Friday, April 16, 2010

Busy Mom's Food Find: Jello Mousse Temptations

I'm a huge fan of snacking on sugar free Jello pudding cups.  Yes, I realize they're made of chemicals.  However, I love that they satisfy my chocolate cravings for only 1 point, so I tend to look the other way.  Pudding is a staple in my "arsenal" of food finds.  So when Jello came out with a new product earlier this year, I HAD to try it.  It's a mousse, but it still only has 1 point for each little pre-packaged cup. 

My verdict? FANTASTIC! This mousse feels decadent and light, all at the same time.  My personal favorite is the "Dark Chocolate Decadence" flavor.  The name says it all.  

One little note about sugar free puddings:  all flavors are not created equal.  I have found, during my extensive love affair with these sweet little gelatinous wonders that there is something about the chocolate flavor that hides the chemical taste of the sweeteners better than the vanilla varieties.  At least for my taste buds, the vanilla-based flavors of sugar free puddings taste metallic and fake, where the chocolate-based flavors do not.  For all of you who are strictly against man-made sweeteners, I've probably just reconfirmed all your worst fears and solidified your determination.  For those of you who aren't as worried, stick with the chocolate! You'll thank me for it. 

One final note:  Jello has not paid me to write positive things about their products, or supplied me with free product of any sort. In fact, Jello has no idea who I am. I am writing this post purely on my own volition.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Deconstructed Crockpot Stuffed Cabbage

I'm beginning to notice a trend:  Everything I make, when photographed, looks like a big, red, gloppy mess.  Perhaps I have a taste for such concoctions?  I don't know. 

What I DO know is that this cabbage dish is divine.  It was born from two different recipes.  One gave me the idea of using the flavors of stuffed cabbage, without actually going to the trouble of stuffing the meat in the leaves.  That's EXACTLY how I roll!  Or don't roll.  Get it?!?!  Anyway, I had to try it.  Another recipe suggested better flavors than the first, so I went with that one for taste purposes. 

Cabbage is something I don't cook with much, but it's actually super cheap.  One head of cabbage ended up giving me 8 cups of chopped cabbage.  That's a lot!  Do keep in mind that it cooks down a lot, so what looks like a mountain of cabbage will actually reduce to a very manageable pile after applying a bit of heat. 

My family and I gobbled a whole crockpot of this up in the span of a few nights.  However, the next time I make it I am going to reduce the sugar content by AT LEAST HALF.  If not more.  It was too sweet for my taste.  But even with the extra sweetness, it was still a magical dish. 

NOTE: You may be wondering why I am still putting out crockpot recipes when the weather is decidedly warmer. Here's the deal: I believe that the crockpot is actually a warm weather friend. Aside from browning the meat in the beginning of the recipe, you don't need to slave over a hot stove. And most of the time, the stove-work will be done earlier in the day, when your kitchen is much cooler. I am a HUGE fan of crockpot cooking all year round.

This is the perfect dish to make on a weekend, when you have a little bit of extra time to do some light chopping (nothing too taxing) and to let the crockpot do it's thing.  It keeps well in the fridge and improves with each day it sits.  So feel free to make this on a weekend and serve it during the week, merely reheating what you need.  I served this on top of instant brown rice.  My Dad informed me that egg noodles are the traditionally appropriate side dish to go with such a meal.  I actually thought the rice was perfect, because it soaked up the yummy juices.  Go ahead and serve whatever makes you happy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Busy Mom's Journal: Kid Food

My Fridays are nothing short of boring.  I don't really have much of a social life.  And honestly, I don't mind it one bit.  On a Friday evening, all I really want to do is play with my kid, put him to bed, and curl up with a book or watch some TV.  So in my quest to shirk all social responsibilities, I've stumbled upon "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" on ABC's Friday night line-up.  

This is the basic premise: Jamie Oliver (a cuter-than-cute British chef ) comes to America to tackle the obesity problem in one West Virginia town. His central place of intervention so far: the school cafeterias.  Both he and plenty of health experts believe that the enormous amount of processed food American children eat is leading to a rise in childhood obesity.  Being a teacher myself, I can attest to the fact that school food is some of the most processed stuff around.  Jamie's solution is to introduce the town to the idea of cooking with fresh ingredients.  Real pieces of chicken, instead of chicken nuggets.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of french fries.  

I like that idea.  I think it's noble and good.  But I must say that it hits close to home and pings my "Mommy-Guilt meter".  More importantly, it hits close to my refrigerator.  I'll be the first one to admit that the easiest food to feed my son is full of processed ingredients.  At the end of the day, it's just too easy to heat up a turkey hot dog and some Easy Mac in order to get his dinner on the table fast.  That way he's happy and I can focus on making a healthier dinner for myself. 

What a double standard!  I feed my kid chicken nuggets regularly, but wouldn't make a steady diet of them myself.  In my mind, they're "kid food":  things we eat as children, but try not to eat too much of as adults.  What I feed my son is born out of ease and finding things that a toddler will eat.  [MOMMY-GUILT-INDUCED DISCLAIMER: Before you call Child Services on me, bear in mind that he loves to eat veggies and fruit, so there are plenty of those mixed in.  I also don't feed him very many sweets at all.  Animal crackers and yogurt are about it.  There.  I feel better.]  But even still, he eats plenty of processed food, especially in the protein department. 

So two nights ago in my endeavor to feed more "real" food to my son, he waited (with the aid of a few animal crackers to tide him over) while I made dinner: a healthy frittata made with leftover Easter ham and veggies.  We all sat around the dinner table and ate dinner together.  It was good.   

Can I do that every night?  Sure.  Will I do that every night? Probably not.  But I will definitely keep in mind that I am teaching my son healthy eating habits that will last his whole lifetime.  I will focus on finding easy recipes that both he and I can eat, made from healthy, whole ingredients without too much processing.  That way he can enjoy pure, healthy food and I can eat it too.  I'm not saying goodbye to kid food forever.  No way.  I think moderation is the key. 

So tell me about your family?  What do you feed your kids?  How do you feel about "kid food"?  Leave comments.  Discuss. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Crockpot Tex-Mex Chicken

This taco changed my life.  OK. Maybe not.  But it was pretty darn awesome.  What it did do was transport me back to a time when I lived in downtown Los Angeles.  There was a lovely little tacqueria next to my apartment building.  On nights when I didn't feel like cooking, I would go downstairs to the lovely hole-in-the-wall establishment and get a chicken combo plate.  The chicken was juicy pieces of shredded chicken in a zesty sauce.  Each plate would come with rice, refried beans, warmed corn tortillas, a lovely chopped mixture of cilantro and green onion, and as many wedges of lime as I desired.  It was a beautiful thing.  I would take the plate back up to my apartment, sit on the floor and build my own soft tacos.  Glorious. 

Recently, I put a call out on Facebook for crockpot chicken recipes, and my friend Meg responded with this one.  She originally got the recipe from a Prevention Slow Cooker cookbook.  I've changed it just a tiny bit because that's what I usually do. 

Let me extol the virtues of this chicken dish by telling you it has many lives:  
  • You can use it as taco meat. 
  • You can make nachos with it.  
  • You can freeze it for use later.  
  • You can make tortilla/taco soup by adding some chicken stock or broth to it. 
  • You can put this over baked potatoes and melt some jack cheese over top. 
This is my kind of recipe.  Lots of options!