Category Archives: Recipes

Breakfast for Dinner

Caprese Grits Opener

Have you figured out that I’m all about easy food in the summer time? Easy and as fresh as possible, that’s my jam. Since we started getting heirloom cherry tomatoes out of the garden, I’ve been caprese crazy. With hubby and I both back to work now that the school year is on the horizon, it’s basically a coin toss as to who’s going to cook dinner. Last week, I was craving fried eggs (I crave things NOW, can you imagine how awful that will get when I’m preggo someday?!), and fried eggs and grits are one of my favorite combos, but I wanted something fresh to balance out the delicious richness, so to the garden I went. Then, this idea came to me: why not combine two of my favorite things, the flavors of caprese and breakfast eggs?!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Lazy Caprese Ingredients

-1 cup fresh basil

-as many cherry tomatoes as you care to use, quartered

-Parmesan

-3 c water

-3/4 c grits

-butter

-EVOO

The Miller light really enhances the cooking process, but isn’t technically an ingredient. Also, our beer standards have really dropped this summer. We got cheap.

Start by chiffonading the basil. I talked about the chiffonade in my last post, but here’s what it actually looks like:

Roll the basil leaves together as tightly as you can.

IMG_2235

Slice thinly down the length, creating delicious basil-ey strips.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2236 Chiffonade in Progress

 

Hubby insisted on an action shot. After he corrected my knife skills a few times. Side-note: I have all my fingers.

Meanwhile, get those grits going. Bring water to a boil, salt, and whisk in grits. Return to boil, then simmer for 5-6 minutes, or until grits are soft.

Grits

 

Heat 2 T EVOO in a frying pan, and add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium until blistered. I wanted to have more tomatoes than that, but I made do with what was actually ripe.

 

Blistered Tomatoes

When both grits and tomatoes are cooked, toss tomatoes into grits along with 1 T butter and 1/4 cup of grated parm. Mix well, until creamy. If you want more cheese, add more cheese. This is the perfect time to experiment and toss in anything that sounds good to you.

Delicious Mixins

 

Mix in about half the basil and stir to combine. The rest should be set aside for garnish.

 

IMG_2243

Husband was in charge of making fried eggs to top off our bowls of grits. He made them in the same pan that I cooked the tomatoes in, so that they would pick up some of that flavor and extra oil.

IMG_2244

Serve yourself a big heap of grits, top with a fresh fried egg, season to taste, and sprinkle a little extra basil on top. And enjoy!

IMG_2246

 

You could really add in so many things to this recipe. Other ingredients we thought would be good? Mushrooms, chicken sausage, mozzarella (I would have used it but didn’t have any), shrimp, spinach…I could go on. And if you don’t like fried eggs, make a scramble with the tomatoes and top the grits with it. Eggs are so versatile. I could probably eat them every day and not get tired of them. I hardly EVER order sweet breakfast items when we are out to eat, because EGGGGGGGGGGS.

I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Question of the day: Are you as obsessed with the basil/tomato combo as I am? Is there another flavor profile you’re addicted to? Talk to me!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Easy Salad Sides

IMG_2395.JPG

Lately, we’ve been taking advantage of our garden harvest and have been fixing a lot of what I’m calling “yard salads.” Aka a bunch of random stuff from our yard tossed together.

Last night, I mixed up two such delicious bowls because we had cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil we needed to use. My mom has been fixing both of these since I can remember, and they are so easy they don’t even really need a recipe, but they sure are tasty.

IMG_2393.JPG

First, slice up a cucumber in a medium size bowl. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of vinegar to coat (I used apple cider vinegar this time, but balsamic is also good, and gives a sweeter flavor). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and beau monde seasoning (or celery salt).

IMG_2392.JPG

The second bowl is kind of like a caprese salad with cucs instead of cheese. Chop two to three tomatoes (or halve pint of cherry tomatoes) and mix in a bowl with a sliced cucumber. Then, chiffonade about 10 basil leaves to mix in. Chiffonade-ing sounds complex, but really all you need to do is roll the basil leaves together and slice thinly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with 1/3 cup Italian dressing of your choice (I’m really into Ken’s right now).

Both of these are perfect complements to any fresh summer meal (holla for the grillables). The flavors are crisp and zingy and with garden fresh veggies, these sides can’t be beat.

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Three Rs: Random Risotto and Running

It is freakishly hot here in Oregon, which for us means anything over 85. The heat is swell during the day when I’m in the ice cube of an office, but when I get home to my hot, AC-less house, the heat makes me exhausted. I was finally able to get my rear out of bed at 5 this morning and beat the heat to get a few miles in. The day was already warming up. And then I PR-ed my mile time. For this training go around anyways. I feel like I walked a lot, but managed to shave 20 seconds off my pace. I’m still not where I want to be, but heck, I’ll take this little victory and use it for motivation. Since it’s been so hot, we’ve been doing minimal indoor cooking. No oven use, a little range, lots of grill. When I saw this recipe on Pioneer Woman’s blog the other day, it seemed great and summery and doable with what I had on hand, so I improvised my own version. I hadn’t been grocery shopping yet, so my risotto was onion-less and cream-less.

20140717-203327-74007883.jpg We have a ton of basil in our garden (pesto for dayyyyz), so I used a heavy hand with that. I seasoned my shrimp lightly with Greek seasoning, knowing it would go well with the lemon to be added later on.

20140717-203526-74126741.jpg I think I have a risotto obsession. No joke. I love loving arborio. I tended it carefully, first toasting it with butter, then adding half a cup of the low-cal white wine my husband found at Grocery Outlet, then adding a cup at a time of chicken stock until it was nice and creamy. Salt throughout.

20140717-203927-74367109.jpg I added the chopped up shrimp and about a cup or so of basil at the end, as well as a generous helping of pre-grated parm, which seems to multiply in our fridge. Garnish with a healthy squeeze of lemon. This was SO tasty. I love basil, and it really made this dish. I’m not kidding when I say that I’m seriously contemplating stashing basil in my car, not only because I’ve heard that it’s a good way to dry herbs, but because I want my entire Prius to smell like a basil plant. I love that I’m comfortable experimenting with risotto now, and Ree’s recipe provided perfect inspiration. Plus I drool when I so much as look at her recipes.

Tagged , , , ,

Chicken-Noodle Stoup: A Warm Dish for a Dreary Night

Stoup Title

 

It was just a blah Thursday. Work was quiet, it was rainy, I had a headache, and hubby and I were just in a funk. So I suggested it may be a good night for chicken-noodle stoup. For those of you who don’t follow Rachael Ray, stoup is a delicious combination of soup and stew. Think soup, but with LOTS of STUFF in it, more stuff than broth. It’s delicious. Once you start making stoups, regular soups will seem like dinky little child’s play. Shayne requests this dinner multiple times per winter, and occasionally in the summer just because. It’s easy to make, and is just a feel-good meal. There’s lots of veggies, it doesn’t leave you bloated, and it always feels like a well-rounded meal.

Also, just as a warning – I was experimenting with PicMonkey tonight.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

 

-two to three chicken breasts

-two carrots

-shallot

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1 c frozen peas

-1.5 c dried pasta

-1 T butter

-4 c chicken broth + 2 c water

First, season the chicken breasts with your choice of seasonings (this will impart a lot of flavor into the broth, so choose wisely). I used salt, pepper, and my trusty Greek seasoning. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into a deep pot, and cook the chicken over medium heat, turning a few times to get a nice golden color on both sides.

Chicken

**Alternately, if you want to go a little healthier, you can bake or poach the chicken breasts. I’ve tried all three methods, and I prefer the stovetop grilling method because I think it has more flavor**

While the chicken is cooking, dice the shallot into a fine dice, and thinly slice the carrots. Normally I throw in 2-3 stalks of celery, but we didn’t have any tonight, so I did without.

Veggie Dice

When chicken is fully cooked, remove to a plate and let cool. Melt 2 T butter in the same pan and swirl to coat. Toast the pasta in the butter until it gets a touch of that nice, brown butter smell without getting burnt. If you’ve never had brown butter…you’ll know it when you smell it. You will also be tempted to just dip anything you can find into the brown butter and eat it right then and there. Refrain.

Browning Pasta

You can use any pasta, though I imagine any straight, stringy pasta would be hard to brown. I had these multi-colored guys in my pantry and wanted to use them up. You’re just looking for the pasta to get a toast on it, you don’t want to try and cook it. It won’t work. When it’s decently toasted, remove from pan.

Next, saute the diced veggies in the same pot. Drizzle additional EVOO in with them if need be. Cook for 10 minutes or until the carrots start to soften. Add the garlic, and stir until fragrant.

Saute

Sometime during all this sauteing, dice the chicken into small bites. I like to ideally have chicken in every spoonful.

Chicken Dice

When everything is sauteed, add the chicken broth and water, then return the diced chicken and pasta to the pot. Bring to a rolling boil, and then simmer until the pasta is fully cooked. I periodically sneak a piece of pasta to check.

When the pasta is just about cooked, add the frozen peas. Continue to cook until the peas are soft. Tonight, I also threw in some parsley for garnish, and a splash of lemon juice at the very end of the cooking process.

Rolling Boil

 

Ladle into bowls and enjoy! Your tummy will be happy. I got hungry again just writing this up.

It seriously feels like winter tonight. Last week, the Oregon weather was a big tease, and we had a few beautiful days…I even got to pull out a sundress! Now, forecasts are calling for a weekend full of rain. Nothing like a good indoor Easter egg hunt.

How do you like to celebrate spring? A big Easter dinner? Frolicking in the sunshine? Dancing in the Pacific Northwest spring rains?

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Sausage-Tomato Risotto in Honor of (Gordon) Ramsay

I’m not ashamed to say that I named my dog after Gordon Ramsay, nor am I ashamed to admit that I love EVERY SINGLE GORDON RAMSAY SHOW EVER. I’ve watched all of the British AND US Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell, Masterchef, etc. etc. etc. And tonight was the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen, one of Shayne’s and my spring and summer favs. I don’t know if it’s because we both spent years in the food service industry or what, but we can always agree to watch cooking reality shows. And we spelled Ramsay’s name with the second “a” because that’s how Gordon Ramsay is spelled. And I trolled around on Twitter posting staged pictures of the dog with Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography until he responded to one. Not even kidding.

If you’ve ever seen Hell’s Kitchen, you know that the chefs constantly struggle with three things: cooking beef wellington, correctly searing scallops, and making an acceptable risotto. Ramsay constantly throws risotto all around the kitchen because it’s too al dente, too runny, or too cold. Since scallops are expensive and have NO desire to try my hand at a beef wellington, I decided tomato risotto with chicken sausage was the only thing to make for dinner tonight. Pardon the pictures…I finally found my digital camera again, so they will be better going forward.

Tomato Risotto with Chicken Sausage (4 hearty servings)

1 1/2 cups diced tomato

5 cups chicken broth

1 t smoked paprika

1 shallot (or a small onion, which is all I had today, but shallots are better), finely diced

2 chicken sausages (I used spinach/feta flavored this time)

1 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup of dry white wine

2 cups easily wilted greens, like spinach, chard, etc.

2 T butter

1/2 cup parmesean

Saute the tomatoes for a few minutes in a medium sized saucepan, mostly to get the kitchen smelling delicious, but also to bring out the flavor a little bit. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the smoked paprika (thank you, husband, for introducing me to a delicious and versatile ingredient).

Tomato Simmer

Cook the onion or shallot in 2 T EVOO until translucent and browned. If you are using uncooked sausage, toss that in when the onion is about half cooked. If you are using pre-cooked sausage, you can wait until the onion is basically cooked, before tossing it in for a quick saute (though either way, it’s better if it starts to get a little crispy). Season with salt and pepper.

Onion-Sausage Saute

When onion is fully cooked, add the arborio, and cook for one to two minutes to give it a little toast. Then, pour the wine in and stir until fully evaporated.

I was multitasking and didn't notice the photographer...

I was multitasking and didn’t notice the photographer…

Using a ladle, incorporate the chicken broth/tomato mixture, a scoop at a time, stirring each ladleful until it becomes fully evaporated. Slow and steady is the key to a creamy risotto; don’t rush the cooking process. It doesn’t take as long as the street rumors say, and it’s worth the patience. It usually takes me around 30-40 minutes to get all the liquid in. Before you move on to the next step, taste the rice to make sure it’s actually cooked, and not too chewy. Add more broth, if necessary, a little at a time until you get the creamy consistency you want.

I always wear this little apron when I cook, because I am notorious for staining all my clothes with food.

I always wear this little apron when I cook, because I am notorious for staining all my clothes with food.

Turn down the heat, and stir in your greens until they are wilted and soft. Toss with butter and cheese and stir until all the goodies are combined.

With Butter - Parm

Finished Risotto

 

Eating a big bowl of tasty risotto will set you right any day. I’ve seriously been thinking about making this ALL week long. Because of the tomato in the base, I think there’s a different flavor to this risotto than most others, almost a cheddar-y flavor. But don’t let that scare you, because it’s delicious. And I felt completely satisfied knowing that I had made a deliciously creamy risotto while I watched the new contestants on Hell’s Kitchen have theirs thrown out. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be terrified presenting this to Gordon Ramsay, but I’m pretty damn proud of it.

Other than doing a LOT of cooking this week, we’ve been super busy getting ready for the last push of work before our trip to Ireland. We went out and bought carry-ons for easy travel, I got a new coat for tramping the Irish cliffs and heaths, and some new sturdy walking shoes that won’t be like mesh sponges if it rains. I basically have to pack this weekend, as I’m in California for work next Tuesday through Friday, and our flight to Ireland leaves Saturday morning.

In all our preparations, we did manage to check out H-Mart for the first time this weekend. H-Mart is a chain of Asian groceries stores, which to me seemed like a friendlier and more approachable Uwajimaya. We were watching an old episode of No Reservations where Anthony was eating street food in Thailand, when we got a massive craving for any food of the Asian persuasion. We already knew we were heading the direction of H-Mart, and had heard good things about their deli cafe, so we decided to check it out.

H-MartOh my good golly, I had to stop and remember to take a picture of our food. They had three different cafes in the store, one Vietnamese, one Thai, and one that was Korean assorted. We went for Thai, and I encouraged Shayne to branch out from the classic pad thai, so we ordered some Pad Kee Mao and an order of Panang curry. We easily got two meals out of our $16 “lunch” and we were both so impresed. I’ve been craving H-Mart ever since. The noodlesin the Pad Kee Mao were OUT OF THIS WORLD fresh and delicious. You could tell that all the veggies were fresh and cooked to order, because the green beans and peppers were crisp, not sad and limp. I want to eat all the foods there. All. The. Foods. This was easily one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten.

Cee-Lo SakeAlso, did you know that Cee-Lo and his tiny little dinosaur arms sell sake?

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Asian Cod with Udon Stir-Fry

We’ve had a few truly beautiful Oregon days this week, and today took the cake. It felt like spring, it was in the upper 50s/mid-60s all day, and it didn’t rain. If you live in the pacific northwest, you know how crazy people get when they start sensing spring. All of a sudden, shorts and skirts are out, everyone is driving with their windows down, all the fair weather runners are out and about, and everyone is in a better mood. It’s awesome. The plus side about living in a rainy state is that, on nice days, you REALLY appreciate them.

Before I tell you about the latest delicious meal I created by accident, I first have to share our spontaneous spring break plans. This is the conversation I had with my husband last week:

Shayne: “What if we went up to Canada for spring break?”

Me: “If I need to renew my passport anyways…we might as well go to Europe.”

Two days later, my passport was in the mail for expedited renewal and we had plane tickets. To Ireland. Which has been one of our bucket list items basically since we first started dating. IF my passport gets back in time, we will be spending five days in Ireland, exploring Dublin and the Ring of Kerry, and we are beyond thrilled. The passport agency can expect multiple phone calls from me next week tracking my renewal. I’m banking on the LA passport agency as my backup strategy, as I have a business trip to California for the four days before we leave. I’m so excited to take pictures and document this trip I’ve wanted to take FOREVER. My parents still hear about how they went to Ireland without me in ’96. They spent 10 days exploring the emerald isle, I stayed with my grandma in Iowa, went to Methodist VBS where I knew no one, and then got the stomach flu. I’m still bitter.

That brings us to this week. As we are hoarding away all the money we can for touring and souvenirs, we are trying to eat on the cheap. Now, we ALWAYS try to stay frugal at the grocery store, but especially so these next few weeks. Lots of boxed rice pilafs mix and matched with various proteins and frozen veggie mixes. I also picked up a package of frozen cod, because it was on sale and I was jonesin’ for some seafood.

Today, after a GORGEOUS 3 mile trek in 6o degree weather with the boys (aka my dog and husband), I picked through my fridge and freezer looking for something to throw together for dinner, and pulled out the cod, a package of udon noodles I had picked up super cheap, 12 oz. of mushrooms, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.

Here’s everything you’ll need:

-1 large or two small fillets of white fish (cod, tilapia, etc.)

-veggies, your choice

-1 pkg udon noodles (found refrigerated near the mushrooms/peppers in my grocery store)

-1/4 c soy sauce

-1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

-1 Tbs sesame oil

-1-2 Tbs brown sugar

-sesame seeds, toasted

-2 cloves minced garlic

Mix the marinade ingredients together first. Quickly whisk brown sugar into the garlic, soy, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil until dissolved. Mix in a teaspoon of sesame seeds. If you want a slightly thicker marinade, whisk in some cornstarch (I couldn’t find mine today…whoops).

The makings of a marinade.

The makings of a marinade.

In a shallow dish, pour the marinade over the cod fillets. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

photo 3

Since I was using frozen veggies, I started prepping the stir fry while the first marinated. I tossed sliced mushrooms, and the bag of veggies straight from the freezer into a large skillet over medium heat, and drizzled with just enough sesame oil to get a good saute going. A little sesame oil goes a long way, and I just needed to keep things moist while the veggies defrosted. I was patient with this batch, since I burned a saute last week. Some people like their stir-fry with some crunch to it, but we are a no crunch family, so I had it sauteing for a while.

photo 2

Rinse the udon for a minute or two under hot water to loosen it (mine came vacuumed packed). This better preps it for cooking. Add to your stir-fry, trying to gently break up the noodles. From the picture below, you can see I struggled with this.

Not going to lie...I was skeptical at this point.

Not going to lie…I was skeptical at this point.

After I got the udon in, I got a frying pan going over medium-high heat for the fish. Using tongs or a spatula, gently place the fillets in the skillet. Pour the extra marinade into the stir-fry.

I wish you all had smell-o-vision right now.

I wish you all had smell-o-vision right now.

Get ready to multitask. Monitor the fish, which needed about 4 minutes a side when I cooked it. At the same time, bring the liquid in the stir-fry up to a simmer. This will get the noodles nice and soft, and impart a lot of flavor into them. I kept sauteing until all of the liquid had soaked into the noodles like a delicious, noodle-y sponge.

The noodles look a lot less pasty and chunky now.

The noodles look a lot less pasty and chunky now.

When the fish is cooked all the way through (flaky and opaque inside), and the liquid has been fully incorporated into the stir fry, it’s time to get your grub on!

photo 4Shayne LOVED this. I’m always nervous with winging recipes, just because I’ve had some pretty memorable fails over the years that we still laugh about, but I’m starting to get more comfortable. It was immediately requested that this be added to our regular meal deck, so I’m going to go ahead and consider this a success story. It took a little time for prep and cooking, but it was easy, and so worth it. We ate the whole pan. And wished there was more. I will be buying udon a lot more now, that’s for sure.

I have a lot of comfort foods, but for some reason, just about ALL Asian inspired dishes are what I crave when I’m sad/sick/happy/angry/mopey/all the feels. As someone with a perpetually sensitive tummy, a big bowl of noodles or rice with some super flavorful protein always hits the spot without leaving me in pain. This meal left me full without being bloated, and was pretty darn healthy to boot.

What are your comfort foods?

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Fiesta Shrimp Bowl

Fiesta Shrimp Skillet

I scrounged this dinner together in the middle of snowpocalypse, when we were tired of eating random snacks and frozen foods, and I stumbled across half a bag of frozen shrimp and “fiesta mix” vegetables in the freezer. My hubby immediately requested that I add it to our regular rotation of dinners. It’s also pretty darn healthy; the worst thing in it is the white rice, which can easily be substituted for brown, or ground cauliflower rice, if you want to go paleo style. I usually use white in my cooking, just because brown always seems to upset my stomach, and Shayne hasn’t quite bought into cauliflower rice as a regular substitute.

Do you keep frozen shrimp on hand? If not, you should! So quick and easy to defrost and cook up, and I think shrimp picks up so much flavor that a little goes a long way. My main protein when I cook is chicken, just because I’m comfortable experimenting with it, but over the last few years I’ve really come to love shrimp. So I buy it when it’s on sale, jumbo deveined shrimp. I personally like to peel them myself, so as long as they come veinless (it’s shrimp poop for goodness sakes!) I’m happy to prep them.

Here’s what I used to craft my fiesta shrimp bowl:

-1/2 lb of shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

-one bag of frozen, mixed vegetables (mine included white and kidney beans, green beans, carrots, corn, garbanzo beans, and broccoli)

-1/2 c salsa, your choice (we always have Pace Picante Mild in our fridge)

-guacamole, for topping, your choice (I’ve been banned from sharing my husband’s recipe)

-taco seasoning

-garlic

-white rice

-cilantro or parsley

Get the rice going first. I had been jonesin’ for some of Chipotle’s cilantro-lime rice, because that stuff is like crack. But I wasn’t about to hike a mile in dark blizzard conditions to get cilantro. What I DID have was parsley. So I made parsley-lime rice, by mixing about a tablespoon of Bolthouse Farms dehydrated  parsley with a cup of rice (and the appropriate amount of water) in my rice cooker. I just discovered these dehydrated herbs, and they are genius. You rehydrate them with a little water and they function pretty much like fresh herbs. Before starting up the rice, I put a few squeezes of lime juice in with the water. Use the lime juice sparingly – it can easily overwhelm the flavor.

This is what it should look like when it's done.

This is what it should look like when it’s done.

Next, marinate the shrimp in a bowl with a heavy dusting of taco seasoning, two cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze more lime juice. Shrimp cooks super fast, and it also marinates quickly, so I just do this and let it sit while I prep everything else.

Marinating

 

Next, I tossed my bag of frozen fiesta vegetables in a skillet over medium heat with about a tablespoon of EVOO. The bag will tell you to steam the veggies, but DO NOT LISTEN. Steamed frozen veggies taste like a whole lot of nothing. I almost always saute them over low/medium heat until they are tender. Get them cooking to a point of “crisp tender.”

Ignore the freezer burn.

Ignore the freezer burn.

Once the veggies are well on their way to full cookery, incorporate 1/2 cup of salsa into the skillet, and mix well with the veggies. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a little extra taco seasoning and S&P as well. The salsa seems to give the veggies enough moisture to get them really tender, and coats everything with a nice kick of flavor.

Veggies 2

When the veggies are just done (I tend to overcook them because my husband likes them on the mushier side), throw in the shrimp and marinade to the mix. Saute until just done – the shrimp should be opaque when you cut into them. It should only take between 4-6 minutes; if you overcook shrimp, it’s like eating little chunks of rubber.

To serve, put a scoop of the herbed rice in a bowl, and top with as much of the shrimp and veggie mixture as desired. This made us 2 hearty dinner servings, but I think we had some leftover rice. Top with guacamole for a cool, creamy touch. And enjoy!

While writing this up I realized how HORRIBLE my pictures look. Honestly, this was going to just be a throw-together one-time dinner. But when everything started to get going and smells started wafting through the kitchen, we realized that maybe this wasn’t going to be an ordinary “clear out the freezer special.” So I quickly snapped a few iPhone photos before I finished up. I’m no photographer, I’m aware.

Question time – What’s the best “accidental” meal you’ve ever created?

Hope you all had a great weekend, and here’s to a relatively painless Monday!

Tagged , , , , ,

Stress-Free Weeknight Meal – Eggplant Pizza

For the next few months, hubby and I are really trying to pinch our pennies and avoid going out, but also avoid going overboard at the grocery store. I’ve been trying to put together good meal plans using things from our pantry and minimizing what we need to buy. Look for lots of upcoming recipes involving frozen veggies and canned goods, Marge is getting creative!

Tonight, I had to make a grocery run on my way home from work. I used to DREAD my weekly shopping, but now, I’ve found that on a Monday or Tuesday night, I can avoid the crowds (for the most part) and get in and out fairly quickly. I’ve also learned how to coupon, not Extreme Coupon-style, but enough to save a few bucks here and there. I got a nice natural high from my shopping trip tonight, because I was efficient, pretty much everything on my list was on sale, and I didn’t have to wait in line. AND I picked up the new issue of Food Network Magazine with my savings.

We already had a bunch of jarred pasta sauce on hand, so I decided that since I got home later this evening after my grocery run, it was the perfect night for eggplant pizza. This has become one of our favorite easy dishes in the last few months, because it involves basically no prep, it’s not a carbo-load, and it tastes pretty indulgent. Think eggplant parmignana, but without the breading. And sub mozzerella for parm. And no pasta. If you’re worried about the taste of eggplant, don’t be: learn how to cook it properly, and it will taste however you want it to taste. We love our pizza in this house, but needed a healthier (and cheaper) alternative.

Here’s what you’ll need for 3-4 servings (depending on just how many you scarf down):

Forgive the counter mess...

Forgive the counter mess…

– one eggplant

– tomato sauce, pizza sauce, or the lazy girl’s answer to any recipe that calls for tomato, PASTA SAUCE!

-shredded mozzerella

-toppings of your choice (we just use the cheese and pepperoni, but olives, mushrooms, and peppers would be good)

-EVOO, salt, pepper, and oregano or Italian seasoning

First, rinse off the eggplant and chop into rings that are about 1/3 inch thick. Lay out the slices on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet (I’m paranoid about food sticking). Sprinkle salt onto the slices and let sit for 15-20 minutes. The salt will draw some of the natural water out of the eggplant and make it less mushy for cooking. Before this recipe, I had a hard time cooking anything with eggplant because it always turned into a big pot of mush. Then I discovered the salt. The eggplant slices will literally sweat after they are salted. Look!

It perspired!

It perspired!

After 15-20 minutes, when you have a pan of sweaty eggplant, gently wipe the excess water/salt off with a paper towel. There may be more brown in the eggplant than when you left it; this is normal (however, if it’s super brown when you cut into it the first time, I don’t recommend using it). Drizzle EVOO on top of the slices, and season with oregano or your choice of Italian seasonings. Pop into a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. The actual cooking time depends on how firm or soft you like your eggplant. Check it periodically, and remove from the oven when it’s cooked but not complete mush. Now your tray should look like this:

After oven 1

NOW, take your tomato sauce/pizza sauce/pasta sauce and spoon onto the slices, much like you would on a delicious doughy pizza. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella on next, and then your chosen toppings. Put the cheese on first, or it will slide off the top of your finished pizzas, and that’s tragic! I artistically place pepperonis on, then usually do another light sprinkle of cheese. This time around, my husband walked through the kitchen and said “you should use some Parmesan,” so I sprinkled some of that last-forever-sprinkle-parm on top.

Pre Oven 2

Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes to heat everything and melt the cheese. Then, remove from oven and enjoy!

Ta daa!

So easy, and it uses ONE pan, and a cutting board. It can’t get simpler. I pile about 3 on my plate, after I’ve peeled all the extra cheese off the cookie sheet as an appetizer. This recipe satisfies my pizza cravings every time, provided I can ignore my brain screaming for bread products. But seriously, this is satisfying without making you feel stuffed, as pizza so often does.

I really do have a lot of ideas and posts in progress for the blog this year, and hope to FINALLY become a semi-regular blogger. If you ever have good ideas, or want to see something in particular, let me know!

Coming up soon, my Q4 book reviews, some of my favorite things, and me waxing poetic about the Nike Fuel Band SE I got for Christmas!

Cheers! Time for some hot cocoa in my jammies, friends!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Sunday Night Suppers – Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

So my husband LOVES this recipe. When we go through and do our weekly meal planning, he often “recipe-drops” it into conversation – I used to try and ignore it, because it was always a pain in the rear to make, but since we had a long LONG relaxing weekend, I caved yesterday and cooked up a batch for him. And used a few time-saving cheats as well.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-a package of tortillas (your choice, but don’t use teeny tiny ones…I usually go for the ones that are about  inches in diameter)

-2 cups seasoned & shredded cooked chicken

-1 cup steamed cauliflower, mashed

-1/2 c cottage cheese

-14 oz. enchilada sauce

-1/4 c hot wing sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)

-crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

I used frozen cauliflower this time around, it’s easy to steam on the stovetop while you’re cooking your chicken up, it’s just as healthy, and you don’t have to spend the time cutting up florets. If you wanted to save even more time, you could shred some rotisserie chicken, though then you don’t really have control over your own seasoning.

Always with the Cajun seasoning, and S&P, of course!

Always with the Cajun seasoning, and S&P, of course!

Preheat the oven to 350.

After mashing the cauliflower in a bowl, add in the chicken and cottage cheese, and mix to combine. In a separate small bowl, mix together the enchilada sauce and hot wing sauce. Pour half of the liquid mixture over the chicken and mix.

Mixings

Spoon some into a 9 x 13″ baking dish (spray/grease first!) and spread over the bottom.

Please note the True Blood mug in the background (thanks Amanda!)

Please note the True Blood mug in the background (thanks Amanda!)

Then it’s time to roll! Warm your tortillas, and fill with your desired amount of filling. Mine are always freakishly uneven – they start too fat and end too thin. You should end up with about eight enchiladas, seam side down, in your baking dish. Drizzle the rest of the sauce mix on top, and pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Before oven

Before oven

The tortillas should get a nice crisp on them. Pull them out and sprinkle the Gorgonzola crumbles on top, then pop back in the oven for about 5 minutes to warm the cheese. I like to turn the broiler on for a few additional minutes afterwards to get the cheese allllllllllll nice and melty. Serve and enjoy! These also make great leftovers, and are perfect heated up for lunch.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

I’m sure you can think of more swaps to make with this, and if you try any, let me know!

I’m officially on a week long vacation now, and have plenty of posts queued up (in my brain, anyways). 2014 will be the year of the semi-regular blog posts, I swear!

Tagged , ,

Sick Day Supper – Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

I came home halfway through the day today, feeling like I was either coming down with the flu or about to barf my brains out. Thankfully, I THINK whatever was making me feel nasty seems to be subsiding. But the first thing I did when I got home was throw chicken noodle soup fixins’ in the crock pot.

 

IMG_1805

I knew I was going to want something bland and easy to digest for dinner, and hubby has been fighting a cold as well – everyone knows soup is good for the body and soul (especially when it’s freezing outside). I’m trying to get in the habit of studying a few recipes and then putting my own spin on them, and that’s what I did with this soup.

-small onion, finely chopped

-celery, chopped

-carrots, chopped

-a big ol’ mess of chicken thigh meat

-4 cups of chicken broth

-1 cup of wine

-egg noodles

-seasonings of choice

When I shuffled through the grocery store on my way home, my usual bags of frozen chicken thighs were nowhere to be found. So I picked up some Tyson chicken thigh “chunks” (I’m pretty sure they called them something more appetizing, but I’m too tired to walk all the way to the freezer to look). This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the chunks defrosted in the time it took me to get the dog pottied. Also, the beauty of soup is that you can determine your own proportions. I hate when my soups don’t have enough protein, so I put in about two handfuls of thigh meat (and USE thigh meat, because you’ll want the flavor).

IMG_1806

I diced up the onion fairly fine (don’t be jealous of my mediocre knife skills) because I knew I wanted the finished product brothy, and nothing is worse than big chunks of onion in a delicate broth. I always add more celery and less carrots, because celery is easier to chop and softens more quickly (I used 3 ribs, and 1 1/4 cups of chopped carrots).

IMG_1807 IMG_1808 IMG_1809

Next, I dumped in about a cup of wine (I’m trying to blow through the bottle of cheap white I’ve been cooking with for the last few weeks), and 4 cups of water with the equivalent amount of bouillon granules for broth. Here’s my secrets: Wyler’s granules, which I MUCH prefer to using regular chicken stock, because I can just keep it in my spice cabinet, and because I don’t have to dissolve it like bouillon cubes unless I REALLY want to. It naturally dissolves while cooking, and I think it imparts more flavor during the cooking process. And my number one cooking secret for every recipe ever? I always keep two specific things with my spices: Greek seasoning, and Cajun seasoning. I use them for everything (Greek was the word of the day for the soup). They work perfectly for everything: mixing into dredges, seasoning before grilling, sprinkling on oven fries or home fries. Seriously. Everything. These are my number one cooking staple.

Cooking trifecta - bouillon granules, booze, and my beloved Greek seasoning.

Cooking trifecta – bouillon granules, booze, and my beloved Greek seasoning.

 

So I tossed some Greek seasoning in my beloved crock pot (I forgot the salt and pepper until later, but if you don’t have addled flu-ish brains you would add some at this point). I topped off the broth with a few sprigs of rosemary (we are rosemary nuts in this house) and set it to high to cook for about 4 hours. Then I holed up on the couch in my comfies and blankets and let the dog warm my icy feet for a few hours. 15 minutes before I wanted to serve it up, I dumped in egg noodles (and took out the rosemary). Again, the proportions are up to you. I like a lot of noodles, so I probably used about 3-4 cups, which worked perfectly.

IMG_1812

This soup was not only easy, it was a hit. At first we thought it was going to be bland, but as we ate it, it kind of became addictive. The rosemary flavor gives it some zing that seems to accumulate as you slurp, and we both had seconds. My tummy is happy once again. All I can hope is that happy tummy continues through the night and into the morning so I can power through to the weekend. Or maybe I’ll be stuck on my couch tomorrow (I hate the thought of hanging out by my bathroom, it really impedes productivity). Either way, chicken noodle soup leftovers are already earmarked for lunch. Would it be too extreme to write “Ode to Crockpot?” Yes? Ok, I’ll try to restrain myself.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,