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.

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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.

A Year of Recipes: #22

Fancy 'ol salmon, honey, Sriracha, pepper, cilantro (paste), olive oil, limes, chili powder, minced garlic, asparagus for serving

2 giant filets of salmon, honey, Sriracha, pepper, cilantro (paste), olive oil, limes, chili powder, minced garlic, asparagus for serving, garlic powder

For my second dish last weekend, I decided to end my Sunday night with a challenge. Oh God, what a huge mistake I made. I tackled *drumroll* Sriracha Lime Salmon! I have NEVER in my life cooked fish before so it was trial by almost literal fire.

I realized as I cooked that there were a lot of things I didn’t know about cooking fish that I should have figured out prior to approaching this recipe. It’s all good though, because leaping without looking has been the theme of my cooking adventure.

I didn’t mean for this post to be humorous, but I’m a firm believer that it’s healthy to laugh at yourself regularly, so here goes.  This is an honest representation of what happens when an idiot amateur attempts to cook fish for the first time.

My actual thought process at the store:

  • How big is a “filet” exactly? It says I need 4.
  • Great, Kroger only has 1 pre-wrapped salmon filet.
  • Can I substitute halibut?
  • Woah, they sell swordfish here?
  • Ah ha, I can have the guy get me fish from behind the glass.
  • Ooooh oooo they have salmon.
  • They only have 2
  • But those look really big.
  • Okay I’ll just take those two.
  • HOLY CRAP TWO POUNDS.

My actual thought process post-purchase:

  • OH GROSS THERE IS SKIN ON THE FILETS
  • Well, Google just said fish should really be cooked the day you buy it. That was yesterday. Why didn’t anybody tell me this?
  • Crap I already ate dinner…I can’t cook this tonight. Stupid delicious Ethopian food ruining my plans.
  • This smells awful.  Has it gone bad already?  Or that just how fish is supposed to smell?
  • I guess I should get it marinating now and cook tomorrow?
  • OH GROSS I TOUCHED IT
HELP I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING.

HELP I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.

My actual thought process while cooking:

  • I hope my goldfish can’t see what I’m doing right now.
  • OH GOD what do I do with the skin? Do I cut it off first? Can it go in the pan and cook as is?
  • Oh well, here goes.
  • Um let’s flip this bad boy over.
  • THE SKIN CAME RIGHT OFF. WHAT. Oh wait, that solves one problem.
  • Time to flip again.
  • WHY ARE YOU SO FLAKEY QUIT FALLING APART
  • …except flakey fish is good.
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Before it started falling into pieces that salmon was starting to blacken up beautifully.

Despite all my bitching, the meal turned out quite well, believe it or not. The fish fresh out of the pan was pretty tasty just from the marinade alone, and the sauce was good minus the fact I accidentally over-thickened it. Reheated, it wasn’t bad, but this is definitely a dish that is meant to be eaten fresh out of the frying pan.

Sriracha lime sauce, easy to make but also easy to over-thicken.

Sriracha lime sauce, easy to make but also easy to over-thicken.

If I do make again, I’d cook half as much fish, and add quite a bit more lime juice and be careful to keep the sauce thinner. However, I don’t think I’ll be making this dish again for just myself, but it might be a nice one to keep in my back pocket for trying to impress gentlemen in the future.

The present pinnacle of my learning-to-cook experience

The current pinnacle of my experience learning-to-cook.  I stared down disaster and came out victorious

Flavor 2.5/4
Ease
1/4
Guiltless 4/4 – Pretty much nothing to regret here unless served with too much rice
Leftovers 2/4

A Year of Recipes: 21

Quinoa, optional sesame seeds, Sriracha, oil, cilantro, honey, yellow onion, green onion, and chicken

Quinoa, optional sesame seeds, Sriracha, oil, cilantro, honey, yellow onion, green onion, and chicken

When I was deciding on recipes for the week, I somehow ended up with the idea of “Sriracha lime” on the mind, and I ended up cooking two meals with that as the main flavor. Despite the common flavor theme, they were quite different.

First up was a Sriracha and Chicken Quinoa Bowl. The website where I found the recipe tagged it as “quick” and “easy” which I wholeheartedly agree with. Basically 3 steps/dirty dishes.

Dirty dish #1: Cook your Quinoa. I’m a pro at cooking quinoa by now.

Dirty dish #2: Cut up some green onion and make your sauce.

IMG_5397Dirty dish #3: Saute some onion. Mmmmm smells so good. Saute the chicken in the same pot until browned. Add the sauce from earlier. Cook a little longer.

IMG_5398 Then throw that on your quinoa and you’re done. BAM. (Totally get why Emeril says that, it feels good.)

Okay, so the biggest problem I had with this recipe is that it called for “2-1.5 lbs of pastured chicken breast, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces.” So…that looks like it means TWO 1.5 pound packages of chicken. Not sure if I misinterpreted that or it’s a typo, but that was waaaaaay too much chicken to cook all at once. I ended up doubling my quinoa and sauce and it was a final total of 6 generous servings. It was a little difficult to get the chicken to brown up with that much in my pan, even with the huge one I own. Also, no need to wash chicken before cooking, really.

IMG_5401Flavor 2.5/4 – This was good but nothing mind blowing – I think the sauce could have used more lime.
Ease 3/4 – if I hadn’t overloaded my pan this might have been a 4.
Guiltless 4/4 – Hearty natural ingredients. And honestly, aside from a little olive oil and honey, most of the calories were straight from the chicken and quinoa.
Leftovers 3.5/4 – reheated pretty darn well. Most quinoa bowls do!