Tag Archives: dinner

The Valen-Times

It’s a gorgeous weekend here in Oregon!

My Valentine’s weekend started out a little womp womp, with a citation for riding the train to work without a ticket. It’s completely my fault, of course, for trying to outsmart their electronic ticket system. But still, not a great thing to have happen first thing on Friday morning.

The rest of the day, however, was great. A group of us walked from the office to Verde Cocina for lunch, where I forgot to take a picture of my huevos rancheros because they were so devious looking that I immediately started wolfing them down. Verde Cocina serves Mexican food with an emphasis on farm fresh veggies. Nothing is deep fried, and there’s a lot of non-traditional ingredients used, like squash, bok choy, and quinoa. I first tried it a few years ago at Portland Farmers Market so I’m thrilled that they opened up a cafe not far from my office. Also I can’t wait to try their margaritas because I bet they are phenomenally fresh.

Friday night was the start of a much needed restful weekend. We didn’t have much in the fridge or pantry for dinner, so we ran to Whole Foods and picked up some “gourmet organic” frozen items: tater tots and samosas. I had a bag of “lite ultimate Caesar” salad in the fridge, and some asparagus. I mixed up the salad, drizzled the asparagus with EVOO and salt and garlic pepper, and roasted it at 425 until it started to brown, while our gourmet frozens were cooking up. I also found this deliciously odd beer which I sipped while I waited for dinner.

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This dinner really hit the spot. Every once in a while, we really like some frozen meal supplements. They are quick and easy, and always feel like a treat. We enjoyed our plates while we we cuddled up on the couch under blankets. Our house has been super drafty lately.

When it breaks 60 degrees in February in Oregon, you don’t question it, you just get your rear outside, so hubby and I decided that a hike with the pup sounded like the perfect Valentine’s Day activity. We headed out to the Tillamook Forest to the Wilson River Wagon Trail to get in a few morning miles (since I was being bad and skipping running group).

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The trail was beautiful! We hiked four miles or so out and back, passing waterfalls, glades, and winding in and out of some gorgeous forestland. There wasn’t another soul on the trail. The only downside is that this trail, while being closed to motorized vehicles, is surrounded by ATV trails, so that noise started to get old after a while. Also the rural gun range shots started to get a little tiresome, but neither of these things put a damper on the beauty of our surroundings. Ramsay had a blast. He loves to be a wilderness hipster dog.

On our way home, we were hungry and it was lunch time. So we pulled over at Coleman’s Shady Rest, a roadside diner. I love all the roadside stops in the Tillamook Forest, on the way to the coast. I used to beg my parents for day trips to the beach so we could stop at my favorite diner for pancakes and hot chocolate on the way. Coleman’s wasn’t serving breakfast anymore, but they still had huevos rancheros on the lunch menu (I’m on a huevos kick lately). YUM. I think a more accurate description of this would have been “eggs and chili verde,” but I didn’t care because it was so darn good.

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We spent the rest of the day relaxing.

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For dinner, we stayed in, cooked up one of our favorite meals, chicken teriyaki, and watched Dateline, because my husband is the best and agreed to watch disturbing crime shows instead of a romantic movie or something. I also broke in my Moscow mule mugs.

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Today, we worked on finishing touches with the paint in our room, took the dog for a walk, and enjoyed opening up the windows and airing out the house. I’m not ready for Monday!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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?

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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?

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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!

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Philly Cheesesteak Peppers

All day, I contemplated what to make for dinner. The big Oregon-Stanford game is tonight, and I wanted some food that was fit for football (aka delicious and slightly sinful). I finally settled on cheesesteak stuffed peppers, which were a conglomerate of inspirational recipes I found on Pinterest. And on Juanita’s chips with salsa and guac, but all I that was store bought. I just thought it sounded good. Now, for the peppers:

Ingredients
-two green bell peppers
-small onion, chopped
-6 to 8 oz. of chopped mushrooms
-a package of precut roast beef
-sliced provolone cheese
-a tablespoon or two of minced garlic
-butter, EVOO, salt, and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut peppers in half, cut out ribs, and deseed. Line each half with a slice of cheese.
2. Sauté onion, mushrooms, and garlic over medium with a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until onions are caramelized.
3. Dice roast beef. I was too cheap to get it from the deli case, I just bought a package of good ol’ Oscar Mayer and diced it up. Toss this in with the mushrooms and onion mix for a few minutes. Get a few crispy pieces, those are the best.
4. Scoop mixture into the peppers, as much as you can stuff in. Mine were overflowing and I was ok with that. Top each half with another piece of provolone.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is browned.

This recipe was good (which kind of makes up for how the ducks are playing right now) but I need to experiment more with cooking times and temps. I prefer my peppers a little softer than these came out. Also, next time I think I will add more cheese on top. It did get nice and brown, there could have been a better crust on it. Oh well, live and learn.

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