Nutritious, Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas

Every morning after hitting snooze so much that you worry your alarm clock is going to file a police report, you crawl out of bed looking like an extra from Walking Dead and stumble and moan your way into the kitchen. It is time to make breakfast. Crap.

You’ve had cereal every morning for breakfast since George Bush was President… no, the first one. You would like to eat something with a bit more flavor, and perhaps a little healthier, but ain’t nobody got time for that! So you grab the colorful box of 20 different varieties of processed GMO corn ingredients, dump it in a bowl, pour a splash of milk and mumble, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll make something better.”

Well, I am here to help. It’s what I do.

Making breakfast doesn’t have to consist of boring, mostly unhealthy cereal options. There are many more flavorful, equally easy breakfast ideas that pack a far more nutritious punch.

Here are three equally easy breakfast ideas that are actually good for you.

Yogurt and granola#1: Yogurt and granola. Scoop some yogurt into a bowl, sprinkle on a healthy handful of granola and stir it together. Bonus points if it is Greek Yogurt and organic granola.

#2: Greek yogurt and oatmeal. This is a super easy breakfast idea because you get it ready the night before. Just mix your choice of Greek yogurt with uncooked instant oatmeal, roughly 1/3 cup of each, a couple of tablespoons of milk and then set it in the fridge overnight. The moisture in the yogurt will soften the oatmeal by the time you eat it the next morning. The oatmeal will soak up a lot of the moisture in the yogurt so the milk is added to help the consistency. Want more flavor? Chop up your choice of fruit to mix in as well.

nutritious breakfast smoothie#3: Fruit smoothie. This is also a breakfast that you can prep the night before. To keep the costs under control out of season, buy bags of your favorite frozen fruit in the freezer department of your grocery store. Add 1 cup of fruit to the blender carafe, ½ cup of milk and ½ cup of yogurt, then place it in the fridge before you go to bed. The fruit will defrost by morning and your only task will be setting the carafe on the blender and pureeing together before pouring in a glass. I have even been known to cheat and make a slightly bigger batch so I could make enough for breakfast the next day too.

#4: Oatmeal. No, not the Quaker instant oatmeal pouches in the grocery store. Buy the Quaker Quick Oats that are in the big round container (I think it has a better texture than the generic brands) and it still cooks lightning fast. Cook according to the directions and then add maple syrup and cinnamon, or any cocktail of fruits. You could even stir in yogurt to make it creamier.

Well, there you have it, four quick and easy breakfast ideas that pack a nutritious punch. Breakfast doesn’t have to be hard, but don’t make it boring.

Got more easy breakfast ideas? Comment below!

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Learning How to Make Boiled Eggs

Most people don’t find the idea of cooking a hard boiled egg to be that difficult; however they quickly find the execution to be more complicated than envisioned as they often find egg shells clinging to the flesh of the egg like Kim Kardashian clings to illusions of relevance. Meanwhile the interior surrounding the yolk may turn unappetizing green. With a few simple steps these frustrations can be minimized if not completed avoided.

The most important thing to consider is how fresh your eggs are. Believe it or not you want eggs to be 1+ weeks old to make easy to peel boiled eggs. Why? As eggs age an air pocket will grow larger inside the shell. As this air pocket forms the membrane underneath the shell will separate from the shell itself. This will prevent the shell and egg from sticking when you peel the final product. Though it may also cause an egg to float in the pan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is too old.

Boiled EggsOnce you have your eggs you will want to fill a pot with a few inches of cold water, enough to cover a single layer of eggs. This water should be salted and a teaspoon of vinegar should be added. Why? Adding salt and vinegar will prevent excessive egg whites from leaking out should the shell crack during cooking.

Now gently add your eggs in a single layer in the pot. If you just drop them in they will crack and adding them in a single layer ensures they cook evenly.

Next cover the pot and bring to a boil. As soon as they boil remove the pot from the heat, but keep the lid on. This will trap the heat inside while the eggs continue to cook.

For soft boiled eggs, let sit for 4 minutes. For perfectly hard boiled eggs let sit for 15 minutes. Personally, I like my yolks to be slightly soft so I remove after ~10 minutes. If you boil the eggs for too long, or let them sit for too long in the hot water, the area around the yolk will turn an unappetizing greenish gray color. They are still perfectly fine to eat but they don’t look very nice.

Finally remove the eggs from the pot with a slotted spoon and immediately place in a large bowl filled with ice water. The ice water will shock the eggs causing the membrane to retreat from the shell and allow you to peel them easier. This also serves the dual purpose of cooling down the eggs faster so you can sooner eat one!

As for peeling, I give them a tap against the counter to crack the shell then I peel it under running water. The water helps slip between the shell and membrane for easy removal.

Easy enough? Using this method I have never had ugly discolored yolks and you won’t either.

Recipe Summary below:

Perfect boiled egg yolk

Fill pot with a few inches of water.
Add ~tsp of vinegar and salt.
Place eggs in saucepan in a single layer.
Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat as soon as water boils.
Soft Boiled Eggs – Let stand for 4 minutes.
Hard Boiled Eggs – Let stand for 15 minutes.
Pour off hot water and fill saucepan with cold water and ice cubes.
Peel under running water.

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How to Cook a Perfect Frozen Steak

Frozen Steak  I’ve always loved steak. Who doesn’t? Well vegetarians I suppose, but they don’t count. Don’t worry; they won’t be insulted by my flippant comment. Vegetarians don’t use the internet because it doesn’t run on soy, so they’ll never see this.

I grew up with a completely underwhelming idea of a steak. You know the ones, ¾” thick, goes from raw to shoe leather in 30 seconds flat – medium rare consisting of a 1/8” red line through the center; reminiscent more of a pregnancy test kit than prime culinary fare. Sadly these are still being passed off as legitimate cuts to many oblivious Wisconsinites at some of the “fine” supper clubs around here.

Side note: I LOVE the idea of Supper Clubs. I hate the execution of most of them around here. They have successfully succeeded in convincing much of the local populace to go there for an elevated dining experience when in reality rural Wisconsin is just mired in low culinary expectations. But I digress…

After becoming an adult I was fortunate enough to travel the country and in doing so eat at some fairly nice restaurants. What did I notice? The steaks were huge! They were at least twice as thick as the steaks I was accustomed to eating, and far more enjoyable. I never wanted to eat thin steaks again.

Luckily for us some grocery stores have caught up. You can now find 1 ¼” thick steaks in the butcher’s case at Festivals foods as well as other thick cuts at area butchers. As for me, recently I got my hands on a quarter cow. Doing this not only saves me a bunch of money by purchasing in bulk, but I also got to provide all of the specifications for the butchering myself, which means I now have a freezer full of 1 ½” steaks waiting to do my bidding!

The problem with a freezer full of frozen steaks is that they are, well, frozen! It takes some planning ahead to thaw them out and have them ready for dinner. But what if I told you that it is best to cook frozen steaks while they are still rock hard? I’m serious.

Frozen steak interior
Image curtsey of Cook’s Illistrated

Don’t pre-thaw your frozen steaks. Here’s why: When browning the steak in the pan the exterior will heat up sufficiently to form a nice crust while the inside stays nice and cold, preventing the residual ‘graying’ inside the meat nearest to the surface. When you finish the steak in the oven the interior will thaw and gently heat up to your desired temperature. Since the interior is heating up in the oven and not in the pan you will eliminate the gray band of meat encapsulating your medium-rare goodness which means a more tender steak and more moisture.

So how do you do it exactly?

FrozenSearedSteakGather your ingredients:

2 Frozen Steaks
Cooking Oil
Salt and desired steak flavor enhancer (see my recipe below)

Get out your 12” pan (I recommend cast iron) and add enough oil to cover the bottom (~1/8”). Heat on high and lay your steaks into the pan.

NOTE: Make sure there is not any noticeable ice on the steak or you will have a nasty flare up. If so, let the exterior thaw slightly and pat dry with a paper towel.

Cooks Illustrated, where I learned this trick, recommends cooking at 90 seconds per side. For my gas stove it is closer to 2-3 minutes per side. Use your judgment and adjust time and heat accordingly. You don’t want a carbon-dated charred mess but you also don’t want the steak to come out gray. If the time is up and it doesn’t look like it has browned sufficiently, just put it back in for a bit longer. Relax, you are burning meat. You should be good at that.

You have your stove pre-heated to 275, right? Ok good. When the steaks are done in the skillet, place them on a wire rack sitting atop a baking sheet. You want the steaks elevated on the wire rack so they cook evenly in the oven.  If they sit directly on the pan there will be more heat transfer to the bottom of the steak.

Now you can season the steaks to your liking. Here is what I brush my steak with:

Mix the following together:

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp worcestshire
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp high quality liquid smoke (don’t let BBQ diehards ever talk you out of buying it)
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Dash of salt

This should be enough to liberally brush two steaks. Once each side is completed remember to generously dust with salt as needed.

Now place the baking sheet in the oven and wait. How long? Well that depends on how well you want your steaks done and how thick they are. So that is going to vary. Figure 15 minutes – 30 minutes. Plan for much longer if you incessantly have to keep opening the oven to check on them…

…which is why you need this:71+H832VlIL._SX425_

Yes, you need a digital meat thermometer. Unless you work in a restaurant kitchen I am guessing you don’t cook enough steaks to accurately decipher their degree of doneness by feel alone. This is one of my favorite items in the kitchen and at under $20 there is really no excuse why everyone shouldn’t have one. Say goodbye to rubber chicken, ruined Thanksgiving turkeys and overcooked steaks. This one piece of equipment will result in more successful meals than anything else you can buy.

After the steak reaches your desired level of doneness, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Why? Because if you cut into it now the juices will come running out and your steak won’t be nearly as moist and succulent as it could be. You already put in all this effort to make a great meal, don’t ruin it now.

There you have it. I think you will find this is likely the best frozen steak you’ve ever eaten. Not only is it more moist, more evenly cooked, but the slower cook time also provides greater margin for error. So don’t feel bad for throwing a good cut of steak in the freezer, you just may have completed the first step to making the best steak that’s ever come from your kitchen.

Thoughts or comments? I’d love to hear from you!

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Fox Valley Foodie is Getting the Band Back Together!

blues-brothersEveryone keeps telling me I need to start posting on my blog again.  I don’t disagree with them, I really miss the blog but life just gets pretty busy now that Fox Valley Foodie has a family to manage. That however doesn’t stop me from cooking as much as ever.  Oops pardon me…  There is currently a little four-year old begging me to play with him and I have no defense against his sad little eyes…

Ok, after teaching him the finer points of Super Mario Bros 3 the kid is now in bed. Thanks for waiting.

Like I was saying, besides the fact that I am still cooking as much as ever, I am still also addicted to taking pictures of my food. Just ask all of my Facebook friends that I bombard with my weekly food porn. Maybe I have a problem… Hold on a second, I have to go on a bear hunt… no, not a grizzly bear, apparently there is a fuzzy stuffed bear hiding down here that holds the magical powers to get kids to sleep. 

Anyhow, where was I? Ah yes, I was saying how I tend to spam pictures of my food on Facebook like your aunt spams candy crush invites. Finally after my fourth food related Facebook post in the past 30 hours it occurred to me that maybe I should redirect my epicurean barrage towards a more eager audience. Perhaps a website dedicated to food. A blog maybe?  Hey wait!!! I own a blog! And it is dedicated to food! This is so genius it may just work…

And thus, FoxValleyFoodie.com has been reborn.

I made myself a promise when I first started FoxValleyFoodie:  I would only run the blog as long as it is fun.  If it gets to be a chore or burdensome at all I would quit. Food is something I am passionate about; I never want to ruin that. The whole point of this blog is to share my passion with others and to have their passion refuel mine.  There is nothing I love more than a reader’s comment reciting the joy they experienced when my instruction guided them to enjoy a meal that was previously out of their reach. I take pride in not just regurgitating a recipe but rather provide a detailed walk-through demonstrating exactly how to mirror my results and avoid common pitfalls. That satisfaction is something Facebook posts can never replicate.

So with that in mind, sharpen your knives, cure the cast iron, and unplug the smoke alarms. It is time for Fox Valley Foodies to cook!

Stay tuned…

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How to Make Fruit Salad – An Easy Fruit Salad Recipe

Easy Fruit SaladThis is such an easy recipe I almost feel bad posting it here… but don’t worry, I’ll get over it. This is my favorite fruit salad recipe. Anyone can chop up fruit and put it together in a bowl, but it takes someone special to add a 1/4 cup of honey! Or perhaps it doesn’t, who am I to judge. Either way, this is a great twist on the traditional fruit salad and it adds an extra dimension of flavor.

You can use whatever fruit you like.  There are no hard or fast rules other than to use fruit that is in season for best taste. I like to mix up sizes and textures to create more variety.

8 cups mixed fruit, cubed (watermelon, grapes, mango, berries, ect…)
¼ cup honey
3 tbsp lime juice (2 limes)

Cube all fruit and place in a bowl.

Warm the lime in the microwave to allow juice to easily squeeze out, then warm the honey in the microwave to thin it and combine with lime juice. Combine this mixture with the fruit salad. Chill and serve.

Oh, and adding a dollop of whipped cream never hurt anyone (Except for Phil, but we don’t talk about him).

If you don’t eat the whole salad the first day juices will start seeping out of the fruit. This is not a bad thing. Collect the juices into a cup and add rum to taste. Enjoy!

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