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Friday, September 19, 2014

New Blog!

I've taken a long break from blogging, but I'm back!
Thank you to all those who have followed Simply Real. I look forward to sharing more recipes and real food love over at my new blog:

Head over for my free ebook. Thanks for your continued support!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mise en place

Mise en place is French for "Everything in its place." It means that you do some of your food prep in advance, with everything in its place so that the actual cooking is less stressful. They do a version of this on cooking shows all the time. All the onions are diced, all the ingredients are pre-measured. That way, when they're ready to cook, everything is in its place and they just move through the recipe instead of watching them measure out each ingredient.

Mise en place is a great technique for home cooking too. It can be varied and used to suit your cooking style and the time available. I will use this week's menu at the Neilson house and demonstrate two different variations of mise en place.

Beef Stew
Fried Chicken and sweet potatoes
Zucchini and Quinoa Bake
Baked Potato Soup
Beef, Cheese and Noodle Bake

Quick meal prep: Let's say you have a little extra time on the weekend to do some meal prep, but don't have hours to do all your weeks cooking. I would look at all my recipes, and see what ingredients are needed. For beef stew, I would chop all the veggies (onions, carrots, and potatoes) and meat, and then store them in a baggie in the freezer. You could continue on with all your recipes, pre chopping and freezing or refrigerating veggies. I would also use my short meal prep to make the breads, tortillas, etc. for the week, as well as any grains that take a while to cook.

Longer meal prep: The way I've been doing this is a little more in depth on "cooking day", but takes almost all the work out of weeknights, which has been fabulous! (I watched the clock this week and was able to have dinner ready in 5-15 minutes each night.) In addition to my weekly menu, I also needed to make granola this week, and french bread since the kids asked for bruschetta to take in their school lunch. Here's my action list. This really just takes a little time looking at each recipe and seeing what needs to be done and what can be done ahead of time.

Beef Stew:
Thaw Beef
Cube beef, cut veggies, cook in crockpot
Freeze cooked stew

Soak pinto beans
Cook beans in crockpot
Make tortillas

Fried Chicken:
Thaw chicken
Fry chicken
Freeze in pan
Bake sweet potatoes

Zucchini and Quinoa Bake:
Thaw zucchini
Cook quinoa
Add eggs, cheese and seasonings, freeze in casserole dish

Baked Potato Soup:
Bake Potatoes
Mash and make soup
Refrigerate for later in week
Chop and Cook bacon
Dice Green onions

Beef, Cheese and Noodle Bake:
Cook Pasta
Brown ground beef

Make french bread
Make bruchsetta topping
Soak oats for granola
Mix and dehydrate granola
Wash and chop lettuce, store in baggie with paper towel

Looking over this menu, with most of these meals I was able to put most of the meal together and just reheat. That hasn't been the case with other recipes I've done, and really will just depend on what you're making that week.  A few of these meals will just need to be reheated the night of. Others, like the burritos,  take just a few minutes of cooking since everything's in its place.

The basic plan is to
1. Make a menu for the week
2. Make a step by step action plan of what needs to be done
3. Decide what you can/ have time to do ahead of time
4. Get to work!

I will also add that the original article I got this idea from had more basic ingredients stored in her fridge instead of actual meals. That way, she could just throw together caramelized onion jam (which is awesome, by the way- recipe coming soon), wheat berries and squash, and dinner was ready. That's sounds great in theory, but it's not how I cook. I don't just throw a bunch of things together and hope for the best. (Well, sometimes I do, but it doesn't always turn out great.)  But if that works for you, try to think of staples that you could make ahead of time. Sauté some onions and mushrooms, make some rice or quinoa, whatever your staples are, and voila! dinner is ready in a snap.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mise en Place: The benefits of once-a-week cooking

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I like to cook, so I never really thought of it as a problem, but lately, between four kids, my yoga business, cleaning, shopping, and all those other regular life things, I've been feeling that something's gotta give!
I'd heard of once-a-month cooking before, but it didn't really appeal. There are very few meals I make that would freeze well, and go straight from freezer to dinner. When I read an article in Whole Living Magazine about mise en place, I realized THIS kind of preparing meals in advance could work for me. The article talks about a chef who does the bulk of her cooking on one day a week, and then is able to throw the meals together in about 10 minutes after she gets home from work.
In my next post, I'll detail specifically what this kind of meal planning looks like for me, but here I just want to tell you some of the benefits:

1. Freer Afternoons. This is number one for a reason. This is huge! I've had more time to help my kids with their homework, play, clean my house, read a book, work on lessons--all that stuff that I haven't had time for. It's amazing what a free hour or two in the afternoon does for me. It's gone from a stressful time, to a stress-free time. *Happy Sigh*

2. Fewer dishes. I was able to re-use a lot of the dishes that were out without throwing them in the dishwasher. The cutting board cut all the veggies for the week without needing to be washed in between, the measuring cups did all their work in one day. And because the food is all made, there are fewer dishes after dinner too. 

3. Less last-minute scrambling for dinner. Am I the only one who has this problem? The afternoon gets busy, or you get home later than planned, and suddenly, you don't have time to make what you planned for dinner. I've found myself searching the cupboards for something--anything that comes together quickly-- and we usually end up with some culinary masterpiece like noodles and eggs. 

4. All the breads rise at the same time. This week's menu included three different kinds of bread (french bread, crescent roll dough, and pizza dough). Normally, I would make each bread on the night we use it, but on Monday, I made them all. One rising time for 3 breads- amazing! I froze the ones we'll use later in the week so they will still taste fresh with a quick reheat in the oven.

5. My kitchen only looks like a bomb went off once a week instead of everyday. If you do a lot of cooking from scratch, you probably know what I mean. Keeping the kitchen clean is always a challenge, but only tearing it apart one day a week means its a lot cleaner on the other days.

In my next post, I'll detail the specifics of how to try this out in your own kitchen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's Pumpkin Season!

Even though it's 95 degrees here in Southern California, it's fall. And even if we're just eating it from a can, it's time to dust off the pumpkin recipes and make it feel like fall! Here are two of my favorites, Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Pancakes. They are perfect for a fall morning... even if it feels like summer.

Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship


3/4 cup honey                                    ½ t. cinnamon
2 eggs                                                   ½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. baking powder                          1 2/3 c. whole wheat or sprouted flour
1 t. baking soda                                  ½ c. melted butter or coconut oil
¾ t. salt                                               1/4 c. cold water
½ t. cloves                                          1 c. pumpkin (about half a 15 oz can)
1 Tbs. molasses (opt.)
Mix all ingredients together.  Put in greased loaf pan or muffin tin.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pancakes


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or butter
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 2/3 cups wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Directions:
    1. In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil or butter and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
    2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot with real maple syrup.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Classic Fettucine Alfredo Recipe

This delicious recipe should be in every food lovers collection.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Blog

I've been asked by a lot of people (okay, maybe just two) if I'm ever going to start blogging again. And I've finally decided, the answer is yes!

But I'm ready for a new challenge and a new blog. I can be found here: , writing about... well, life. I'm sure food and nutrition, the main focus of this blog, will creep in there too. So, I hope you'll come check it out and talk about life with me.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Roasted Corn and Poblano Pizza

I can't take much credit for this recipe. I got it from Cooking Light years ago and just made a few changes- things like swapping out egg whites and using whole eggs, and using whole wheat pizza crust instead of white, packaged crust. The cilantro and sour cream topping really makes this dish, so don't leave those out. If you're afraid of hot, spicy foods, just make sure to remove all the seeds and skin-- that's where all the heat is. Then all you're left with is a mild chile flavor without it being too spicy.

Roasted Corn and Poblano Pizza


2 poblano chiles

Olive oil or butter for sauteing

2 cups corn kernels

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Pizza dough*

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

*You can buy premade whole wheat pizza dough at stores like Trader Joe's and Fresh and Easy, in the refrigerated section. I make my own so that I know exactly what is in it.


Preheat broiler.
Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 10 minutes or until blackened and charred, turning occasionally. Place in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and discard skins, seeds, and stems. Chop peppers.
Lower oven temperature to 425°.
In a large skillet, melt butter or olive oil over medium high heat.  Add corn, green onions, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in milk; cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Cool slightly. Place eggs, salt, and black pepper in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Stir in poblano peppers, corn mixture, and cheese.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unroll dough onto parchment paper; pat dough to form a 13 x 8-inch rectangle. Spread corn mixture over dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold 1 inch of dough over corn mixture. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until set. Serve with sour cream; sprinkle with cilantro.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.