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.

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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.

A Year of Recipes: #23

Sriracha, coconut milk, optional chicken stock, paprika, frozen corn, olive oil, onion

Sriracha, coconut milk, optional chicken stock, paprika, frozen corn, olive oil, onion

With an upcoming business trip (well…at the time of writing this post), I wanted to do something quick and easy, and more importantly, something that wouldn’t leave me with a ton of leftovers I would have to throw out. I did a search for my current obsession, coconut milk, on FoodGawker, and ended up settling on a Smoky Sweet Corn Soup.

As an amateur cook, I always get really excited when I go through the ingredient list prior to shopping and get to cross several items off my list because I already have them on hand, which is exactly what happened this time! Unfortunately I couldn’t find coconut milk at Target so I had to run by Kroger afterwards, which made me grumble a little bit.

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Seriously so easy to make this.

I haven’t made any soups yet in my year of new recipes, and after this experience I think I will need to do more! It was very little work to make this recipe. Essentially everything went into a skillet until it was softened, and then was transferred to my food processor to blend. It went back in the skillet to heat the rest of the way and then it was done. Add a drizzle (or three if you’re me) of Sriracha and you’re done.

The only problem I had is that the recipe called for 16 ounces of frozen corn, and I could only find 12 ounce bags at the store. So I just cooked all 24 ounces and went heavy on my spices.

The recipe recommends using chicken stock to thin the soup if needed, but I ended up not using the stock. The thick soup (my processor left quite a bit of texture, that might bother some people) was enjoyable, but if I hadn’t been headed out of town I’d probably have added some stock to make the soup go further and cut down on calories (which were fine to begin with, roughly 400 for a generous 1 cup serving.)

Sriracha I love you!

Sriracha I love you!

Flavor 3/4– This ended up being very good, and the burn of the Sriracha was glorious.
Ease
3.5/4 – I did have to bust out my food processor
Guiltless 2.5/4 – A little corn is fine but it’s the primary ingredient here. If I make again I am pretty sure I could add a cup or two of cauliflower without noticing and then this would almost be healthy.
Leftovers 4/4 – Soup makes for easy leftovers.

Aunt Lindsay’s Words of Wisdom

Last weekend when I was in Nashville, my dear friend Alexandra said she missed my Aunt Lindsay advice, and really admired the way I was living my life, so this blog post is dedicated to her! She’s a great friend and I miss being there to lend a listening ear when needed. I’m also proud to say this is my 50th post on the blog, which is quite a milestone to have stuck with it thus far!

Much to my surprise, I’ve become a woman who generally blazes her own trail, and I’ve been guided by a few key themes over the past few years:

Adventure – 9 times out of 10 (…or probably more like 99 out of 100) adventure won’t find you. You have to seek it out. If you want something in your life to happen, go out and make it happen. If you’re feeling dissatisfied because you’re feeling boring, do something that makes you feel adventurous. It doesn’t even have to be something grandiose, simply do something you’ve never tried before. Get out of your comfort zone. If something scares you it just might be the exact thing you must do. And remember it’s entirely acceptable from time to time to do something simply for the sake of having a great story to tell later, such as the time I let my friends take me to a shooting range 🙂

Present – as a student of many years, I’m still learning to embrace this principle because I am used to living my life with “what’s next” always spelled out and one semester away. I’m realizing in this phase of my life, focusing on the present is key. I am a planner by nature, and I still have my 5 year plan, but I keep my mind focused on where I am now and limit how much I worry about what’s next. Being happy is probably 75% choice, and I am choosing to enjoy my life exactly how it is now regardless of where I might prefer my life to be either now or a few years down the road.

Waiting – the best way for me to live a vibrant life is to avoid waiting for X to happen before I do Y. So many people think I’ll workout when the holidays are over, I’ll travel when I have a higher income, I’ll be happy once I get a new job, I’ll learn to cook once I have a boyfriend, I’ll go to more concerts once I make more friends who are into music. Nope. Don’t let the things you want to achieve be contingent on other things in your life happening! You might end up waiting a long while (on things you have limited control over!) and you’ll miss out on so much while you wait.

Completeness – I debated writing this one, but it kind of ties into not waiting and it’s something I’m passionate about. So many of my friends think they need to find their “other half.” I hate the thought of this, that for some reason you cannot be complete without another person. I truly believe that the right person will not complete you but will compliment you. Similar words…but drastically different meaning.

Sacrifice – this is the newest addition to my life mantra, but I realized a couple months ago sometimes you can’t get everything you want. Well the Rolling Stones actually taught me that a few years ago…but our culture tries to tell us we deserve to have everything we want without giving anything up or working tirelessly. Sacrifice is easier when we have a clear idea of what really matters in life, and therefore why we are sacrificing, which leads me to my next point…

Priorities – Working full time doesn’t leave me as much free time as I am used to, so a few months ago I actually sat down and made myself a list of the things I am passionate about, which helps guide me in deciding how to use my time! I went for more broad categories (eight of them) and it’s nice to remind myself of what matters to me from time to time, especially on those days I’m feeling too busy.  Avoid spending time on things that either a) don’t matter to you or b) don’t make you happy…and onto my next point

Happiness – do things that make you happy. I know this might sound like an obvious one, but I regularly see people do things because they feel like it’s what they are supposed to do, as opposed to what they want to do. (Let me clarify sometimes I do things I don’t enjoy, such as cleaning my house or skipping dessert, but the outcome of those things makes me happy.) If you don’t like listening to NPR but you do it because you feel like it’s what you should do, stop. If demolishing a crowd of zombies on the playstation is what you want after a long day of work, do that. If singing along with the latest Disney movie brings you happiness, belt it out. Never be ashamed of anything that makes you happy and embrace it fully!

Progress – I always had this idea in my head that progress looks a lot like a straight line, sloping upwards consistently. Unfortunately progress is nothing like that; it’s much more gradual. Sometimes you take two steps forward and twenty five back. Sometimes it feels like you’ve backslid so much you’ll be lucky to even make it back to where you started. You have to remember life isn’t always forward progress and you can’t get discouraged when you backslide. Shake your fist at the sky, and then put your head down and start pushing forward again. Accept the fact that getting your life together will never be as easy at it seems, but it’s up to you to keep striving to make yourself better.

Sidenote: journaling is a great way to how far you’ve come. By being honest with yourself, you can read from the past and see that even though you’ve made mistakes, in the long term you are making progress and becoming who you’d like to be.