A Year of Recipes: #20

(Experimenting with better lighting...) Apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, olive oil, ginger powder, maple syrup (the real stuff, mind you), Sriracha <3, garlic powder, sesame seed oil, quinoa, cauliflower, collard greens

Experimenting with better lighting, lots of room for growth here…
Apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, olive oil, ginger powder, maple syrup (the real stuff, mind you), Sriracha <3, garlic powder, sesame seed oil, quinoa, cauliflower, collard greens

In my experience cooking thus far, I’ve found that vegan recipes tend to be some of the most challenging dishes to make, but always worth the effort because the flavors are unique and bold! For my third and final recipe of the holiday weekend I chose to end with a challenge and make a Quinoa Cauliflower Bowl with Almond Sriracha Sauce.

This recipe has four parts, with several steps each, and I went into it anticipating this could be a big failure. But like my attitude towards cooking in general, I dove right in ready for whatever happened!

IMG_5339The first part is cooking a half cup worth of quinoa (which then becomes one cup.) I’ve always cooked my quinoa with water and sometimes salt, but never with oil or Sriracha. The sesame oil has a strong “burnt” smell and I was worried it would be too strong in the finished product. And of course, I doubled the Sriracha at this step.

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Will baked cauliflower even get crunchy?

The second step is preparing the cauliflower, by tossing it in a sauce and baking in the oven. I am starting to believe Kroger only sells giant heads of cauliflower, because even with the smaller one I found required I had to double the recipe for the sauce/coating. Again, I used extra Sriracha and worried about the smell of the sesame oil. They weren’t super crunchy coming out of the oven but I don’t think I could have cooked much longer without burning.

Stems easily removed!

Stems easily removed!

The third step involved working with a brand new ingredient for me – collard greens! A classic Southern item (usually made unhealthy with all the fixin’s.) I didn’t even know exactly what I’d be looking for at the store, but a quick Google search and trip through the produce aisle later, I had me some greens.

They were actually easy to work with, I just had to cut out the stem running down the middle and then cut them chiffonade style. I had no idea what that meant, so I sang teach me how to chiffonade to myself and looked it up. It basically just means rolling a stack of leaves up so you can cut them into thin ribbons more easily. I then had Teach Me How to Dougie stuck in my head, which I listened to while I chiffonaded away. Those went into a small pot with some oil and garlic powder to soften them up.

I'm always excited to learn a new skill or technique in the kitchen.

I’m always excited to learn a new skill or technique in the kitchen.  Not perfect, but good enough for my dinner!

IMG_5353Finally I was nearing the end of this long recipe. I just had to make the sauce. The recipe recommended making it in a blender but I did not want to get my food processor dirty so I just mixed it in a bowl. I was worried I had made a huge mistake but it worked just fine! I am pretty sure that coconut milk is black magic, seriously, that stuff is awesome.

To serve, I put half of everything in a bowl. For some reason I worried this was going to taste awful, but it was amazing!  Each of the four parts was delicious on its own account, and then combining them together was perfection, especially with that sauce blending it all together.  I was just disappointed that I could only eat half.

Those vegans know how to make a tasty recipe.

Flavor: 4/4
Ease: 2/4 – The multiple steps aren’t technically challenging but you have to make your quinoa…then you have to make your cauliflower…then the collard greens…then the sauce…
Guiltless: 2/4 – The ingredients themselves are not bad, but the calorie content was a little high for a serving size that was certainly not generous. I think there might be some ways to cut this down to a reasonable level (mostly in the sauce) but I couldn’t eat this every day.
Leftovers 4/4 – I kept half of the sauce in a Tupperware container and added the next day after reheating my leftovers. Almost as good next day!

A Year of Recipes: #19

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Real simple: eggs, cheese, green onion, and bacon (previously crisped, ignore the tupperware)

Another recipe that was previously recommended to me is Eggs in Clouds.  This one came my way several weeks back but I kept putting it off because it only has a few ingredients and in my mind is fairly simple (although egg whites are not the easiest thing to work with!)

This recipe would be pretty easy to halve if needed.  I had gone on my first bike ride of the year so I’d didn’t feel too guilty eating 4 eggs for dinner. (The total calories was under <500 for all 4.)

The recipe requires a few special kitchen gadgets (which always makes me happy) including my egg white separator, hand mixer and parchment paper.

The most labor-intensive part of this recipe is getting the egg whites separated out. As you can see below, one of my yolks broke, but I just rolled with the punches on that one 🙂

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Ooops. Oh well.

The recipe recommend using a small bowl for each yolk, I did not do that (who wants to do all those dishes?) and it was fine just scooping each of the intact yolks out with a spoon when they were needed. The remaining broken yolk I was able to just pour out.

The egg whites need to be whipped to stiff peaks, which I had no problem doing due to my experience making meringues.  This is where the recipe hops from simple to a little more complicated.  Once they are whipped up all the naughty goodies get folded in (only 1/4 cup each, so not too bad.)

I'm proud of that peak.

I’m proud of that peak.

On the parchment paper you make 4 little “clouds” (more like nests imo) and this is the part where you see if you actually whipped the egg whites enough and they are able to hold their shape.  Each cloud needs a well in the middle for later.  They go in the oven for just a few minutes and then come back out to have the yolks added into those center wells.  They go back in the oven again for a few more minutes.

Ready to go back in the oven for a second blast.

Ready to go back in the oven for a second blast.

Then they’re done!  They come out all fluffy and they have that nice runny yolk that used to creep me out but I freakin’ love now.

Gratuitous runny egg shot.  Mmmmmm.

Gratuitous runny egg shot.

Taste: 3/4 – This was good but tasted like any other loaded egg dish I’ve ever had.  I might try a different type of cheese next time, or perhaps red pepper flakes. Or minced garlic…mmm.
Ease: 3/4 – Egg whites can be tricky.
Guiltless: 2.5/4 –  Ooo ‘dat cholesterol.
Leftovers: ?/4 – Eggs generally are best not reheated. The nice thing is that you can easily just make enough for one meal and not have to deal with leftovers.

A Year of Recipes: #18

Lots of goodies: cream chees, bacon, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion and cauliflower.

Lots of goodies: cream cheese, bacon, parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion and cauliflower.

I’m finally home for the weekend, so I wanted to pick out a few good recipes. The first one I attempted was Twice Baked Cauliflower (basically veggies gone wild.) I’ve had great luck cooking with cauliflower swaps in the past so I had pretty high hopes for this one.  This recipe feels indulgent, but it’s not something I’d find myself regretting eating.

To start I cut up the cauliflower into small pieces and got it soaking in a pot of boiling water, just to soften it up enough that I could “mash” it.

I did not have an actual potato masher, but a fork worked just fine.  The recipe recommends not mashing them too much (leaving chunks) so perhaps if you wanted a more smooth texture a masher would be needed.

I did not have an actual potato masher, but a fork worked just fine. The recipe recommends not mashing them too much (leaving chunks) so perhaps if you wanted a smoother texture a masher would be needed.

I bought pre-cooked bacon, but wanted to crisp it up a little more.  Don’t do what I did and overcook the bacon.  Because they’re precooked they can go from not-done-yet to black-and-burnt in just a few seconds.

I shed a solidarity tear over this moment.

I shed a solidarity tear over this beautiful moment.

IMG_5312I mixed the bacon, as well as the green onion, cream cheese, parmesan and sour cream, with the mashed cauliflower.

I then spread that mixture into my casserole dish, topped with cheese and popped into the oven.

 

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Done and delicious!

This turned out amazing!  The flavor was fantastic. The one thing I might change if I make again is to mash the cauliflower better. I was happy with the outcome, but the consistency of the dish was more like a casserole than a loaded baked potato, so that might be an interesting thing to try.

Taste: 4/4 – The sour cream gave it just the perfect amount of flavor and complimented all the other savory flavors.
Ease: 3.5/4
Guiltless: 2.5/4
Leftovers: 4/4 – Reheated like a mother flippin’ champ.

Things I’m Better At (Doing)

As you saw in my last post, I wrote about the things I find challenging in my first full time job.  On a more positive note, I wanted to look at some of the many ways I’ve grown as a professional in just one year.

Making Decisions | I’ve always been the kind of person to get a second (or third…or forth…) opinion, but there’s a difference between double checking for accuracy and lacking confidence.  The first time my boss was out of town for a week it was downright scary.  These days, it’s not a big deal when she’s out on vacation.   I feel capable working on most projects on my own with the occasional check-in or question. There will always be some decisions I need approved and the occasional problems that require her expertise, but being able to act decisively without somebody holding my hand is huge.

Creative Solutions | I’ve always been a creative thinker, but there’s a big difference between brainstorming privately and being willing to share those ideas with your colleagues. I’m not afraid to throw ideas out there and risk looking “silly.”  Not every idea is the right one, but the ideas that are good will be picked up and embraced.  Often a crazy idea is what it takes to get out of a brainstorming rut and can quickly lead to the best idea.  People in marketing know they can count on me to think creatively, and because of this I’ve had the opportunity to develop promo plans, write copy and even name a few products.

Acting Quickly | Not only am I more capable of making decisions but I am feeling confident making a decision without mulling it over for a long time (how I typically make any important decision in my life.)  As I moved out of the newbie phase and my workload grew, more days occurred where there were too few hours in the workday to sit and contemplate every aspect of a project, and I became involved with more last minute projects. Being able to trust myself to make the best decision I can given the circumstances is something I’m getting better at doing.

Being a Friend | (more on this in a future post) Being close to your co-workers is huge. I feel comfortable being able to laugh like teenagers with the other members of marketing, then moments later solve a serious business issue.  Grad school taught me this lesson and it continues to influence my work life.

Having an Opinion | This has happened more so in just the past 2-3 months, but I am starting to feel confident enough to hold an opinion boldly disagreeing with someone.  I’m realizing a disagreement doesn’t have to be personal, and I’d much rather be known for being a person who stands for something (even if my side doesn’t “win”), than someone who always rides the fence, apathetic or unwilling to make things happen. This might be the biggest change for me!

Things I’m Bad At Doing

So I technically just in 2013 began working my first full time job.  What can I say, I’m a late bloomer.  Errr…technically I was an early bloomer, and now I’m on my second set of blooming, therefore it feels late.  But digressions aside, the biggest learning curve for me has been figuring out how to navigate the jungle of the office.

I am learning there are several areas of my work life I would consider weaknesses…I mean, room for improvement:

Setting Deadlines (for other people) | This is seriously a huge challenge for me!  So many of the departments here are overworked, so I hate telling people they have to get something to me soon.  One of my biggest frustrations is when I have a project with no definite deadline, and believe me, quite a few of my projects are more open-ended due to the nature of my position.  Who am I to tell someone they need to get me information by the end of the week when they have so many other more urgent things to do? Updating graphics on the website can wait another day!

Staying Focused at the End The Day | My brain is a jackass.  Many afternoons, roughly around 3:00 or so, I turn into a hyperactive child.  I can focus if I want to, but it takes every ounce of self control to stay focused.  Meetings late in the day are fine, but if I’m just sitting at my desk working it can be a struggle.  This happens far more often than I’d like and sometimes a good Spotify playlist and a Coke Zero is the only thing that can get me through.

Remembering My Passwords | My idea of a secure password is one that I can remember.  Unfortunately higher powers believe that a secure password is one you change every month.  Like many of my coworkers, this has led me to go through a series of repeating passwords, with just a final character changed.  It’s along the lines of Password1.  Password2.  Password3…Password$…  Password%…  Sometimes it gets confusing though.  Is my Google Analytics account on password2 or password3?  And what about the image library – have they forced me to change that one yet?  And heaven forbid I have an account where I can’t change my password…
Needless to say I started a password file a few weeks into my job.

Ending Sentences With Prepositions | The original title of this post was “Things I’m Bad At”