the squash, cutting almost but not all the way through. *Tip: I used chopsticks to act as a guard to prevent cutting too far down.
4. Return cut squash to the same baking sheet. Heat the 1/4 cup maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. butter in the microwave or a small saucepan until the butter is melted. Stir well to combine. Brush with maple/butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves over squash. Pour 1/4 cup water in to bottom of pan, then return to 425 oven for 35 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
5. Remove from oven. Drizzle a bit of maple syrup over each half. Sprinkle with finishing salt. Pair with a summer salad or pork loin.
Herbs and spices have a wide range of health benefits. They can relieve inflammation, fight oxidation and much more. But most importantly, they can make a bland meal into a bling meal. By strategically adding a few spices to your food, you can make your food taste a lot better.
Furthermore, using herbs and spices to flavor your food has several benefits such as:
Consuming less salt. This lowers your risk of high blood pressure
Losing weight. Spicy foods make you feel satiated and can help burn calories
Increased heart health. Certain herbs and spicescan reduce inflammation, which in turn, may reduce heart disease
My top five favorite spices:
Oregano. Oregano is so versatile that it can be used in almost any dish. I grow mine fresh and I use it for pesto sauces. Most recently, I added it to an aioli sauce that I slathered on mini sliders – so good. This hard-working spice can also be added as a topping to pizza and chicken meals as well. Sometimes I rub it on red meat and chicken before cooking to give it a head start on flavor. Best uses – Sprinkle it in pizza as an extra topping, mix it in salad dressing or sprinkle it on fish and poultry before or after cooking.
Saffron. While saffron is not as versatile as oregano or many of the other spices on this list, it still packs quite a punch. I mainly use it to add a slightly bitter- mild sweet – flavor to Indian, African, and Spanish meals. Best uses – Add it to paella, risotto, plain yellow rice, and vegetable stews. Remember that a little goes a long ways – seriously!
Garlic. This next spice needs no introduction as it is probably the hardest working spice on the planet. On top of all of its obvious health benefits, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral, it is a no-brainer when it comes to taste. You can easily add it to almost any pasta or salad, meat and poultry dish you choose. Although it may have a strong pungent odor, the taste and health benefits are to phenomenal to ignore. Best uses – Everything as there are very few recipes I have that don’t include a bit of garlic to. Heap ( I love a lot of garlic) it on soups, salads and roasts.
Ginger. Ginger is another one of my favorite spices. The sweet and savory flavor of ginger is awesome with vegies, soups, and stir-fry. If I have it, I even add ginger to a warm cup of tea. Best uses – My favorite is adding ginger to either chicken or beef stir-fry. I try not to use to much because not everyone in my household is a fan.
Cumin. Last but not least, my last go-to spice is cumin. With cumin, you get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s rich, peppery and nutty can be used in a variety of ways, from a chicken rub to popcorn toppings. It lends a great flavor to stews and soups, sauces, beans, and tacos, as well. Best uses – this is definitely a staple in any Mexican dish I cook. I feel like it gives my Mexican dishes an authentic, yet bold flavor. In order to get the most out of the spice’s flavor, make sure to use seeds that are freshly ground.Those are my five favorites but there are sooooo many more to choose from. Just a few quick tips before I go – keep the lid on spices to prevent moisture from seeping in and keep track of when you buy your spices so you know when to replace them (they age and lose flavor after about three years).
So bottom line up front – FOR ME, the answer is a definitive no, but there have been a few times when I wasn’t so sure. The first time I questioned my aversion to coupons was at a pharmacy. Just as I was about to part with a ridiculous amount of money for a random, over-priced item, a woman behind me asked me if I needed a coupon. As I accepted her offer, I looked back to find her calmly flipping through an indexed, sheet protected, pink coupon binder. I was impressed. I was so impressed that I had to question my disdain for couponing. Time number two occurred at work while I was listening to a co-worker espouse the benefits of couponing. He bragged that he and his wife saved hundreds of dollars a year clipping coupons. Again, I was impressed but I was quickly vindicated when he disclosed that he had to stockpile all the stuff he and his wife purchased for use at a later date. I was not impressed with stockpiling. I dislike the idea of using a coupon to save a mere quarter on two or more pricey bottles of dish detergents that would take me a year to use.
Despite my issues, I did do some research. I am proud to say that I dug deep and delved into the underbelly of the couponing industry (…yes it’s an industry) and I learned all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of couponing.
• The Good: Average coupon values are $2.00 and offers last at least 7 weeks
• The Bad: 23% of coupons require you to purchase two or more items
• The ugly: Savings can quickly disappear with impulse purchases and no strategy
In order for couponing to work, you must have a coupon strategy. The key to success is to make your grocery list based on the coupons you have and you can soar where others have failed.
As a Food Strategist, I can attest that there are much better ways to save money. Look at my example below:
• An online coupon for a name brand 8 oz. box of bread crumbs is $1.99 after a one dollar off coupon
• A generic 15 oz. bread crumb canister is $1.49 with no coupon
By the numbers, the generic option yields better results without the work of couponing. Generic options can really save money, especially when you can’t really tell the difference between name brand counterparts.
So to reiterate, couponing is not for me but it works for some. Maybe you can try your own experiment to see what works for you.