Monthly Archives: May 2012

I Like to Stay Up Past Midnight Reading…

Well, Fatty Gal readers, we know that one of my all time favorite things to do is read! It’s one of my top two hobbies, along with knitting, and I just love to settle in with a good book and get lost in the story and the characters and the scenery of it all. when I find a REALLY good book, and then find out that the main character(s) that I like so much are part of a series, man, oh man, that’s just the best.

Such was the case with a book that I just read, er, actually devoured, over this past weekend.  Last week, my bestest girlfriend, Carolyne, and I decided to start a book club.  Or, as my husband referred to it, just us hanging out and talking about books, which is what we do anyway:) We both enjoy good mysteries, supernatural stuff and historical books, and thought it would be fun to make a pointed effort to both read the same book and have a discussion. Since the inception of this idea last week, we’ve picked up two more members for the club, so that’s a bonus.

Carolyne chose the first book, The Restorer by Amanda Stevens.

Seriously, doesn’t the cover just look intriguing? If I was wandering the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble and had come across this, I would DEFINITELY have picked it up based solely on the cover.  The Restorer is the first book in The Graveyard Queen Series featuring Amelia Gray. This is the description from the back of the book:

“My name is Amelia Gray.  I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father.  But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore.  The clues to the killer –and to his other victims–lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret.  Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy.  To warn him would be to invite them into my life. Ive vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the rest.”

The description on the back of this book simply does NOT do this book justice. It is a Southern Gothic ghost story that takes place in old Charleston, where pre-Civil War history is colliding with the modern world.  This is already a huge plus for me, since I really enjoy reading about Southern history, with its ghosts and Gullah spirits and witchcraft, things that we just don’t have up North in Chicago where the city was rebuilt after a major fire. There’s a charm, for me at least, to the aura of the deep south, and I’ve always wanted to visit. The world that Stevens created for Amelia and Devlin, with its shadowy history and ghosts was just too intriguing.

Stevens also created compelling characters, who you want to get to know more. The author reveals just enough about the characters’ pasts to keep you flipping the pages, madly wanting more. The interplay between Amelia Gray and John Devlin, the haunted cop, is both believable and enticing.

At times, the world that Stevens created for her characters and her story got downright creepy, which is the hallmark of a good Southern Gothic ghost story.  No joke, at one point, I was reading the book late into the night long after my husband and dog were fast asleep and it was at a particularly scary point in the book and every single sound I heard in the house was creeping me out. Now. That’s a damn good book.

Since reading this book in less than two days over the weekend, I raced to the Chicago Public Library website to put the second and third books on hold so that I can read them. But dammit if somebody else hasn’t already checked all the copies out! I know I’ve found a good read when all I want to do after finishing one book is pick up the next in the series. If you like mysteries, ghost stories, and/or Southern Gothic novels, I highly suggest you pick this book up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

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Summer Grillin’, Happens So Fast…

One of my favorite things about the warmer weather is firing up the grill. For so many different reasons — grilled food is awesome, it means I get to be outside enjoying the spring/summer air and light and time in the backyard, and I’m not heating up my house unnecessarily by using the stove or oven.  And, ever since we switched from a charcoal grill to a gas grill a few years ago (thank you for the bestest Christmas present ever, honey!), grilling is fast and easy, so it’s no longer relegated to being a weekend-only event.

So what’s a girl to do when weeknight dinner beckons and you don’t want to be bogged down in prep time? Why, grill peppers, onions, tomatoes and sausage! Here’s a super easy, super fast, and super yummy dinner that you can make in, literally, 10 minutes of grilling time!

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 Green Bell Peppers, cut into bite size pieces

2 Red Bell Peppers, cut into bite size pieces

1 Onion, cut in half and sliced (think half onion ring size)

1 Pint Grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry, whatever floats your boat)

1 Packet Mojito Lime seasoning

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Turkey Sausage (or any other sausage of your choosing)

The before cooking pictures:

(Note: I used Ekrich Skinless Turkey Sausage)

Instructions:

1. Get your grill going nice and hot. You’re going to need a veggie grilling basket for this meal, and I always toss mine on the grill while it’s warming up so that the basket is piping hot and ready too.

2. In a large bowl, toss the peppers, onion, tomato, Mojito Lime seasoning and olive oil, to ensure that everything is coated up.

3.  When your grill is ready (I usually let mine heat up for about 10 minutes), toss the pepper mixture into the grilling basket, and toss the sausages on the grill.

For the sausages, assuming they are pre-cooked, which most are, you can grill them over medium heat, 5 minutes per side. Key –> Be sure to poke a few holes in each sausage with a fork so that the juices can escape and you don’t have the sausage explode on you while cooking. For the veggies, I let them cook away in the basket over medium-high heat, and mix them around with tongs at the halfway mark of cooking (5 minutes) to ensure that they are evenly cooked.

4.  Once the cooking time is done, turn your grill off and enjoy your fabulous dinner.

Behold, the beauty of grilled veggies, piping hot:

And sausages, perfectly grilled as well:

What’s your favorite meal to toss on the grill in summer?

Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’?

So, one of my favorite, favorite, favorite blogs to read of late has been Holly Would If She Could. Holly is a Californian who eats Paleo, does Cross fit, loves to read, and garden and just seems like exactly the kind of sassy gal all my gal pals and I would be friends with. You know, if we lived in California, or she lived in Chicago. She’s also a huge inspiration because she has followed through on her decision to eat healthy, live healthy and get healthy and she looks fabulous. Whenever I get intimidated about how much weight I want to lose or get frustrated at how far I think I have to go, a quick hop over to her site gets me motivated again because it CAN be done.

One of my favorite features for her blog is her weekly roundup of what she’s planning for meals for the week. I look to her for inspiration, and maybe just copied half her meal plan this week since I was being lazy. Let’s face it — while we all have our tried and true dinners that we make week after week, because we love them and are familiar with them and can whip them up quickly, we all need to see new stuff in the mix. Also, and maybe it’s just me, but when I meal plan for my week, I eat better all around since I know, without question, here is what I’m having on Tuesday night and I don’t get to 5pm on Tuesday night and go “Oh holy fuck, I don’t have anything defrosted or that I want to eat.”  I also have a husband who literally made a face at me the last time I made Pioneer Woman’s Mustard Chicken (which I love, but yes, I may have started to put it too heavily into the rotation). New stuff was needed, and fast.

So, in a total homage to Holly, I figure I’d share what my meal plan for this week is!

Sunday:

Paleo Pad Thai

I came across this recipe on one of the Paleo food blogs I read and had almost everything on hand to make it. My husband is a HUGE fan of Thai food and I always enjoy trying my hand at new things. I had to substitute an onion for a shallot and peanuts for macadamia nuts, but the result was DELISH. And it definitely made more than just 2 servings of food, so I have leftovers to enjoy for my lunch:) Go me!

Monday:

Meatballs and a Kickass Salad — This is actually for my husband and his friend Jon who is coming over tonight, as I will be having Ladies Dancing With the Stars dinner celebration! The meatballs are simmering away in the Crockpot for the guys to enjoy whenever they get hungry, and the bonus is I made so much that I’ll surely have lunchtime leftovers this week. Huzzah!

Tuesday:

Grilled Bell Peppers and Onion and Turkey Sausage — Now that it’s warm it’s getting to be grilling season, so I plan on making this one a lot. It’s also something Patrick can eat without getting sick of it. It’s spectacularly easy, sinfully delicious and will be the subject of its own post really soon. I promise:)

Wednesday:

Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary (totally stole this recipe from Holly’s blog this week, but it looks too goddamn good not to eat) & Grilled Lemon-Garlic Broccoli

Thursday:

Paleolasagna — I don’t know what to say about this meal except that just looking at the picture is making me unbelievably hungry and excited for this dinner. Check it out, I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Friday:

Taco Salad Bar Night!

Saturday:

Leftovers or maybe eating out or maybe a quick stir-fry or maybe Patrick will be cooking. We are hosting a big barbeque on Sunday for our dear friends who are moving away and I know there will be tons of cooking and food prep for that, and I know I won’t want to cook a big Saturday meal.

I’m planning on making this a weekly feature, and would LOVE to hear what you all are making this week….new recipes and ideas are always fun and always welcome!

Breadless Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Peppers!

Happy Sunday, fair readers! I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful, relaxing and fun filled weekend, wherever you may be. Here in Chicago it’s been the weekend of the NATO invasion as dignitaries from more than 60 countries come together to discuss all manner of politics and wreak havoc on traffic, buses, trains and general life here. Not to worry, as NATO has not prevented us from having an activity packed weekend, from working in the garden (separate post to come on that this week), attending a going away party for friends moving to Vermont, and meeting new friends. Add in the 90+ degree heat here and it’s just been fun in da sun!

I’ve been toying with the idea of what recipe/meal to post next and share with you all….should it be a new creation? An old standby? Comfort food transformed into moderately healthy comfort food? And then I realized, it should be the Breadless Cheesesteak Sandwiches with Peppers! Why? Because it is DELICIOUS! And FAST! And EASY! And YUMMY! It’s the perfect weeknight meal for when you have to cook but don’t really want to, great to make before an evening out on the weekend and is even a quick lunch if you work from home or have the day off. Behold, I give you this wonder of taste:

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients:

2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced into pieces of your preferred size

2 Red Bell Peppers, sliced into pieces of your preferred size

1 Purple Onion, small, cut into thin slices

2 Tablespoons EVOO or butter (your choice, I personally use butter)

1 LB Deli roast beef (I used the Sara Lee Medium Roast Beef, low sodium)

Provolone Cheese, approximately 6 slices

Instructions:

1.  In a large sautee pan, melt your EVOO or butter (or other fat of your choosing) over medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot, add the onions and sautee them until they are starting to get tender, approximately 2-3 minutes.

2.  Add in the peppers and sautee until they are cooked through, but still a bit crunchy. I always find that cooking peppers is a matter of personal preference.  I want mine cooked through but still crunchy.  I made this meal for my parents on Friday and my mom prefers her peppers cooked a little bit more. It’s all just what YOU like.

3.  Once the peppers and onions are fully cooked, remove them from the pan and set them aside in a platter.

4.  Returning your pan to the heat, add your roast beef to the pan and cook it over medium heat for approximately 2-3 minutes.  Basically, you just want to warm the roast beef up and get it to brown a little bit. It’s already been fully cooked before being sold to you, so this is truly just to warm it up and let it soak up the peppery and onion flavor of the pan.  And believe me, you’ll be pleased that you did!

5.  Once the roast beef has been cooked to your satisfaction, scoot it to one side of the pan and add the peppers back in to warm them up.  I try to arrange my pan so that the peppers are the bottom layer, and the roast beef is then on top of them.  But there’s no right and wrong in this recipe, so if you want to mix it all up, go for it!

6.  Add the slices of provolone cheese to cover the peppers and beef in the pan and cover until the cheese is melted, approximately 1-2 minutes, depending on your stove.

7.  Eat and enjoy your delicious dinner without the bad carbiness of bread and gluten! You get so many vitamins from the veggies that this is truly a complete meal on its own. Or, you can add in a salad on the side if you’d like.

Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini and Yellow Squash Noodles!

Dear reader, as you know, one of the things that I love to do is find new recipes to try, to “paleofy” and fiddle with.  My husband is a huge fan of Reddit and follows all sorts of different Paleo/Keto/Health subreddits, and often we find some GREAT recipes there.  The base for this recipe was just that — a great link sent to me by hubby as an “I think we should try and make this sometime.”  Here is the link to the original Zucchini and Chicken Alfredo.  The first time I made this, I followed the recipe to the letter and it was very good. This is the picture of the finished product, first time around:

Personally, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Alfredo Sauce, as I find the jarred stuff too tart and chemical tasting and when we eat out I am drawn to pesto, which is my favorite. This meal was super quick and easy to make, and the jarred sauce DID deepen and became richer in flavor after cooking with the chicken and squash in it. After making it, though, I was still convinced I could make a version with a homemade sauce that I would like even more.  Challenge accepted!

Before this evening, I’d never made my own Alfredo Sauce, so I googled it and came across many recipes from which to choose — Alton Brown, Paula Deen, Giada, fake Olive Garden sauce. You name it, it was out there…..I didn’t like all of the ingredients in some of those sauces and found a pretty simple recipe to use as my base, here.

If you’ve made any type of a sauce in your kitchen before, you know that it usually requires that you use flour combined with butter to create the roux, or the base of the sauce. I have no problem with roux, and have made many in my day. The issue now is that we are eating Paleo and have cut out white flour from our diets…..is there a solution? Or am I totally screwed on this one? Nope, all is well.  Many people are unaware that there are a bazillion and one options for using flour that does not contain gluten and that is made from a variety of other bases…..coconut flour and almond flour are two of my favorites.  I’ve used them in baking many things since going Paleo and gluten-free and things taste even better.  This evening, I had to fiddle with the amount of coconut flour to use (and ultimately increased the amount called for in the recipe) in order to get the consistency in the roux that I needed.   Without further ado, I give you Fatty Girl’s recipe for Paleo friendly, gluten free Chicken Alfredo with Zucchini and Yellow Squash!

Ingredients for the chicken and veggie part:

  • 4-5 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2-3 Zucchini (I tried to get bigger, so I had longer noodles and more of them)
  • 2-3 Yellow Squash (Again, try to get bigger, so that you have longer noodles)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Instructions:

1.  Ready? Set? Go prepare your chicken! I sliced the chicken breasts into strips (think fajita size) and then cut the bigger pieces in half so that they were all the same size for even and quick cooking.  Sprinkle kosher salt, ground black pepper and italian seasoning onto the chicken (both sides) and you can set aside in the fridge for a little bit if you’re doing advance prep. Personally, I prepped my chicken about 5 hours before I started making dinner and just put the plate with saran wrap in the fridge. Or, you can cook right away.

2.  Next step? Prepare your zucchini and yellow squash! This is super easy and until this woman’s recipe I hadn’t thought to make faux pasta using zucchini.  Armed with the veggie peeler, and a cutting board, I got down to work. Just start peeling and don’t stop until you hit seeds on all sides of the zucchini.  Repeat with the yellow squash.  This will leave you with a gorgeous pile of vibrant, thin “noodles” and the smell of fresh veggies is intoxicating. (Note: after you’re done peeling the veggies for this recipe, you still have a lot of both squash left. I chopped mine up and put into the fridge for use in stir fry or scrambled eggs — last weekend’s yellow squash and zucchini scrambled eggs were DELISH!)

3.  Grab the pan of your choosing….you could use a cast iron skillet, a regular skillet, or your dutch oven. I made this in our Le Cruset dutch oven because I knew it would have to stay warm until hubby arrived home late. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter (2 Tablespoons) and cook the chicken. Mine cooked up in about 4 minutes on each side. So as not to crowd the pan, I cooked the chicken in two batches.

4.  Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside on a plate. Grab all your noodles and toss them into the dutch oven and cook them over medium heat. You want them to get tender and brown a little bit, but you don’t want them to burn or fall apart. Once the noodles are cooked, turn off the heat to the pan, toss the chicken back into the pot and mix it into the noodles. Oooh, and best part, don’t forget to add the chicken juices from the plate. They will taste really good.

Next up? The sauce. The sauce was very quick and easy to whip up, but because a roux based sauce with cheese requires some babysitting on the stove, I made it after I had finished the chicken and veggies so I didn’t have to babysit multiple pots and grow about 8 arms to make it all happen.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 teaspoons coconut flour (we use Red Mill brand)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.  In your favorite saucepan (I used my purple Le Cruset sauce pan with the lid — one of the best gifts I’ve ever received for its versatility), melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the minced garlic and sautee it quickly until the garlic is a very light brown.

2.  Immediately add the 3 teaspoons coconut flour and whisk it into the butter and garlic mixture, until you don’t have any clumps and you’ve created a slightly thick sauce.  A roux should be thicker than regular liquid, without clumps, and requires constant whisking.

3.  Pour in the heavy cream and whole milk and whisk it until combined with the roux and thickened a bit.

4.  Add in the Parmesan cheese and stir until it is fully melted.

5.  Now comes the really fun part — taste testing. Grab your spoon and taste the sauce so you can add salt and pepper to your individual palette.  I found I just needed about two pinches of salt and a little pepper and the sauce was divine. This is a picture of the sauce that I made, before adding it to the chicken and veggies:

Note: this sauce is not a shocking white like most alfredo sauces you see, due to the fact that I used coconut flour. If you make your sauce with almond flour, or white flour, chances are it will be lighter in color. But what it lacks in traditional color, I can tell you this sauce makes up for in richness and depth.

6.  Pour the sauce into the pot with the chicken and veggies and warm it over medium heat and serve.  Or, cover the pot up and wait to serve it later! Whatever floats your boat. This recipe also made great leftovers and didn’t make it past the following lunchtime in our fridge.

The final product: