Realistic Cooking Ideas

for Busy People! And sharing our life adventures along the way!

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In my recent posting about baby birds, I mentioned that the birds and chipmunks were not getting along! Initially I saw a bird chasing the chipmunk and I was not pleased! But then another day I saw the chipmunk chasing the birds and squirrels – it was then when I realized that little guy is not so innocent! Plus the birds are protecting their babies. We witness the bird flying over to the chipmunk by our shed.

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Then the bird dive bomb the chipmunk to chase him away.

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But it does not seem to matter. They fight a bit and then the chipmunk ignores the bird. I love how the mother bird stands guard over the chipmunk while he is eating.
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In this photo we see two birds watching the chipmunk! It is amazing what you can witness in your own background if you are just still, be patient, and enjoy the show!
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It is that time of year where baby birds are being hatched in our backyard! They are so much fun to watch as they poke their little furry heads out of bushes waiting for their mother to feed them. They slowly make their way from one bush to another to finally venture to the back of the yard! They are already trying to flap their wings and pretty soon will be flying away. But it is fun to watch them and I thought you might enjoy the pictures. Next time I will have to tell you about the chipmunk and bird fights!

At first I could only see some fur and then realized it was a baby bird!
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He definitely made a lot of noise! And he always knew when his mother was coming with food. She would land by his bush, check out the area, then quickly dove in to feed him. And just that quickly was gone!

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And you can see he made his way to our back gardens! He was pretty active making it hard to get clear photos.

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I hope you enjoyed the baby bird! There were two babies and I am not sure if they are both the same baby or not.

Tortellini Chicken Pasta Salad Close up

A cold chicken salad is always nice on a hot summer day! When making a salad, a purchased rotisserie chicken saves time and eliminates heating the oven. Grilling a marinade chicken breast is also another great option. Many supermarkets are now selling grilled or cooked chicken to quickly throw together a salad.

There are not a lot of ingredients in this recipe so choose wisely to ensure lots of flavor! Consider adding an artisan or gourmet type cheese.

Tortellini Chicken Pasta Salad

For information on artisan cheeses click here. Artisan cheeses are made typically by hand and in small batches with an aging process before they are sold. The end result is a more complex flavor reducing the need to add a lot to this salad. If you cannot find an artisan cheese then look for a gourmet cheese that introduces a lot of flavor.

Tortellini Chicken Pasta Salad Close up

I used Pino’s Press Artisan Oil, Pomodoro Basilico because it is produced individually, by hand in small batches. It seemed a perfect fit for an Artisan luncheon!

Tortellini Chicken Pasta Salad Close up 3

Salad Ingredients:
Rotisserie Chicken, cut into bite-size chunks
18 ounces Tortellini pasta, cooked, drained, cooled
1 cup Celery, sliced on an angle
1 cup Red Bell Pepper, chopped into bite-size chunks
Your Favorite Artisan Cheese

Dressing Ingredients:
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Raw Honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dry mustard
¾ cup olive oil (Artisan style)
Herbs of your choice

Assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl suitable to be chilled in the refrigerator. Make the dressing either in a blender or using a whisk. Pour over the salad ingredients and chill in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend. Save some of the dressing to be added just before serving!

When ready for your picnic pack it properly in a cooler with ice packs to keep it cool for when you are ready for lunch or dinner! Below is a picture of our picnic basket!

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shakeology opened

A year ago I was looking to make changes to my lifestyle in terms of nutrition and workouts. There is always that struggle working for a smaller company where there is not a cafeteria and you either bring your food or drive to a fast-food place or restaurant. Neither tends to be great from a healthy or cost perspective. Initially I was reluctant to join Beachbody since sticking to a workout routine is not easy. The best way to get started is the 21-Day Fix (also called 21-Day Challenge.) The focus is making healthy nutrition and workout changes to your lifestyle that you can live with once the 21-days is over. The initial workouts were tough – you realize how much you do not move! In studying their 21-Day Fix meal plan, I realized that my diet included far too many carbs and fruits. No matter the workout routines, if I didn’t make sensible food choices, my goals would not be reached. A few years ago, Greg and I were playing a lot of disc golf – burning a ton of calories – but not losing any weight. Now when I review the food choices, it is understandable.

I love Autumn’s (founder and trainer of 21-Day Fix) focus on the importance of nutrition.

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Through the 21-Day Fix Program and other Beachbody programs, I found workout routines that actually translates to results! My food planning is better than ever and I am eating clean about 80% of the time. A year later I still love everything about Beachbody including all the different types of workouts to avoid the boredom that can come with working out. My year of healthiest living, which includes drinking Shakeology every day, has been commemorated with a wonderful gift from Beachbody.

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My new shaker, in my favorite color of green, will come to work for those afternoon shakes!
me with shakeology
me with shakeology

I have the “golden scoop” that is only for decorative purposes.
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My renewed focus on health is also coming at a good time. This fall Greg and I are planning a New Hampshire hiking trip. We will bring the Beachbody nutrition with us that includes Shakeology and their workout performance line. In the meantime I will continue to improve my workout routines to handle those rugged New Hampshire hikes! Stay tuned for more blogs on healthy living and nutrition. Currently new healthy recipes are being explored that I hope you will also enjoy! And let me know about your lifestyle changes journey!
shakeology box

Potato Soup top view

One of the things I love about cooking is you can take a recipe, modify it, and it has a whole new look and taste. Potato Soup is a great dish for modifications. This year I used bacon, fresh parsley, fresh chives, and white cheddar cheese for a wonderful blend of flavors!
Potato Soup side view

It can be made thicker like a stew or more soup like depending upon how much milk and half and half added. Start with a conservative amount as you can always add more milk. The bacon can be mixed with the soup or added on the top as an garnish. Or do both!

Potato Soup served in a bowl closeup

This is one time I tend to add more salt as potato soup needs salt!
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This soup is good for a few days but the Quality will be reduced since it is milk based if kept too long. A large batch was made for a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with my department at work. It warmed up nicely in the microwave and stayed warm in the slow cooker.
Potato Soup in Slow Cooker

I find reheating it a few times only adds to the flavor. Adding the bacon to the soup adds that needed salt and fat. Fresh herbs are always a great idea! Layering of all the ingredients made this the best Potato Soup ever!
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Potato Soup top view close up

Sauté Ingredients:
2 tbsp. of Irish butter
3 cups Sliced Onions
1 cup Diced Onions
2 cups Celery, chopped

Step 2 Ingredients:
11 cups (about 5 pounds) Potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
3 cups (about 2 pounds) Carrots, chopped
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
4 to 5 cups of Milk, 2%
1 tsp. Garlic, diced
Ground White Pepper & Salt

Step 3 Ingredients:
1 – 2 cups Grated White Cheddar Cheese
2 cups or 1 pint Light Half and Half
Bacon, cooked and crumbled

Topping:
Parsley
Chives

Preparation:
Melt butter in a large soup pot and add onions and celery – cook until tender. Add step 2 ingredients and bring to a soft boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 – 2 hours, stirring periodically. When potatoes are tender add step 3 ingredients based upon how you like your potato soup! Cook on low for about a half hour. Serve with fresh parsley and chives!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew on the table

I really baby my slow-cooked meals and this Guinness Beef Stew is not an exception! As a bonus, this is the best version of Guinness Beef Stew that I ever made! It has a wonderful full flavor with a bit of sweetness. Most stews need to sit a day or two for the flavors to really blend. But not this stew! It is fantastic from the stove top to the dinner table! So there is still time for you to make this for St. Patrick’s Day.

Guinness Irish Beef Stew plated top view

I was inspired to change my Guinness Beef Stew from an Irish cook show I watched on Recipe TV. Guinness Storehouse Executive Chef Justin O’Connor presented several recipes made with Guinness and explained when he uses different types of Guinness. Did you know that Guinness was established in 1759! That is just amazing the long history of Guinness. Someone once said to me that Guinness is the fruit of the gods. My preference is a dry, red wine – however I do love Guinness!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew plated side view

I am really inspired by Executive Chef Justin – for more on him click here. Now we just need a cookbook from him!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew in a bowl

The key is a thick beef stock otherwise you will need to add flour to thicken the sauce. Plus using Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Also consider serving it with Champ Potatoes.

Guinness Irish Beef Stew in a bowl close up

Below are guidelines from Executive Chef Justin on what type of Guinness to use when cooking and baking.

Guinness Draught
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This is great for soda breads and desserts. It has a coffee and caramel flavors.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
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This Guinness has extra alcohol that turns into more sugar when cooking. It has a wonderful balance of sweet and the roasted flavor of the hops.

Guinness Extra Stout
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This is a nice light, refreshing Guinness that is wonderful with a seafood recipe.
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The Guinness Beef Stew after the Guinness is added.
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop with Guinness added

After adding veggies:
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop with veggies added

And the final version!
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop finished

Now on to our recipe!

Beef Roast Ingredients:
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
3 pounds whole boneless beef chuck roast, cut into chunks
2 Onions, quartered
2 Carrots, sliced lengthwise
2 Celery Stalks, sliced lengthwise
Lawry Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup Beef Stock (the best you can buy – or make it!
1/4 cup Strong Brewed Coffee
1 ounce 70% Cocoa Chocolate
1 Pint of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
1 bouquet garnis (about 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs parsley, and 2 bay leaves – I place mine in a large tea bag filter)
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Roasting Ingredients:
3 cups Carrots, chopped
2 cups Parsnips, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped (Optional)
Celery root, chopped (Optional)
Pearl Onions (Optional)

Garnish Ingredients:
Flat-leaf Parsley Leaves
Rosemary sprigs

Beef Roast Preparation:
In a large braising pan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Season beef with Lawry salt and freshly ground pepper and add to braising pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until beef is well browned on 2 sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer beef to a plate.

Add carrots and onions to the braising pan and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned.

Add sauce ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Add beef. Cook for 1 ½ hours, mixing periodically.

Final Cooking Step:
Add the Roasting Ingredients and cook for another 30-minutes or until veggies are tender. Discard bouquet garnis, large carrots and celery stalks. Using a ladle, skim off and discard accumulated fat on surface. Serve with mashed potatoes and crusty bread.

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