A Year of Recipes: #30

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Shredded chicken breast, celery, light mayo, canned crushed pineapple, sage, thyme, pineapple and coconut yogurt, grapes, sliced almonds, green onion

For my “easy meal” last week I went with a Pina Colada Chicken Salad, after searching for pineapple on FoodGawker. I’m surprised I hadn’t made a chicken salad yet this year.

Like most chicken salads, this required quite a few ingredients to get that nice variety of flavors and textures that makes chicken salad so good.

Instead of cooking my chicken and then cutting into chunks, I cooked my chicken in the crock pot and shredded it, which is much easier in my opinion. I also think the texture of shredded chicken is better than chunks in a chicken salad, but that’s just my opinion.

All the ingredients but chicken mixed and ready to go

All the ingredients but chicken mixed and ready to go

So…other than making my chicken all I really did was cut a few key ingredients into bite-sized pieces and mix everything up in a big bowl.

My meal was slightly different from the recipe in two ways. First, I was unable to find pina-colada yogurt among the literal plethora of flavors available at the store.  So I instead used half a container of pineapple greek yogurt and half a container of toasted coconut vanilla yogurt…I was worried about that combination. I didn’t taste much coconut in the end, but it was fine!

I also ended up using light mayo, mostly because I already had some in my fridge and I didn’t want to buy another container just to get regular. I actually think there was no problem making this substitution (and mayo kind of grosses me out anyways…) and ended up keeping the calorie count lower on this meal.  If I remake this in the future I’ll still use light mayo.

Beautiful mixture of flavors and textures!

Beautiful mixture of flavors and textures!

I served in half a piece of pita bread on a fancy white paper plate.

Flavor 3/4 – the recipe itself mentions this, but the spices really balance everything out. The pineapple flavor is strong, but not overwhelming.
Ease 4/4
Guiltless 3/4 – the calories on this were great, and the ingredients were decent.
Leftovers 4/4 – this is the type of food that is meant to be packed in lunches!

A Year of Recipes: #29

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Cauliflower, quinoa, cumin, chickpea/garbanzo beans, limes, olive oil, sliced almonds, green onion and one jalapeno!

Some weekends I just want to try something crazy, and like I’ve mentioned previously, vegan or meatless meals always answer that call. I was feeling up for spicy, so I ended up with a Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Quinoa Salad (with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing). The title alone is a mouthful.

To start I roasted two trays in the oven, one with cauliflower cut into bite-size pieces and one with a can worth of chickpeas. Don’t do what I did and not realize that chickpeas are generally labeled as garbanzo beans at the grocery store.

Each tray was drizzled with olive oil and a variety of spices before going into the oven. During this time I got my quinoa cooking and my dressing mixed, both of which are simple processes.

One head cauliflower, toasted.

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Ready to mix everything up

Once everything was done cooking, all I had to do was mix it together. I kid you not, it was that easy!

IMG_5509Flavor 2/4 – this was good but aside from the sauce, a little on the bland side.
Ease 3/4 – several steps involved, but all easy ones.
Guiltless 3/4not a fan of canned foods
Leftovers 3/4 – this was not bad to reheat. Quinoa is good for leftovers most of the time.

A Year of Recipes: #28

Red pepper flakes, kale, garlic, whole grain pasta, olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese

Red pepper flakes, kale, garlic, whole grain pasta, olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese…and in the crock pot some optional shredded chicken!

I was having a hard time deciding what to make, so I ended up on my beloved Foodgawker, and started a search for lemon which I further refined down with kale.  I ended up finding a fantastic recipe for a Spaghetti with Kale and Lemon.

Back when cooking intimidated me, one thing I was quite capable of making (and the closest I’d get to a real meal) was cooking pasta, adding spaghetti sauce from a jar and some hamburger I had browned up.  I actually haven’t done a ton of pasta this year, so this was a nice meal for me.

IMG_5492So to start the meal, I cooked the entire box of spaghetti.  Simple.  Like mentioned before, I can handle me some pasta!

The second step is to mix some lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper.  Again, simple!

 

 

IMG_5490The more challenging (and I use that term lightly) step is to cook the garlic for a few minutes and the add in the kale, cooking until slightly wilted.  I successfully cooked the kale without overdoing it.

I was able to cook my kale while the pasta was going.  This dish in general was easy to work on the sauce and veggies while the pasta was going.  I like dishes where you can finish up the other parts while something cooks.

IMG_5494In the end, this meal was fantastic!  I am glad I added the chicken (I just feel too guilty eating pasta without some protein added.)  The one thing I would have changed is to add more kale.  I also prepared my leftovers with a pinch of salt and dose of red pepper flakes, both of which felt quite necessary. The red pepper flakes are listed as optional, but they are what really bring all the flavors of the dish together.

Flavor 3/4 – Again, I want to emphasize the red pepper flakes are necessary! 
Ease 
3/4 – Getting the kale cooked correctly can be slightly challenging
Guiltless 3.5/4 – Not bad, not bad.
Leftovers 4/4 – I had plenty of leftovers (which I always love) and my little tupperware containers reheated easily at work and kept in the fridge for several days.

A Year of Recipes: #27

Butter, sugar, eggs, milk, Fiber One cereal, vanilla extra, maple syrup, whole grain bread

Butter, sugar, eggs, milk, Fiber One cereal, vanilla extra, maple syrup, whole grain bread
Wow, this picture makes it obvious I replaced all the burned out light blubs in my kitchen.

I had a random craving for french toast last weekend.  I’ve shamefully never made french toast, so I figured why not?  To put a unique twist on the dish I found a recipe for crunchy french toast.

Like any normal french toast, the recipe starts by creating an egg mixture.  This part wasn’t any different from normal french toast.

A few months ago on a business trip, I had eaten crunchy french toast of a “light” breakfast menu at a hotel that I really enjoyed.  That french toast had a Fiber One coating, so I decided to stray from the recipe and do my own Fiber One coating.

I just wanted to remark on how exciting it is that this cereal is packed in two bags.  Amazing for people like me who are slow at getting through a box of cereal.

I just wanted to remark on how exciting it is that this cereal is packed in two bags. Amazing for people like me who are slow at getting through a box of cereal.

Mt. Fiber

Time to climb Mt. Fiber

The cereal goes into the food processor until it has a fine texture. This was actually a little bit tricky to get the consistency just right.  I have a good food processor that generally processes food evenly, but I had a lot of issues with some pieces of the cereal turning into fine dust while others were almost whole. The food also started to remind me of the feed you buy for $.25 at petting zoos for goats or ducks…

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Like normal french toast, I had to make up an egg mixture to dip the bread in.  I used a fork instead of a wisk because I am still working on the whole proper-kitchen-utensils thing.

After dipping in the egg and rolling in the Fiber One powder/crumbs/petting zoo feed, I had to cook two pieces at a time, since I couldn’t fit any more into my pan (which is certainly large enough.)  Getting them to cook wasn’t any problem.

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Certainly made for a pretty meal and they were fun to make.

In the end, these were okay.  I ended up needing to use a lot more butter to cook them since the Fiber One coating really soaked up all the moisture, leaving my pan too dry.  I actually had a pretty good time making these, but the next time I do french toast I’ll either do something traditional or try a different cereal.

Flavor 2/4 – Meh.  They tasted okay with syrup, but good french toast has enough flavor you barely need syrup.
Ease 
3/4 – This wasn’t exactly hard, but a little bit of a challenge just getting the cereal to stick.
Guiltless 2/4 – The calorie-to-feeling-full ratio on these just didn’t cut it for me.
Leftovers 2/4 – These were okay to reheat, but dried out very quickly.

A Year of Recipes: #26

Surprisingly simple: Lemons, flour, chicken, oil, chicken stock, butter

Surprisingly simple: Lemons, flour, chicken, oil, chicken stock, butter

I normally try to cook only things that are truly unique. I like exotic ingredients and combinations.  When I’m not doing something totally out there I tend to look for anything that puts a fresh twist on a classic dish.  Last weekend, however, I ended up making something that didn’t fall into this category.

I wanted to make one of my favorite meals to order when I dine out (when restaurants offer it!)  I really enjoy dishes with lemon, and this Chicken Piccata recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (serious girlcrush right here) certainly packs a citrus punch!

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IMG_5457The first step is to butterfly your two chicken breasts (I didn’t do a true butterfly, I kept the inner filet because I don’t want to throw good chicken out!) which leaves you with 4 pieces.  Those should be seasons and then dredged in flour.  I noticed quite a few people commented on the recipe that adding garlic powder at this step was good for this dish, and as a garlic fiend I followed suit.  I did not add salt at this step since my butter was salted (I was not going to buy salted and unsalted butter, 4 sticks is too much of either type.)

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Garlic just makes everything smell like heaven.

After this you brown up the chicken two pieces at a time.  I had a hard time getting the chicken hot enough according to my meat thermometer, which was honestly the most challenging part of this dish.

After the chicken has been successfully browned up, everything goes back into the pan along with the lemon juice and chicken stock.  Again, quite a few people on the recipe recommended using some white wine to deglaze the pan.  Chicken piccata with white wine is fabulous, but I had already purchased a 6 pack for the weekend and I decided leftover wine was not something I needed :)  Next time…

Everything just simmers for a few more minutes and then it’s done!

Flavor 3/4 – Not the best chicken piccata I’ve ever had, but certainly tasty!
Ease
2.5/4 – For some reason, getting these to brown up and reach a safe temperature was just a little more of a pain than it should have been.  Maybe it was a me problem…
Guiltless 3/4 – A little heavy on the butter, but calorie-wise these were great.  I really wanted to serve with pasta but that wasn’t a reasonable option…
Leftovers 3/4 – Surprisingly these were pretty darn good reheated!  Usually chicken dries out but these were not too bad.  I packed in my tupperware with the extra sauce in the container and really enjoyed both days I ate at work.

A Year of Recipes: #25

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Ground turkey, instant rice, salsa, taco seasoning, southwestern corn. Optional: green onion, shredded lettuce

The second dish I cooked last weekend was a Turkey Taco Skillet.  I liked the fact that this was toted as a “one pot dish” meaning easy!

Like I said, this was easy!  After browning up some ground turkey I mixed in the rest of the ingredients.  After letting that simmer for a few minutes I let the pot set so the instant rice could soak up moisture.

My skillet seemed to turn out with a different consistency from the images in the recipe (less rice, more liquid?) but I didn’t have a problem with it.  I served on a bed of shredded lettuce with green onion on top (pretty much how how I do any Mexican-inspired dish) and it was very nice.  Just a little bit a of a spicy afterburn and quite flavorful.

Bow chika wow wow

Bow chika wow wow

Flavor 3/4
Ease
4/4
Guiltless 3.5/4 – Not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the ingredients and calorie count on this one
Leftovers 4/4 – This was a perfect meal to take in my lunch as leftovers.  I packed one tupperware container with my lettuce and the “taco filling” in another.

A Year of Recipes: #24

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Rosemary, egg, onion, gruyere cheese, lemon, garlic, ground beef, mayo, oil, bread crumbs

For my first meal of last weekend, I opted for 5 Napkin Meatballs with Rosemary Aioli.  Now tell me the name of that dish doesn’t get you excited!  I don’t know if this is a true aioli, but it tasted so good I didn’t care.

These actually were fairly easy to make.  I started out caramelizing onions (which I’ve never done before.)  It took a while to caramelize the onions so  spent some of that time freshly grating the gruyere cheese.  I’ve also never grated my own cheese before so that was another first.  Again…Kroger and their giant produce complicated things.  I bought 2 onions that looked medium and 1 that looked small.  I ended up with at least twice as much onion as I needed (although I’ve been putting those extra caramelized onions to good use in egg scrambles this week.)

Beauty shot.

Beauty shot.

IMG_5436The next step, like making any meatball, was to mix up all the ingredients and form into meatballs with your hands.  I ended up with 28 instead of 20.  Browning these up wasn’t too difficult.  A few fell apart when I flipped them over, but for the most part they stayed together.  While those were browning I whipped my aioli together.

In the end, this was seriously one of the best tasting dishes I’ve made.  The meatballs were rich but not too greasy.  The onion tasted so good.  And that aioli was amazing.

Meatballs don't photograhpy pretty

Meatballs don’t photograph pretty…

Flavor 4/4
Ease
3/4 – A few slightly tricky steps, mostly getting the meatballs flipped
Guiltless 2/4 – Thankfully I had gone on a long bike ride that day, but I ended up having to eat quite a few meatballs to feel full.  My serving size was definitely not light on the calories.
Leftovers 4/4 – The meatballs reheated in the microwave just fine.