Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade Soup

One of my favorite foods to have during the colder months is soup. And there's nothing better than knowing you have a whole pot of it. I make soup all the time, and I consider it to be my specialty.
The soup I made for this post was chicken and vegetable. These are the ingredients: chicken, cans of chicken broth or bullion cubes, egg noodles, and whatever vegetables you want. I used onion, carrots, potatoes, Lima beans, corn, peas, and green beans. In order to make the process faster I bought a already cooked chicken and then shredded it myself. I also bought a frozen bag of corn, peas, and green beans so that they were already cooked. If you use a bag of frozen vegetables, make sure to leave it out so it can thaw.

The first thing I did was shred my chicken and put a pot of water on the stove to boil.

Then I proceeded to cut my onion, carrots, and potatoes. It's a good idea to cook these items separately before adding them to the soup. The carrots and potatoes are so hard that they take a long time to soften in the soup. I decided to add my chicken to this mix as well. The onion adds flavor to them.
The onions were from my boyfriend's grandparent's garden. They were incredibly pungent and make me cry throughout most of the soup-making.
As you cook your vegetables, start making the broth. How much broth you use depends on your preference. I don't like much broth in my soup so we didn't make as much as you usually would. If you're using cans you just pour the broth right into a pot. If you are using bullion cubes, measure out how much water you'll need, let the water warm up, and then add the bullion cubes. Put your broth at a higher temperature so that it can start to simmer.
If the water in the other pot is starting to boil now, you can add your noodles.

Once the broth starts to simmer you can add the vegetables that you were previously cooking. Turn the heat down to a medium high. Once those vegetables start to soften you can add the frozen bag of vegetables.
When your noodles are done cooking, pour them into a colander and rinse them with cold water. This will stop the cooking process so when you add them to the rest of your soup they won't become mushy.

Let your soup continue to cook. Sample it every once and a while so you can know what point it's at. How well cooked you want your soup is up to you. I like my soup well cooked, so mine took about 30 minutes after I added the noodles.
When your soup is almost done, add whatever seasonings you want to it. I added just salt and pepper.
Then just serve your soup when it's ready. Now you've got a meal that will last for a couple of days.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homemade lasagna vs. Olive Garden

This is my comparison of my homemade lasagna to Olive Garden's lasagna. I know that the serving size of Olive Garden's entree would be a lot bigger than the serving size of my homemade lasagna (because I always bring home leftovers. Haha). So in this comparison my lasagna is two serving sizes instead of just one.

Homemade lasagna: calories: 580, fat: 10g, sodium: 1120mg, carbs: 50
Olive Garden lasagna: calories: 850, fat: 47g, sodium: 2830mg, carbs: 39

As you can see, my homemade meals are still winning! (:

Homemade lasagna

I loooove Italian food, so I knew that I was going some sort of Italian dish for this blog. I was going to make spaghetti, but I make spaghetti all of the time and I figured that I should try out something new. And I'm glad that I did! This meal ended up being sooo delicious and it actually didn't take a very long time to make.
The ingredients you need to make this lasagna are: uncooked lasagna noodles, lean ground beef, onion, a jar of your choice of spaghetti sauce, 32oz of cottage cheese, 3 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of ricotta cheese, and 2 eggs.
The only prep-work for this meal is to wash and cut your onion.
You should then start cooking the hamburger in a medium sized pan.
As your hamburger cooks you should mix together the eggs, parmesan, ricotta, and cottage cheese. Leave the mozzarella cheese aside because you will need it throughout the layers of lasagna and for the top of the lasagna.
Once the hamburger is cooked all the way through, add the jar of spaghetti sauce and the chopped onion.
Now you can start the fun part of the lasagna. (:
Start your lasagna with a bottom layer of the meat sauce.
Then put a layer of the uncooked lasagna noodles on top.
Then spread a layer of the cheese sauce on top of the uncooked noodles.
Now you can spread a handful of mozzarella cheese on top.

Now spread more of the meat sauce on top of the cheese sauce.
Start the process again with another layer of uncooked noodles.
End the lasagna with a layer of cheese sauce on top of a layer of uncooked noodles. Make sure to completely cover the noodles with the cheese sauce (more so than I did in the above picture). This will ensure that the noodles cook completely.
Cook the lasagna for 30 minutes. Then take out the lasagna and spread the remainder of the mozzarella on top. Put the lasagna back in the oven for about 15 more minutes.

 This is what the end result should look like.
Enjoy! (:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homemade stir fry vs. Panda Express

Here is my nutritional comparison for my homemade stir fry and a similar meal at Panda Express. My facts were taken off of Panda Express's website and

Homemade stir fry:
Vegetables: calories: 20, fat: 0g, cholesterol: 0g, sodium: 30mg, carbs: 3g, protein: 1g
Rice: calories: 205, fat: 0g, cholesterol: 0g, sodium: 0g, carbs: 44.5g, protein: 4.3g

Panda Express Meal: 
Vegetables: calories: 35, fat: 0g, cholesterol: 0mg, sodium: 360mg, carbs: 7g, protein: 2g
Rice: calories: 380, fat: 0g, cholesterol: 0g, sodium: 0g, carbs: 86g, protein: 7g

As you can see, the homemade meal is much healthier for you. Especially when you consider the amount of sodium that is in the similar Panda Express meal.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homemade Stir Fry

One of my most favorite, easy meals to make is stir fry. All you really need to make it is rice, veggies, and some time. One of the best things about a stir fry is how versatile it can be. You can include whatever vegetables you want in your stir fry. These are the ingredients that I included in mine:
Long grain rice. (I prefer long grain, but you can use whatever kind of rice you want.)

Water chestnuts, which taste really good with soy sauce.

Red and green bell peppers.

Butternut squash.

Mixed vegetables. (Carrots, broccli, peas.)
Other ingredients that I included: chicken, cashews, and onions.

The prepwork for this dish is to wash off all of your vegetables and prepare them by cutting them. If you have all of your veggies cut to begin with, making this meal goes by a lot smoother.
Make sure to cut up your onions because they will be the first thing to cook.
As you cut your vegetables start boiling the correct amount of water for the rice you will need...
and oil the pan that you will be using for your vegetables and/or meat. I have a wok, which is perfect for making stir fry, as it evenly distributes heat. However, you don't necessarily need a wok to make stir fry. Have your stove on a medium-high to high range. Once the oil in your pan heats up, add the chopped onions. Keep moving the onions around with a spatula so that they don't burn. Once the onions are translucent you can add the bell peppers.

Cooking these ingredients first will give the rest of the stir fry more flavor.
By now the water for you rice should have come to a boil, after which you can add the correct rice ratio.
As your vegetables and rice cook, you can start cutting your chicken (if you choose to include it in your stir fry). The first thing you should do is cut off the excess fat. I cut off all of the white in the picture above. Once you remove the fat, you can start cutting the chicken in pieces to be cooked.
If you look at a chicken breast closely, you will notice that grains, or lines, run across the meat diagonally. If you try to cut across these lines you will have a hard time. My dad taught me how much easier it is to cut chicken in the direction of these lines. Trust me, it's a million times easier to do it that way. (:

Don't forget to occasionally stir your vegetables as you do other things or they will burn!

Once you've cut your chicken into smaller pieces, you can add it to your vegetables. You will be cooking the chicken hot enough that it will cook all the way through, but when you are done make sure that there are no pink edges on any of the pieces of chicken before you serve it.

After the chicken is mostly cooked, you can add the rest of your veggies. Instead of stirring these veggies in with the rest, splash some water on them and then place a lid on the pan. This will steam the vegetables on top and make the cooking process go much faster.

By this time your rice should be done. Don't forget to take it off the heat and fluff it, or the bottom layer of rice will burn and stick to the pot.
During this time you should clean up any mess you have made; wash cutting boards, wipe off counter tops, etc.

After about 5 to 8 minutes of the vegetables and meat cooking you can add cashews (or other nuts), if you choose to do so.

The last step of this cooking process is to add the soy sauce. Many people make the mistake of adding soy sauce (or other flavors) to their dishes throughout the cooking process. However, the soy sauce will just cook off if you add it to the dish at any other time. The best way not to waste your seasonings is to add them just before your meal is done cooking.

This is approximately what your stir fry should look like when it's done cooking. Looks delicious, right?
All you need to do now is serve your meal and enjoy it. (And remember to wash your dishes when you're done.)