From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Singled Out Road Trip Snacks

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Woman and her dog on a road trip

There are places where I just love being alone. My car is one of those places. I look forward to hitting the open road, radio blaring, snack bag perched on the passenger seat with the speedometer registering a tad over the speed limit. When it comes down to it, it’s the sense of freedom and the feeling of driving toward possibilities that I love.

For me, the car is like Vegas. What happens there is private, especially when it comes to snacking. I have a belief about snacking and traveling…calories don’t count in the car. I munch on things in my car that I never allow myself to eat in any other setting. I’m guessing many of us have the same belief.

Go ahead and indulge, but instead of grabbing a bag of chips at your neighborhood convenience store, why not make your own snacks?  Check out our favorite road trip snacks–they are quick to do yourself and healthier because you know exactly what is in it. Oh, and don’t forget snacks for your dog…who can do a road trip without a fur baby at your side?  He or She will love our banana and peanut butter treats!

1. Spicy Ranch Crackers

A plate of Spicy Ranch Crackers with a crab dip

Why go to all the trouble to make your own seasoned crackers? Because these spicy ranch crackers are no trouble at all. In fact, they’re super easy and incredibly good!

2. Balsamic Sweetened Pecans

A handful of balsamic pecans

You can pack a lot of these bad boys in a small space. Pop them in your mouth one at a time and make them last or be greedy and eat these balsamic sweetened pecans by the handfuls.

3.Trail Mix

A mix of sweet and salty trail mix

I don’t know about you, but I can’t find the perfect trail mix, so it’s easier to make my own. If I buy a pre-made mix I pick through it until all that’s left are a few shriveled raisins. Save yourself the waste and DIY.

4. Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas

Crunch, crunch, crunch. That’s what makes these roasted chickpeas so delicious. Explore using different spices and herbs and make a variety pack.

5.Vegan Banana and Nut Dog Treats

Bruno the dog tasting a Banana and Nut Dog Treat

Hitting the road with your best friend? Make sure to bring along a bag of special treats!

From the Kitchen of barb0812

How to Have Just the Produce You Want

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wooden bowl of freshly picked vegetablesI love the Farmer’s Market for all the wonderful veggies and fruit that I bring home each week.  Oh yeah, and maybe that bread and hummus, too…ahem.  In the name of cooking organic and fresh, my wallet takes hit with each food stand I decide has something I can’t live without.  But I tell myself that my health is more important than how much I shell out.  Something similar could be said when walking in and out of a Whole Foods Market.

It’s easy to buy more than what I need when it comes to the variety and abundance of fresh produce at my market.  Although I am lucky enough to have it available to me almost all year, it does get a bit pricey.  I remedy this problem of buying more than I need by indulging in one of my most peaceful hobbies each summer: gardening.

I actually thought gardening days were over for me because I made assumptions that to have a garden it had to be BIG—even if just for me—with loads of space and rows of every veggie under the sun.  Then I was invaded by squirrels and every contraption I could buy to keep them out was turning my dream garden into a money pit.

Last summer, I pulled up my big girl panties and finally outsmarted the vermin who were all set to feast on a smorgasbord of my veggies.  I started to think more practically for me:  smaller space, fewer plants, less work.  I was amazed to see that just one cucumber plant could yield enough cucumbers to feed me with plenty to share with co-workers and friends–and all right outside my front door.  Chaos from squirrels made me re-think a traditional vegetable garden and think “small.”

Not sure you could pull off a garden?  Check out my tips:

1. Make the initial investment!  Get some large containers (a foot deep or greater) and some decent gardening soil.  Home Depot carries their brand for under $3 a bag.  It’s a decent soil and not a lot of expense.  Check out yard sales, if you have the time, for fun pottery.

2. Decide on the veggies you want to grow and limit your plants to one or two of each.  The best veggies to grow in containers are squashes, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, and peppers.

3. Pick all day sunny spots for your containers.  Veggies love sun—they will need plenty of it!  Make sure your containers are nearly filled with dirt and completely cover each plant’s root system snuggly with your gardening soil.

4. Don’t crowd those containers. Depending on the size, one or two plants are the max for each pot.  If planting in a small ground area, space about 2 feet apart.

5. Make sure your pots can drain. You may need to place a couple of bricks under each container to allow water to drain.  I recommend adding some small rocks to your empty containers around the drain hole then filling with dirt.  This ensures proper drainage and healthy plants!

6. Invest in watering each container a few minutes a day. If your patio or yard gets quite hot, you should consider an investment of watering in the morning and again in the later afternoon or invest in a small drip system.

7. Plant tags will tell you when it’s time to harvest.  Check your plant tags and record on your calendar when you planted and then make a note of days when each plant should be mature and ready for you to harvest.  Picking varieties that have varied maturity dates is one way to stagger your yield (tomato varieties differ in their maturity dates).  Depending on how long your growing season may be, you might be able to plant twice!  Just remember to plant after the last frost.  Mother’s Day is a good reference!

I am such a fan of small space gardening now.  I never realized how simple and abundant a few containers of veggies can be.  I am always looking for tips, ideas and creative ways in which people use containers and small spaces for a vegetable garden, and welcome your feedback here.

Posted By: barb0812

My dogs consider me the "greatest chef of all time"...I am lover of all foods vegetarian and advocate for growing your own veggies--no matter the size! I am one of the Co-founders of Hey Good Cookin' and a believer in cooking for yourself because everyone deserves it!

See barb0812's Latest Posts

From the Kitchen of heygoodcookin

Make Your Produce Last Longer…

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A Quick Guide To Storing ProduceProduce Drawer of Refrigerator
Increase Proper Food Storage and Decrease Food Waste.

If you guessed food waste to be one of the biggest complaints from singles cooks, well, you would guess right. Not surprising, it is often an excuse for not cooking with fresh ingredients or simply not cooking meals at all. Of course, with pre-packaged and portion-controlled convenience foods some people may simply not see a reason to cook for ourselves.

There are two reasons to consider ditching the convenience for fresh whole food:

1. Cost. There is a price for convenience. Even though it is not difficult to find portion controlled, pre-packaged fresh, organic food, it can add up quickly or as we like to say, it can get “spendy.” Smarter buying, smarter storage and  checking out some easy ways to use leftover ingredients will reduce waste and stretch the dollar.

2. Boredom. No one wants to eat the same dishes all the time? Pre-packaged meals can get dull after a while or lead to making poor food choice for the sake of variety.  It becomes too easy to skip cooking for yourself. 

For people lucky enough to have a Farmer’s Market most of the year, they are buying at the peak of freshness and are fortunate to have produce last even longer than those of us buying at the grocery store where produce has, dare I say, sometimes been stored for months! 

Start making your produce last longer. Get our convenient guide for storing produce. Become a member of Hey Good Cookin’, then go back to our facebook page and add the comment, “I signed up!”  We’ll email the guide right out to you!

Posted By: heygoodcookin

The Hey Good Cookin' Kitchen has become a place of food inspiration and savory discovery to share with our cookin' singles community. We search out new recipes or sometimes just adapt familiar ones to test, taste, photograph and share in the triumphs and mishaps of creating new dishes.

See heygoodcookin's Latest Posts

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

The Best Date Night Recipes

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Cooking to impress a date has long been a courting ritual. Choosing just the right dish, although sometimes stressful, is the easy part. Cooking it to perfection…that’s the challenging part! You want it to be tasty, beautiful and show off your culinary talents. You want it to be memorable.

This doesn’t mean learning how to make escargot or practicing days ahead of time to perfect cherries jubilee. Save yourself the singed eyebrows and stick to what you know. Keep it simple. Simple is the new elegant.

Rather than trying to make something fancy, focus on making something basic and give it a makeover. It’s the small finishing touches that upscale a recipe.

If burritos are your go-to recipe, stick to it. Grab some homemade flour tortillas from a nearby Mexican restaurant. There’s nothing like warm, homemade tortillas! Swing by your local farmers market and pick up some fresh cilantro and some juicy yellow and red heirloom tomatoes to add to your fixings. Abracadabra! You’ve just up scaled your old burrito recipe into a feast for the eyes and taste buds.

Add these fabulous dishes to your date night recipe box.

Pita Bread appetizer 0013
A simple flatbread can be transformed into an elegant appetizer. Kickoff your date night meal with a tasty Chicken Veggie Flatbread.

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Bring on the bruschetta! You can’t go wrong with crispy, crunchy and creamy Cannellini Bruschetta.

Greek-Salad-002
Your date may be easy on the eyes and so is this Greek Salad. The presentation alone will have your date asking for more.

pastasalad005
Quick and Easy Pasta Salad with tangy vinaigrette is a sure bet as a side dish for chicken or beef. Using multicolored pasta adds visual appeal to ordinary salads.

Ramen-003
Pinching pennies and striving for elegance? This is the dish for you! This Quick Pad Thai made with ramen noodles will have you and your date reliving your old college days.

HGC Cookie Exchange 062
Sandwiches for date night? Absolutely! It’s all about the bread and the condiments. Arugula Mayonnaise can turn a boring sandwich into a masterpiece for your palate.

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Grill some salmon or a big juicy steak and top it off with a dollop of herb butter to make it pop. You’ve instantly gone from griller to chef.

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Turn this simple shortbread recipe into a cookie to remember. Rosemary Shortbread served with a glass of red wine after dinner will have your date marking this day on the calendar.

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Spice Up Your Outdoor Space

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three plans on wall

On a recent trip to Greece I was reminded that the little things often times have the greatest impact. While staying on the island of Naxos I had my first experience with bouzouki music. A concert was to be held at sunset in a castle high above the town. In anticipation, I hiked my way up hundreds of steps through the residential Kastro to the Tower of Sanoudos.

When I arrived I was delighted to find that the concert was on a charming outdoor patio. In the distance the Temple of Apollo was transforming with the changing colors of the sky. It was that money shot photographers dream of catching. The view was spectacular, but that’s not what made the night so magical. It was the attention to the finest details, the small touches that made the space feel whimsical.

The patio was dimly lit with various accent lights. The chairs were arranged in close proximity to the musicians, creating intimacy, and along one side was a rock wall filled with pots of lush basil and mint. As the concert was about to start, the host cupped his hands around the basil and began clapping. The scent of basil and the sound of bousouki music filled the air.

Just that one small touch changed the dynamic of the experience. As I sat there sipping a local wine during the concert, I noticed people sitting near the rock wall would reach out and jostle the basil. You could hear a communal sigh as everyone breathed in the aroma radiating throughout the patio.

I realized this was a rich experience because all the senses were engaged. It isn’t difficult. By focusing on the small things and layering in the five senses you can give your outdoor space a mini makeover. These easy, inexpensive tips are all that you need to create your own sanctuary.

Sight
Re-purpose your bling. Dig out those solo earrings, the ones you’ve been holding onto hoping you’ll find its mate. Hang it from a pot or plant. The more dangle, the better. Add a solar light to the pot and see how your bling sparkles. It will add interesting little details that will be eye catching.

Spice up your outdoor space with jewlery

Sound
Outdoor sound systems can be expensive and require installation. Instead, invest in a small bluetooth speaker that works with your phone or tablet. Some cylinder speakers change colors with the music which can add a nice visual effect. And let’s remember simplicity; a simple water feature or wind chimes can bring calm to an outdoor setting.

Smell
Clap the basil! If it’s a good idea, borrow it. Thank you Nikos from Naxos. I’m sold on this latest ‘aha, why didn’t I think of that’ idea. Go one step further by adding a fan strategically placed behind your herbs to infuse a refreshing aroma into air.

Touch
Outdoor furniture can sometimes be made of rough, sturdy fabric to withstand the elements. Wood or metal chairs can be downright uncomfortable. Toss in a few soft throw pillows and seat cushions to add color and comfort. Don’t forget the basil and mint. Touch it!

close-up-three-plant-angled-640

Taste
Have I mentioned basil? It happens to be one of my favorite flavors and scents. Place a variety of potted herbs and a pair of herb scissors close by for smelling, touching and tasting!

From the Kitchen of heygoodcookin

Give Me Five

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steak002

If you’re anything like me, the way to check if a steak is done is to take a best guess at how long it has been on the grill and cut into it with a sharp knife for a peak. Sometimes I get lucky, but most of the time I check it too late and end up with a dried out steak. The other scenario is I check it too early and release the juices when I cut into it. Then I throw it back on the grill and end up with, you guessed it, a dried out steak.

I used to date a guy who was a master at grilling. Every steak was perfectly prepared and delicious. I asked him how he did it, and he explained that he touches it and went on with something about his hand. I wasn’t much of a cook back then and so his long explanation was lost on me. It was cataloged somewhere deep in my brain until recently.

I was hosting a BBQ and one of my guests is a chef. As he was skillfully manning the grill this memory came back to me. I asked him about the touching your hand business and he gave me the skinny on testing the doneness of steak. Thankfully, I will never destroy another piece of meat and I may just tuck my meat thermometer a little farther back in my kitchen drawer.

Now, you too can put this handy tool in your grilling toolbox.

Raw Steak

Relax your left hand and touch the meaty part below your thumb with a finger from the other hand. This is how a raw steak feels.

Rare Steak

Put your thumb and pointer finger together like you’re giving someone the A-OK sign and touch the same spot below your thumb. This is how a rare steak feels.

Medium Rare Steak

Put your middle finger on your thumb. You’ve got it. This is a medium rare steak.

Medium Steak

Touch the ring finger and you have a medium steak.

Well Done Steak

Finally, for those of you who love a well done steak you know the drill. Put your thumb and pinkie together and see how firm the meaty part of your hand feels.

Wanting more information about testing the doneness of meat? Check out our featured video.

Posted By: heygoodcookin

The Hey Good Cookin' Kitchen has become a place of food inspiration and savory discovery to share with our cookin' singles community. We search out new recipes or sometimes just adapt familiar ones to test, taste, photograph and share in the triumphs and mishaps of creating new dishes.

See heygoodcookin's Latest Posts