The most writing I have done in the past 3 years has been focused on IEP progress reports, remediation plans, grade card comments, emails to social workers, and the occasional submission to the Department of Youth Services newsletter in an effort to highlight the acheivements of my students. Don't get me wrong, that's A LOT of writing, but it's just a different sort of writing altogether. Shout out to all of you teachers out there who feel like they are buried in paper work. If you are doing all of that and still really teaching those kids and giving them awesome learning experiences then...you ROCK! Because it's not easy.
Which brings me to the "where I've been" segment of this post and why I think I might just might be able to start posting again. Might. So non-committal, aren't I? Well, baby steps. Now might be a good time to include this little note: If you didn't even know I'd been away from this blog, if you don't care where I've been, or if you "just want the darn recipes already" scroll on down. I promise, I won't be offended. I get it, there are only so many hours in your day. I tend to get a little "wordy". I once had an English teacher write R/o (run on) in red pen all over my papers. When I asked her about it, she explained that I write the way that I talk. Fair enough. For those of you whom have ever held a conversation with me, you know that I tend to "run on" when I'm talking as well.
I announced on this blog back in November of 2011 that I was returning to work full-time. Of course, I had every intention of continuing to share recipes and meal plans here. I anticipated that my posts would be less frequent with balancing the needs of my family with full-time employment and moonlighting as a blogger, but I believed that I was equal to the task. Ha. Double Ha! Ha! Silly me. Here's my shout out to all of you working moms. And if you are a working mom who maintains a blog...WHOA! You are in a different class of "superwoman". Because after I loaded everyone into the car each morning, checking and double checking that my children had their book bag, climate appropriate clothing, and a healthy snack, dropped them at the sitter, commuted to work, put in a full day- cramming as much as possible into every minute in an attempt to not stay too long after, commuted home, made dinner, helped with homework and bath and bedtime, tucked them in and said their prayers, packed everyone's bags for the next day, did a quick pick up of the house, started the dinner dishes and maybe a load of laundry, my brain was the equivalent of J-E-L-L-O.
And because things weren't crazy enough, 16 months ago we added a bouncing baby boy to our family. No really, in our nice little routine as a family of 4, we just didn't realize that we needed a baby brother to mix things up (and sometimes to turn them upside down). This kid is awesome and joy-inducing. Now I get to see what my middle sister (who has 3 active little boys of her own) was talking about. Baby Aidan is sweet and funny...and crazy! 25 pounds of pure daredevil energy. I'm going to need more hair dye after this one because I'm certain that he gives me at least 1 new gray hair per day.
I continued to work full-time for the first 11 months after our son was born, but when we looked at the numbers, it just made sense for me to stay at home again. And honestly, as much as I loved my job, I was grateful that it was an option. I love being a stay at home mom too. In April, at the end of the quarter (my teaching job is year-round), I resigned.
After a month of getting my house back in order (funny how little things like organized closets go by the way-side when you have to pack all of your cleaning and household projects into Saturdays), we flew full force into the 4-H season. I loved being a 4-H mom to my oldest daughter who began her first year of 4-H this year. We also had a lovely summer catching up with family and having an "actual" summer break.
Now that my oldest kiddos are back in school, I've agreed to go back to work part-time. Just a couple of days a week. My return to work involves teaching a Servsafe certification course to our graduates, which means less of those reports that I've grown so fond of typing (NOT!). And so, as we settle into a routine and the baby is a little older, and the girls are a little more self-sufficient, I feel like I can finally budget a little time for Krista's Kitchen. Lord knows I'm cooking dinner every night. I might as well share it with all of you again....
Last week I was making the meal plan for our family. Admittedly, my "Guide to Meal Planning" post on this site is dated. When I started this blog and wrote that post nearly 6 years ago, Pinterest didn't even exist! Imagine that. A world without Pinterest!? Pinterest is a great tool for gathering recipes for your meal plan. However dated my "Guide to Meal Planning" may be, I still complete Step #3: "take inventory of what you already have", every time I set about planning our meals.
Last week I had 2 lbs. of ground beef and a head of cabbage that I needed to use. I found a couple of easy skillet recipes that called for cabbage and ground meat and altered them to suit our tastes and to utilize the other ingredients that I had on hand. My goal here was to cook once and eat twice. I prepared both the Un-Stuffed Cabbage Skillet and the Egg Roll Filling Stir-Fry on Tuesday night. I thought we would eat one of the recipes hot off the stove and then put the other dish away for the next night to re-heat. As it turned out, our kiddos treated the meals as a buffet and wanted to try some of each. Luckily these recipes yield enough that we still had plenty to heat up for the next night, and the next night after that! Sometimes my family can be difficult when it comes to eating leftovers, but this time they didn't complain, which means that these recipes get my "Re-heats Well" seal of approval.
Staying true to my modus operandi, I will break down the steps of how these two delicious and easy meals came together. So....I began with ground beef. 2 lbs. of lean ground beef. Mine comes from the steers on my grandparent's Indiana farm, hence the "Not For Sale" that you see on the packaging.
Then I rinsed that head of cabbage that I needed to use up. I have no idea how long that cabbage had been chillin' in my crisper. I don't remember purchasing it and I certainly don't remember why I purchased it. Maybe for this Cashew Cabbage recipe that I was mildly obsessed with for a minute? Or possibly because I've put on a few pounds in the last couple of weeks and I thought it was time for a batch of that Weight Watchers Vegetable Soup that I love so much. Either way, I'm just glad it was still viable.
Brown the 2 lbs. of ground beef with a chopped onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain away the excess fat.
While the hamburger browned, I chopped the cabbage.
Divide even amounts of the browned hamburger/onion mixture into 2 skillets. Although both meals start out exactly the same (hamburger, onion, and cabbage) we ended up with 2 meals with very different flavor profiles. A deconstructed cabbage roll recipe, this first skillet has it's roots in Eastern Europe while we're taking the other meal more in the direction of the Far East.
Add the cabbage to the skillet, then dump in 8 oz. of tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce will work too), a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, a cup of uncooked rice, and 2 cups of water.
Stir it together and season to taste. I added Italian seasoning and some more salt and pepper. I'm thinking Creole seasoning might be good too. Now bring this to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is done and cabbage is soft. The length of cooking time will depend on the type of rice you decide to use. Check the rice package instructions for an estimated cooking time.
Tah-dah! Take off the lid and you have this! A perfectly cooked medley of flavors and textures.
Now, top with some shredded chees and put the lid back on until the cheese melts.
Here it is served up for our dinner. I loved that this was quick and easy. I loved that my family ate this up without a single complaint. And...hey, it's better for them than Hamburger Helper. Cabbage is high in fiber and vitamins and low in fat and calories. Plus all of those tomatoes boast the supposed health benefits of lycopene.
Mmmm. Cheesy! And cheese has calcium, so we'll count that as healthy too. However, if you are focused on a low-fat diet you could eliminate the cheese or use a low-fat version. Also, you could use a leaner meat in the preparation of this recipe, such as ground turkey. And for one more healthy tip, you could incorporate whole grains into this dinner by preparing it with brown rice. As a Family and Consumer Science teacher, I have the Dietary Guidelines for Americans burned into my brain. So consider this a PSA: Remember folks, make half of your grains whole. ; )
Un-stuffed Cabbage Skillet
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small or 1/2 of a large onion, diced
1/2 of a cabbage, finely chopped or grated
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-8oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
Brown ground beef with onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain excess fat. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese, to the skillet. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes until cabbage is tender and the rice is cooked. Note: stir once or twice to prevent sticking. Once the cabbage is tender and rice is cooked, turn off heat. Top the mixture with cheese and return the lid to the skillet until the cheese melts.
Now for the preparation of the "Eggroll Filling Stir Fry". My oldest child recently mentioned how much she loved the filling in the egg rolls that we sometimes order from the nearest "Strip Mall Chinese Restaurant." When her little sister agreed, I thought, I should just make the filling...it's better for them without the deep-fried wrapper anyhow. And so here we are...
I added a tablespoon of minced garlic, a tablespoon of mashed ginger, and 4 chopped green onions to the browned beef in the skillet. Cook on medium-high heat just long enough to get everything sizzling.
Then add in the finely chopped cabbage and carrots. I just used my vegetable peeler to slice thin strips of carrot directly into the skillet. You could use a grater. The only grater I have right now is the attachment on my Ultimate Mandoline and it seemed like a hassle to haul that out of the cupboard and then have to wash it after grating a couple of measly carrots.
Once the cabbage and carrots have been added, cook and stir until the cabbage is not only tender, but actually begins to caramelize.
Stir together 1/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat.
I initially served this over rice, but my family decided that we liked it better as a filling for lettuce wraps. We ended up just peeling the leaves off of a head of lettuce, filling the "cups" with this yummy mixture, and stuffing our faces while leaning over our plates. We're a classy bunch.
Egg Roll Filling Stir Fry
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
4-5 sliced green onions
1 tablespoon mince garlic
1 tablespoon "mashed" ginger
1/2 head of cabbage finely chopped or grated
2 carrots, grated or thinly sliced
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Brown ground beef with onion. Drain fat. Add in green onions, garlic, and ginger. Heat and stir to a "sizzle". Add the cabbage and carrots to the skillet. Stir fry until the cabbage is tender and begins to caramelize, turning a deep golden-brown color. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Stir the soy sauce mixture into the skillet and heat through. Serve over rice or as a filling for lettuce wraps.
There, now I've dipped my toe back into the waters of food blogging. Hopefully, I will write my next post sooner than 2 years and 7 months from now. Have a great week everyone!