Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organized Cooking

As a runner, it is important to me to eat somewhat healthy but it certainly isn't easy. As a kid, my mom and I were on the road every night. I lived in a really small town and I was a gymnast. We had to drive an hour each way for me to get to workouts that lasted 3 hours. We did this 5 days a week. My nightly dinners came from the drive thru and I developed some really unhealthy eating habits. Even to this day I love to eat fast food and my sweet tooth is ridiculous.

A few years ago I started cooking. Not much and nothing too difficult. I also didn't do it very often, but it was a start. Two years ago I became obsessed with Food Network. I'd watch it all day long but I rarely cooked anything. When Brian moved in he commented on how weird it was that I watched it all day yet never made anything. For whatever reason, this motivated me to get cooking-literally. Turns out, I'm not that bad and the tips I've learned from watching all that Food Network really gave me an edge.

When I found out I was pregnant I became determined to cook regularly. I wanted my child to grow up in a home where most of the dinners were homemade. Not because I'm trying to be June Cleaver or anything, but because I want him to like good food and not associate dinner with take out or drive thru. I work 4, 10 hour shifts a week, organize a year long running series and do some running of my own. I knew it would be difficult to find the time to make dinner on a regular basis so I came up with a plan. I cook 4 nights a week and I do all the prep work on the weekends. This next part is going to sound pretty anal and it is really but I cannot live without organization. Our menus are on a set schedule:

Wednesday-Pizza (takeout)
Thursday-Soup/Sandwich or Pasta

This really helps me narrow down my recipe searches. I am the least busy at work on Tuesdays so I search for my recipes on that day. Once I've found everything, I type up a quick shopping list and I'm ready for the next week. I find most of my recipes online with the majority coming from Weight Watchers. Once I have them all printed up I make notes on them about what can be done in advance. Any prep work like chopping, forming burgers, making sauces, etc... is done on Sunday and this makes cooking a snap each night. It is like everything is ready made. Also, Brian has decided to take over Thursday so I will eventually only be cooking 3 nights a week. Right now he still needs a little help and supervision but I think he'll be on his own soon. As for the weekends, we do some take out, some restaurant and some left overs.

Most of the time the recipes are good but not great but it seems like at least one or two a week are real standouts. I've decided to share the best recipe of each week with all of you including any make ahead tips and of course, a picture. A real picture too, not one I got online but an actual picture of the dish I made.

Last night I made Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms and it was great! I got this recipe from Weight Watchers.

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms

2 tsp veg oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (4, 4 oz pieces)
2 cups mushrooms, small and halved
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme

Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a nonstick skillet.

In a medium sized bowl, mix 2 tbsp of vinegar, the mustard and garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat.

Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute chicken until cooked through-about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm.

Heat remaining tsp of oil in skillet. Saute mushrooms for 1 minute. Add broth, thyme and remaining tsp of vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are a deep brown color-about 2 minutes longer.

Serve chicken topped with mushrooms. 4 servings total with only 3 Weight Watcher points each.

I found this recipe to be very easy. The only thing I did ahead of time was wash and halve the mushrooms. Two things I couldn't live without on this one are a garlic press and a meat thermometer. I do not have the knife skills to mince a piece of garlic but a garlic press does it for me in an instant. Get one if you don't already have one. For me, I hate chicken, or any meat really, if it isn't perfectly done. It is really easy to overcook meat and no one wants to eat that. With a meat thermometer, you are never guessing. You know exactly when the chicken is done and done perfectly. I always cook poultry to 165 degrees and then take it off the heat immediately.

Here is a picture of the finish product.

I added a half cup of Uncle Ben's Ready Rice-Whole Grain Variety. I do not have time to cook sides so I use these all the time. They are ready in 90 seconds! Love that! This added 2 points to the meal.

For more color you could certainly add veggies. Trust me, this one tastes better than it looks.


KC, of course! said...

You inspire me. :-) I would love to have a homemade meal every night - one that I actually made from scratch. I try my hardest, but I'm still trying to get everything worked out. lol. Oh, and that meal you made looks/sounds awesome to me!

Andi said...

Thanks! I couldn't do it without all the organization.