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Perfect Baked Brown Rice

This is Alton Brown's technique for brown rice, and I think it's the only way to make brown rice! I make a batch every Sunday to keep on hand for the week. 
Ingredients1 1/2 cups brown rice,  medium or short grain2 1/2 cups water1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)Directions Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Note: I marked the salt and butter as optional because I don't use them.  The rice tastes fine to me without them, but I know some people will want to add one or both. 

Budget Challenge!

As I mentioned in my last update, my family moved towards a more real and less processed way of eating late last year.  This did amazing things for our health and well-being, but, unfortunately, translated into an enormous increase in our grocery budget.  In the last 3 months of 2011 we spent over $700 on groceries each month, approximately double what we had been spending!

I admit, I did nothing to try and keep the budget down.  I did not do much meal planning, I didn't specifically shop the sales, and I purchased whatever I needed or wanted at whatever time I wanted it.  I think it worked out OK for us that way.  In a sense it was a bit of a grace period to learn what worked for us.  Learning a new way of shopping, cooking and eating was enough to tackle, it would have been harder if I had added in strict budget limitations. 

I started 2012 with a few intentions, one of which was to do more meal planning, give more thought to my shopping list, and get the grocery budget back un…

Keeping it real

A few months ago I started participating in a fitness challenge at a local gym.  Through the challenge I was paired with a personal trainer, and heard weekly informative talks by nutritionists and dietitians.  The nutritionist in particular got through to me in a way nothing else ever has.  Every time I heard her speak I re-evaluated my eating habits and the contents of my kitchen. 
About three weeks into the challenge my personal trainer suggested I give up processed foods.  At the time I was down to only eating one processed food a day, so giving them up entirely didn't seem like much of a stretch.  It also coincided with the start of October Unprocessed at Eating Rules.  I took the challenge and went an entire month without eating processed foods.  I lost weight, I looked better, I felt better, and I'm not going back. 
There is some debate about what foods are "processed".  I have my own definition that I am comfortable with.  I am stricter than some people on s…

Menu Plan Monday

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Yes, it's Tuesday again.  :) 

Last week we tried two new recipes which were big hits!  My plan fell apart by the end of the week though.  On Thursday I was too tired to cook, so no chicken fried rice for dinner.  I did end up making it for lunch on Friday though.  I think I need to plan on on leftovers for every Thursday.  Thursday is the day I am most likely to be burnt out from the week, and then I am re-energized on Friday because it's practically the weekend.

This week's plan is shaping up like this:
Monday - Rotini pasta with Chicken Al Fresco Sausage (The same recipe as last week, with rotini pasta instead of bowties)  This recipe was so good I have been craving it, so I decided to make it again.  It's still good, but I think I prefer it with the bowtie shaped pasta.
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Crockpot Beef Stew served over rice
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Black bean and cheese quesadillas

You can find many more menu plans and ideas at OrgJunkie's Menu…

Recipe Review - Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken Al Fresco Sausage

Last night I made Bow Tie Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage.  It turned out to be one of the best new recipes I've tried in a while.

It was easy to prepare, and the flavors were perfect together.  The major test for any pasta dish is my husband's reaction, as he doesn't care for pasta most of the time.  He loved this and proclaimed it "As good as a restaurant".

Give this one a try, I think you'll love it too!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans italian diced tomatoes (with basil, garlic & oregano), drained
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons parmesan
1 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian chicken (or turkey) sausage, casings removed and crumbled or slice Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Meanwhile heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until transparent.  Add sausage and cook until sausage is lightly browned.  Stir in drained tomato…

Meatloaf: Mexican Style

Hello to those of you who have found my blog! I'm so excited to know there are real people out there who might see this! :)

As promised, here is the recipe for Mexican Style Meatloaf.

Meatloaf: Mexican Style

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef (I used a mixture of ground chuck and extra lean ground beef)
1 jar salsa (I used mild, but use whatever you like)
1 can black beans (you'll only use 1/2 the can)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain and rinse the black beans. You'll only need 1/2 of the can for this. I like using the leftover beans in scrambled eggs or omelets.

Mix the beef, 1/2 can black beans, 1/2 cup salsa and egg in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, and add any other seasoning you might like. I added onion powder and seasoning salt.

Shape the meat mixture into a loaf-shape in the baking dish of your choice.

Once shaped into a loaf, make a channel or indentation on the top of the loaf, down the middle, for the salsa…

Meatloaf: Italian style

I apologize in advance for not having any pictures to go with these recipes. Meatloaf, or at least my meatloaf, doesn't make for pretty pictures. Besides, dinner was later than usual and I was hungry. :)

Last night I made two meatloaves: Italian and Mexican. I do not use breadcrumbs in my meatloaf, and I'm only cooking for two, so I tend to make small, dense meatloaf.

Meatloaf: Italian Style

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef (I used a mixture of ground chuck and extra lean ground beef)
1 small can chopped mushrooms
1 can Italian diced tomatoes, divided (sometimes these are labeled "Italian", or just look for diced tomatoes with basil, oregano, etc)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
shredded Mozzarella cheese (or use Parmesan from the green can in a pinch)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix* the beef, mushrooms, egg and half of the diced tomatoes in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, and add any other seasoning you might like. Last night I added onion powder, seasoning salt …