April 2013 Goals

It’s finally spring! Temperatures in the next 10 days will be in the 70s! I am so ready for it to warm up. Especially because it means more outside activities :) Here are my goals for April!

-Running: run 35 miles. I want to get in the habit of running 2 miles four times a week.

-Other exercise: do core work 3-4 times per week. I’ve gotten some core exercises from my physical therapist that are easier for me to do with my hip problems. I want to commit to doing them 3-4 times per week.

-Gardening: move everything outside! It’s finally spring time and I’m ready to move my sprouts outside! I can’t wait to get my garden going :)

-Furniture: get rid of the extras! This was on my March goals and I made a little bit of progress but I need to get rid of everything we don’t need this month.

-Budget: stick to our budget better. Last month, we spent a lot on food, overspending in both our grocery and restaurant budgets. We need to have better control and awareness of what we are spending.

-Puppies: we are planning to start Cody in class on April 11th but we are going to wait to make sure other people have signed up for the class since he is very well behaved at home but when other dogs are around he tends to have selective deafness ;)

-Eat more fruit! This past week, I bought a bunch of fruit and I ate all of it during the week. I had tons of oranges, apples, bananas, and strawberries and I pretty much only snacked on fruit. Not only did this cut back on my snacking on unhealthy foods, it made me feel great. I definitely want to keep my fruit intake up.

-Cooking: four more new recipes! And making sure to take pictures of new recipes, as well as old favorites, for blogging.

-Crafting: since I didn’t manage to do a craft last month, I would like to try for two this month. One I want to be a menu board for the kitchen, since this would help us to eat what we’ve already bought in groceries, rather than going out to eat. The other one can be something smaller, but I’m not sure what yet.

What are your goals for April? Happy spring!

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March 2013 Goals Update

I originally posted about my March goals here. I would say I did okay, considering I was sick, but I certainly need to do better next month.

Running: my goal for running was 40 miles (52 before April 6th). Unfortunately, I was sick for three and a half weeks and couldn’t run, which not only meant fewer miles, but losing the progress I had made before getting sick. I was only able to track a lousy 6.2 miles this month. But I’m back to running and I will definitely do better next month since it’s finally going to be
spring and I shouldn’t get sick again!

Furniture: working on this one still. I have gotten our spare room cleaned up quite a bit, got the desk we bought a long time ago built and set up the corner for Chris to work on so he doesn’t have to work out in the dining room. I still have quite a few things to get rid of, and those will be a part of my goals for April.

Garden: I got my seeds
planted almost a month ago and they’re growing great! I haven’t yet gotten the seeds that start outdoors in early spring in the ground, but hopefully I will get to those this week. It’s been really rainy lately and when it hasn’t been raining, we’ve been playing tennis, running, and taking the dogs to the dog park so I haven’t gotten to them yet.

Signing the dogs up for classes: my goal was to sign each of the puppies up for obedience classes but neither of them are signed up. Chris expected to have a big grant due at work in early April and was working a lot this month so we decided to put off the classes until we knew we could both commit to them. I think we’ll be starting April 8th but we still have to register.

Budget: unfortunately we didn’t do a good job of sticking to our budget this month. We went over our grocery budget, due to our St. Patrick’s Day dinner, so I don’t mind overspending on that a bit. The other place in the budget we went over on was eating out and we went way over our budget. This was partly due to birthday celebrations, partly due to poor planning, and mostly due to laziness. We went out to dinner a couple times when I should have cooked but just didn’t feel like that and one of my April goals is definitely going to be to cut back on that. A lot of the reason we overspent though, was because it was Exotic Meat Month at one of our favorite Durham restaurants and we couldn’t stay away. We got to try alligator (which both of us had had before) and antelope burgers! It was fun, but I’m glad March is over because that’s one fewer excuse we have for eating out! Besides our eating out and grocery budgets, we did really well
with the rest of our March budgets.

Pinterest Recipes: my goal was to try 4 new recipes and I definitely reached that, though not all were from Pinterest (but I’ll count them anyway). The ones I blogged about were Pork Chops with Apples and Onions, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Butterless Creamy Veggie Mac and Cheese, and Seasoned Smashed Potatoes. The other recipes I tried were for chocolate Guinness cupcakes and Bailey’s cream cheese frosting, which were served for dessert on St. Patrick’s Day but I didn’t get any pictures so I didn’t post about them :)

DIY Craft: I did not get to a craft this month. Next month I will have to do two!

I hope to post my April goals tomorrow!

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions over Mashed Potatoes

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

I made these pork chops for dinner a couple nights ago and I can’t wait to make them again! As far as meat goes, I usually just stick to chicken since it’s much leaner than red meats. However, when I saw this recipe for pork chops with apples and onions on Accounting for Taste, I had to try it out. I just love pork with apples and I love cooking new things! It also counts as another recipe toward my March goal of trying 4 new recipes!

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions over Mashed Potatoes

This recipe ended up being much easier than I thought it would be and it will definitely have to get added to the rotation. I decided to serve it over mashed potatoes, which are also very easy, to make it a nice filling weeknight dinner. I tried it out on the weekend because I was expecting it to take much longer but it was very simple and definitely doable for a weeknight.

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions over Mashed Potatoes

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions Over Mashed Potatoes

Serves 2

  • 2 pork chops
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 2 cups Gala apples, diced (about 2 apples)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 red potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 oz cream cheese (optional)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  1. Add potatoes to a large pot and fill with enough water to cover potatoes
  2. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes
  3. While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 400° F
  4. In oven proof skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat
  5. Saute pearl onions a couple minutes, until slightly browned
  6. Add apples, 2 tsp butter, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper to pan and place in oven for about 10 minutes, until apples are tender
  7. Heat remaining olive oil in another large pan over medium-high heat
  8. Use remaining salt and pepper to season pork and cook in pan, about 3-5 minutes each side, until cooked through
  9. Remove pork from pan and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  10. In pan pork was cooked in, add chicken broth and flour and bring to a boil
  11. Whisk continuously for 1 minute, until reduced by about 1/2, making sure to scrape brown bits from bottom of pan
  12. Add cider vinegar and remaining butter to pan and remove from heat
  13. Drain water from potatoes and mash
  14. Add sour cream, cream cheese, and milk
  15. If potatoes are dry, add more milk until desired consistency is reached
  16. Serve apples, onions, and sauce on pork. Serve mashed potatoes on side or under pork.

Enjoy :)

St Patty’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage

Though we are not Irish, growing up my family always had corned beef and cabbage the Sunday closest to St. Patrick’s Day. My dad used to be an executive chef so we often had tons of different foods, especially on Sundays when my Granny would come for dinner. I haven’t been home for St. Patrick’s Day since I went to undergrad (can’t believe it’s been 6 years already since I left home!) so I haven’t celebrated with corned beef and cabbage in quite a while. Chris had never had corned beef and cabbage before so this year, we decided to have people over for dinner so we could have the traditional Irish American dish.

I didn’t get too many pictures because everyone was too eager to dig in! We also had Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s cream cheese frosting, but those were gone too quickly for any pictures. However, I used the Guinness chocolate cupcake recipe from MingMakesCupcakes and the Bailey’s cream cheese frosting recipe from Skinny Taste and they were both fantastic!

Corned Beef and Cabbage | Puppies in the Kitchen

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes and Carrots (my dad’s recipe)

Serves 4

Make sure to read everything before you start – everything cooks simultaneously but they start at different times so I’ve put them separately

  • Corned beef with spice packet (typically sold at 3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 5 red potatoes
  • 1 bag baby carrots
  • 24 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp horseradish

Corned beef

  1. Place corned beef in a soup pot and fill with enough cold water to submerge beef and add in spice packet
  2. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer
  3. When white foam appears at the top of the water, skim it out with a spoon
  4. Simmer for 2-4 hours depending on the size of your corned beef (cook until you can easily put in a fork and take it out)
  5. Remove beef from water and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving
  6. If your beef is done before your vegetables, cover with foil and place in warm oven to keep warm

Cabbage

  1. About an hour before beef is done (don’t worry about being too accurate with this – everything can always be kept warm), remove tough outer leaves and slice cabbage into 8ths, being sure to keep core intact on each slice to prevent cabbage from falling apart
  2. Place cabbage wedges in 9 x 13 casserole dish and add chicken broth
  3. Add enough water to cover at least three quarters of the height of the wedges
  4. Cover with foil and place in 350° F oven for 45-60 minutes, until cabbage is soft but not mushy
  5. Can be kept in a warm oven until everything is finished

Potatoes and Carrots

  1. These can be added to the pot with corned beef for about the last 30 minutes of cooking or when the beef is taken out to rest or be boiled in their own fresh water for about 30 minutes or until fork tender
  2. Slice potatoes into quarters before serving

Serve everything together with horseradish sauce (mix sour cream and horseradish) on the side.

 

Butterless Creamy Vegetable Mac and Cheese

This is my second post for new recipes in March. You can see my goals for March here, which include trying out four new recipes. Keep a look out for some St. Patty’s recipes on Sunday! :)

Macaroni and Cheese filled with veggies - no butter! | Puppies in the Kitchen

Last night I made this creamy mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is a staple in our house and every once in a while, I try to make it a little healthier by adding some veggies so the veggie part wasn’t new to me. However, when I saw this recipe for mac and cheese without butter, I had to check it out. The cheese in the dish already contributes enough fat and instead of using butter, I love that this recipe uses olive oil to cut down on cholesterol and saturated fats.

With butter, this recipe would have 391 calories with 13 g saturated fat and 61 mg cholesterol (if divided into 6 servings). Olive oil is still very fatty, but it has healthier fats and less saturated fat. With olive oil in place of butter, the calories remain about the same (395) but the saturated fat drops to 9.3 g and the cholesterol drops to 41 mg. Macaroni and cheese certainly is not the healthiest dish and we don’t have it too often but it is nice to indulge now and again. I do love that I can feel a little better though replacing the butter with olive oil. Last night, I added some cut up chicken breast to this and we had it as our meal, rather than a side. I unfortunately did not have broccoli, which is a favorite with mac and cheese, so we had to do without but this dish was still amazing.

Butterless Creamy Veggie Mac and Cheese | Puppies in the Kitchen

Butterless Creamy Veggie Mac and Cheese

Serves 2-3 as main dish or 6-8 as side dish

  • 1 cup broccoli, cut into small chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, diced
  • 10-15 baby carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (we like elbows or rotini)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • optional: 2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed; 1 tsp red pepper flakes; 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Butterless Creamy Veggie Mac and Cheese | Puppies in the Kitchen

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or spray with cooking spray and spread out vegetables
  3. Place vegetables in oven and cook for 15 minutes
  4. Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions
  5. In another saucepan, heat oil on medium heat and saute garlic for about 2 minutes
  6. Add flour to oil and garlic, stirring constantly for 1 minute
  7. Add milk slowly, whisking constantly, and let thicken for about 5 minutes
  8. When milk sauce has gotten thick, add cheese and spices (if using) and stir until melted. Remove from heat
  9. After veggies have been cooking for 15 minutes, add chicken (if using) to tray and return to oven for another 5 minutes (otherwise just leave veggies in for 20 minutes)
  10. Add cooked pasta, veggies, and cheese sauce to a casserole dish and mix together
  11. Top with breadcrumbs and put under broiler for about 2 minutes
  12. Serve immediately

Seasoned Smashed Potatoes

I found these potatoes on Pinterest a few weeks ago and this is already my second time making them. They are absolutely delicious! I originally found the recipe here and I knew they would be my first post about new March recipes!

Seasoned Smashed Potatoes

These potatoes are extremely easy to make and pretty hard to mess up. They would go great alongside steak. Tonight we had them with blackened tilapia and broccoli and last week we had them with baked “fried” chicken (another new March recipe but it didn’t come out quite right so I think I’ll try it again). I love how crispy they are on the outside but are like a baked potato on the inside.

Seasoned Smashed Potatoes | Puppies in the Kitchen

(Pardon my dirty pan – clearly I need to try this pin)

Seasoned Smashed Potatoes:

*I’m not putting down amounts for ingredients – just season to taste and use as many potatoes as you need!

  • Red potatoes (about 1-2 per person)
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, etc
  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until easily poked with a fork (about 20-25 minutes)
  2. Preheat oven to 400° F
  3. Spray a cooking sheet with cooking spray or coat with olive oil
  4. Place potatoes on sheet, leaving room between each potato
  5. Smash potatoes with a potato masher
  6. Drizzle or brush on olive oil
  7. Season with sea salt (or regular salt, though I prefer the texture of the large sea salt crystals for these), pepper, and herbs (I used thyme here)
  8. Place potatoes in oven and cook until golden brown and cripsy – about 20 minutes
  9. Serve immediately

Garden Update: Sprouts!

It’s been one week since I planted my seeds that needed to be planted indoors and I’m seeing a handful of sprouts! It’s so exciting – makes me feel like spring is really coming. The winters in NC are not all that awful (especially since I grew up in MI), but I think no matter how long or cold your winter is, spring is always welcome. My first sprout was one of my Brussels sprouts, which popped up on Thursday!

First sprout - Brussels sprout!

First sprout came on
Thursday – only four days later!

Brussels sprout

My first Brussels sprout a
few days later

Unfortunately for me, Brussels sprouts are my least favorite of what I’m growing. I’m not a big fan but Chris loves them so he insisted we grow a few. I think I’m going to have to try this recipe for roasted parmesan garlic Brussels sprouts once I harvest them.

Now, a week later, my tomatoes are beginning to sprout in the pot. I can’t wait to see how this thing turns out!

Tomato sprouts beginning to grow!

Tomato sprouts beginning to grow!

Besides the tomatoes, the only other sprouts I have are Brussels sprouts. Of course. I have four of them. I’m just glad something is growing and I haven’t killed them yet but I can’t wait for everything else to grow!

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts growing
nice and tall while nothing else is sprouting!

The other plants should get to sprouting this week and I will be checking on them like crazy! Next week, I will be starting the plants outdoors that can survive a frost (onions, lettuce, arugula).

Check out my friend Angie’s post about starting her garden here.

How is your garden coming? Are you ready for spring?

Baked Salmon with Parmesan Asparagus

The first recipe I want to share is not a new one to me, but one of my tried and true favorites. We absolutely love this salmon and asparagus dish and try to eat it once a week because of how healthy salmon is and because it’s one of Chris’s favorites. I also love it because it only dirties one pan (which doesn’t really get dirty since I line it with aluminum foil).

Health Benefits of Salmon:

  • Salmon is very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA. Omega-3’s are extremely important, especially in brain and heart health. Wild caught salmon typically has higher levels of Omega-3’s, but farmed salmon still has substantial levels. The other form of Omega-3’s, ALA, can be turned into EPA and DHA Omega-3’s by the body but the process is very inefficient so getting them from our diet is very important. Most other foods that are high in Omega-3’s (like walnuts and flaxseeds) are high in ALA so salmon and other fatty fish should also be added to the diet.
  • Salmon is high in protein. While it is not as lean as chicken breasts, the fat in salmon comes in the form of very important Omega-3’s, making it attractive for those trying to build muscle or lose weight.
  • Salmon is high in Vitamin D. Women in particular tend to have low levels of vitamin D but in the winter, we’re all probably lacking due to the decrease in sunlight. Vitamin D is important in bone health and deficiency has been linked to depression.

While there have been some reports of contaminants in farm raised salmon, the health benefits of eating salmon far outweigh the risks.

Now on to the recipe :)

How yummy does that look??

How yummy does that
look??

I love this recipe for a weeknight because it’s extremely simple. When I first moved out on my own and started cooking, I was afraid of cooking salmon because it’s not something I ate much growing up and I thought it would be much more complicated than it is. After playing around with cooking times and seasonings, I’ve finally landed on this recipe and we can’t go a couple weeks without having it at least once.

Baked Salmon with Parmesan Asparagus

Serves 2

  • 1 lb salmon (preferably wild caught)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dill
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400º F
  2. Line pan with aluminum foil
  3. Don’t worry about taking the skin off your salmon if you bought it with the skin on – it will stick to the aluminum when you serve the fish
  4. Place the salmon on the pan and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and the lemon juice.
  5. Sprinkle the dill over the salmon and place in the oven for 20 minutes (you don’t have to let the oven finish preheating – just put it in when you’re ready)
  6. As the salmon is about to finish baking, rinse the asparagus and cut off the ends, about 1″ from the end
  7. Take the salmon out of the oven (it won’t be done cooking yet) and place the asparagus on the pan so it’s not overlapping.
  8. Drizzle asparagus with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle middles of stalks with parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.
  10. Switch the oven to broil for an additional 2 minutes, then take out and ensure salmon is fully cooked (turns opaque and flakes easily).
  11. Serve immediately.

Baked Salmon and Parmesan Asparagus | Puppies in the Kitchen

Cooking times can differ depending on the thickness of the salmon. We usually buy a filet from the middle of the fish so it’s pretty thick but if yours is less than an inch thick, you may want to decrease the cooking time. Check that it’s mostly cooked before you add the asparagus to the pan. I’ve found this dish is kind of hard to mess up. The asparagus is fine to be cooked for another couple minutes if your salmon isn’t done when the time is up. You also can just take the asparagus off and set aside while the salmon finishes cooking. If you haven’t cooked salmon before, just play around with it. I’ve found it’s pretty flexible.

This recipe can also easily be adjusted for more or fewer people.

Enjoy :)

Starting my garden indoors

It’s only March 3 and one of my goals is already complete! Today I planted the seeds for my garden that needed to be started indoors. These included tomatoes, peppers, and Brussels sprouts. I used to help my mom with her garden when I was younger but this is my first solo garden and I’m pretty excited. I’ve been really into making a lot of foods from scratch lately and I can’t wait to use ingredients from my own garden! Since it’s my first time, I’m starting pretty small and next year I plan on expanding. Here’s what I worked on today:

IMG_0840

On the left is an upside down tomato planter I got from Lowe’s for $5 (the brand was Buzzy). I’ve never used one before but it was pretty cheap so I’m going to plant some in the garden and some in the planter and see how each works out. The kit was really easy to use and so far, I recommend trying it out :)

The other seeds I planted today were cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers. I planted them in K cups! This is a genius idea I got from Juanita’s blog, which I found on Pinterest. They’re perfect for starting your garden, as they are nice and small, and also have a hole in the bottom for excess water to drain out. All you do is cut through the foil with a knife, remove the coffee, foil, and filter, and then wash the empty K cup with hot soapy water! I love this idea because I hate how bad K cups are for the environment and now I’m at least getting two uses from them :) Also this way, I don’t have to get starter containers.

I just labeled the sides of each with what seeds were in them and planted 3 seeds per cup. I planted 4 cups of cherry tomatoes, 3 cups of large tomatoes (left over from my planter), and 2 cups each of jalapenos, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts.

Have you ever heard of Sprout Robot? I found it on Pinterest and I love it. It gives you detailed instructions for the different plants you want to grow such as when (and if) to start indoors, how to plant them, when to thin, when you should expect to harvest, etc. It’s a wonderful source of information for us first time gardeners :)

tucker and cody smelling plants tucker smelling pot

Today was nice enough that I could do all of this outside so I wouldn’t get dirt all over the house. The puppies were quite curious about what was going on. They love to eat dirt (they won’t leave one of my indoor plants alone) so I had to keep a close eye on them but eventually they just laid in the sun.

tucker blur

I brought my plants inside and placed them at the far end of our dining room table, right by the window. I can’t wait for them to start sprouting!

IMG_0853

What are you planting in your garden this year?

March 2013 Goals

I started this blog mainly to track my daily, monthly, yearly, and long term goals. Here are my goals for March:

-Run 52 cumulative miles – this goal actually extends into April and it’s my goal before April 6, when I’ll be doing the Color Mania 5k – I’m breaking this down into 2 weeks of running 2 miles 4 times a week and 3 weeks of running 3 miles 4 times a week

-Get rid of all our extra furniture – since moving in together, Chris and I have way more furniture than we need. I’ve been meaning to put the extra stuff up on FreeCycle for a while but haven’t gotten around to it. I will this month.

-Plant my seeds indoors – I’m planting cherry tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, onions, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and garlic and most of those should be started indoors this week!

-Sign each of the dogs up for training classes – both Tucker and Cody could use some more training and socialization and I plan to sign them up this month.

My puppies: Cody, 2, on the right, and Tucker, 6 months, on the left

My puppies: Cody, 2, right, and Tucker, 6 months, left

-Continue to stick to our budget – Chris and I did a pretty good job of sticking to our February budget. This weekend we’ll sit down and work on a new one for March.

-Try 4 new Pinterest recipes – I love finding new healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) recipes and trying them out. I plan on trying a new one each week this month.

-Try 1 new Pinterest craft – I’ve tried a couple but it seems I keep adding more DIY pins and not trying them out! I want to find time to start and finish one this month.