What I’ve Been Cooking Lately – week 3

So. I didn’t have AS successful of a cooking week as I would have liked, but I did make a few things. I ate leftovers or stuff I quickly threw together three times this week – including one night where I made my tried and true standby of all-veggies-in-the-fridge-go-into-fried-rice (which you’ll learn happens about once a week, sometimes more if I’m running low on ideas and time). I also ate at restaurants twice this week, once with friends and once with the hubby.

BUT. I did make some stuff. First, I made another pizza with fried egg on top, but this time I used basil pesto as the base instead of traditional pizza sauce. I LOVE pesto and can find reasons to substitute it for all kinds of things, but as pizza sauce is probably my absolute favorite – followed closely by in pasta, with a touch of cream. YUM. Anyway, the pizza was delicious and I highly recommend pesto on pizza if you haven’t done it already. And egg! Egg on pizza is amazing, too, but I think I’ve preached that already.

I cooked another meal that was cooking TWO new recipes in one night. Friends, that never happens. Just one new recipe is usually enough to stress me out. But these two both sounded super quick and easy, and the flavors were so similar I thought they’d really pair well together. I made baked lemon butter tilapia from Damn Delicious, with lemon butter green beans from Budget Bytes on the side. I was right – the combination of these two recipes was great and the meal couldn’t have been easier to put together. I also have to say, of all the cooking/recipe blogs I follow, these two are by far my favorites. Every recipe I’ve made from either one of them has turned out great and not one I’ve tried has been too complicated to make on a weeknight. I highly recommend both sites and both of these recipes.

Also, I have to tell you guys that earlier this year I got a rice cooker and it has changed my life. I always loved eating rice but hated cooking it. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I had trouble getting the right proportion of rice to water to cooking time, and sometimes my rice would turn out perfect and other times it would be either a soggy mess or dry and crunchy. I never have this problem now because my rice cooker does everything for me and it really has made it possible for me to have rice anytime I want. Now you know why I make fried rice once or twice a week – I always have cold leftover rice in my fridge! ūüėČ

What I’ve been cooking lately – week 2

So this week wasn’t as successful at cooking new recipes as last, but I did make a couple of things that I wanted to share.

Sunday I made my favorite easy pasta sauce. It literally has three ingredients and tastes amazing. Apparently it’s originally from Marcella Hazan, but here’s the adapted version from Smitten Kitchen. I guess it’s a relatively famous recipe but I only learned about it last year. I served it over cheese tortellini for an easy and delicious dinner.

Monday¬†I took some of that leftover sauce and used it as the base for a homemade pizza. Don’t get too excited – I didn’t make the crust or anything fancy. I used a Boboli pizza crust, the leftover sauce, and some cheese. BUT I did use this breakfast pizza from Budget Bytes as an inspiration to add a fried egg on my pizza. I actually do this a lot, when I’m looking for something “extra” on my pizza that’s not meat, and it’s always phenomenally delicious.

Tuesday¬†I took some veggies I had on hand and chicken from a roast chicken my mother-in-law had eaten a few days prior and made a stir-fry. Wednesday I think I made a quick sandwich or salad, my husband worked late that night so we didn’t have dinner together.

Thursday¬†I gathered all the veggies that needed to be eaten – broccoli, snap peas, a quarter of an onion, some green onion, carrots, and eggs – and made vegetable fried rice. This is one of my favorite things to make because you can’t really screw it up. If you’ve never made fried rice before¬†here¬†is a really good tutorial from Steamy Kitchen, but once you get the hang of it, fried rice is incredibly easy and always delicious.

Friday I went out with coworkers for really great Mexican food at this new place that just opened up near my work, Don Julio’s. I had a blue crab quesadilla – so so yummy! It was¬†a great time with my work family.

Last night (Saturday) we went out to one of our favorite local restaurants, Colorado Fondue Company, and as always when we go there I was SO FREAKING FULL when we left. But man it was fantastic.

So that was my week! What have you been cooking this week?

 

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

I love reading Michelle’s (of That’s What She Read fame) posts every week about the meals she and her family enjoyed each day of the week and for a while now, I’ve been thinking about doing something similar myself. After thinking about it for a while, I realized I don’t cook enough “real” meals to talk about what I make every single day, but rather I cook one or two decent meals every week, usually trying new recipes, so I’ll just share those each week. Sometimes there might be a week where I eat nothing but rice and broccoli every night – or worse, popcorn – but hey, more often than not I’ll get to share with you new and fun recipes I’ve tried and report back on the level of success I had. Sounds good? Great!

This week was really excellent, cooking-wise. Sunday I tried something I had always been afraid of – TOFU – and it turned out fantastic, thanks to this easy recipe and tofu tutorial at Budget Bytes, Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli. The tofu was so much tastier than I expected, and the stir-fry sauce was easy and SO yummy. The recipe could easily be changed to suit whatever vegetables you have on hand – I’ll probably throw some carrots and maybe snap peas in the next time I make it.

I can’t remember what we did for dinner on Monday, probably something super quick and easy, but Tuesday I got cooking again and made this Chicken Tortellini Soup from Damn Delicious. I’m super proud of myself because I’ve been trying to get better about not wasting food, eating leftovers, re-purposing something I made once into something else, etc., so in this recipe I substituted some cooked turkey I had in the freezer for the chicken and it turned out great! I’d been meaning to find a use for that turkey for weeks and this soup was the perfect thing for it. I have another bag of cooked leftover turkey in the freezer that I hope to come up with a use for in the next couple of weeks, too.

Wednesday I went out to dinner with friends, Thursday we ate leftovers, and Friday I threw all the vegetables I had in my fridge that were soon to go bad into a pan for a stir-fry. I had this soy sesame sauce in my pantry, so I used that, and while it was a bit too sweet for my tastes I did like it. I probably won’t buy it again, especially now that I know how easy it is to make a delicious stir-fry sauce from scratch from earlier in the week, but the meal was good, healthy, and including chopping up the veggies took me less than fifteen minutes to put together. I call that a win.

Tonight I think we will go out, and I haven’t started to plan what I want to make next week. Stay tuned to find out! Hopefully I keep doing this as a regular feature on the blog – what do you think?

Weekend Cooking: Cooking from Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Get Real Meals

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to ExtremesBack when Trish hosted the Cook It Up Challenge, which focused on using one cookbook each month, I decided to start with 30-Minute Get Real Meals by Rachael Ray. I chose this particular cookbook because it’s the cookbook I’ve had the longest (my mom bought it for me when I moved from a dorm room to an apartment in college and could start cooking in an actual kitchen), and I had only¬†used it once or twice. I also feared I wouldn’t find much to cook since it’s focused on low-carb which I don’t really believe in (pasta, please. All the pasta!).

The book is divided into chapters for snacks, salads, soups, fondue, burgers, main dishes, pastas (I know, right!), and desserts. The first thing I made was the Indian Summer Turkey Chili. This chili was SO GOOD and possibly my favorite chili I’ve ever made (I love chili and have made many kinds). The kicker with this one is it literally tastes like summer, probably because barbecue sauce is a prominent ingredient. The one thing I can tell you about this dish is that if you make it, choose your BBQ sauce wisely – the taste REALLY comes through in the chili. I’ve made it twice since the first time, truly this was delicious and I will make it lots more times. And it makes GREAT leftovers.

The second thing I made was Pumpkin Sage Pasta. Here’s where it gets tricky because this recipe is the closest one I can find online to the one in the cookbook, and it’s slightly different. But it’s close enough that you get the idea. Yes, there’s pasta and cream in a low-carb cookbook, but she uses such a small amount of each that it’s still pretty healthy overall. I liked this okay. The taste was really good but because of the huge proportion of pumpkin puree to cream, the texture was a little off. I made it a second time using about twice the amount of cream, and while it obviously wasn’t as healthy that way, the texture was way more creamy and delicious. I REALLY liked the use of fresh sage, a herb I had never cooked with before.

The third dish I made was a white chicken chili that I can’t find online. Which is fine, because this chili was nothing to write home about. It was okay the night I made it, but it lacked that something special and wasn’t very good reheated the next day for lunch.

In the end, while I liked one thing I made and loved another, I ended up donating this cookbook. There are just too many things in here that don’t interest me – I don’t make fondue, am not a huge fan of burgers, and never make salads at home (my hubby doesn’t eat salad). While I’ll definitely be making the chili again and again, and will experiment more with pumpkin puree in my cooking, overall I’d only recommend 30-Minute Get Real Meals to people looking for fresh and new low-carb options to add into their cooking repertoire.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Stop by and check out other posts related to food and cooking!

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (Weekend Cooking)

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and EatConsider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Published by Basic Books

From the publisher:

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious‚ÄĒor at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives‚ÄĒperhaps our most important gastronomic tool‚ÄĒpredate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen‚ÄĒmortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

I almost never participate in Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads every Saturday, but I almost always wish I did. I figured the fact that I read a foodie book recently is as good a reason as any to join this week!

I’m not sure why exactly I got this one from Audible – I think it was a daily deal or deeply discounted or something – because it’s not really something I’d pick up on my own. I like food, and I like food books, and I like history, which is probably what made me think I’d enjoy this one, and I did enjoy it, but it’s pretty different¬†from the typical nonfiction I read.

First, let me say that Consider the Fork is impeccably well-researched. To say there’s a ton of food history here is a huge understatement – Wilson traces food technology from the days before the invention of the knife up to the present, details how different cultures have used different technology in different and unique ways, and makes what could be quite a dull subject incredibly interesting. I learned a lot, and I think if you’re a bigger foodie and more accomplished chef them myself (which is probably most people), you will get even more out of the book than I did.

The audio was well done, too. Alison Larkin narrates and she has a sweet voice with an English accent that makes for a very pleasant listening experience. Whenever I spent time listening to the book, I very much enjoyed her narration.

The only issue I had with Consider the Fork is that I just wasn’t hugely compelled to pick it up almost ever. When I listened to it, I enjoyed the experience and came away with some nugget of new knowledge, but I never felt that feeling of being excited to pick it up again – does that make sense? I’m wondering if I personally would have benefited more from reading this one in print? I’m not sure, to be honest. It also could be that I’m just not super excited about and interested in food history/technology.

Either way, I can still recommend Consider the Fork for foodies and those who love learning about cooking history and technology. Wilson did an incredible job with her research on this one, and even though I can recognize this might not have been the best book for my personal tastes, it is clear that those with interest in this subject will find a lot to enjoy within the book.

A Moveable Blog – “Field to Feast”

Welcome to A Moveable Blog “Field to Feast” presented to you by Sandy, Heather, Jill, and I, with the cooperation of Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, and Heather McPherson, authors of the lovely Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans. Today I’m featuring a recipe from Chef Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant, here in Orlando – Saut√©ed Florida Snapper with Succotash and Lemon Thyme Butter. Here we go!

Ingredients:

Lemon Thyme Butter:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemon thyme
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Succotash:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon diced shallot or red onion
3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels
1 cup fresh beans, such as limas or pink-eyed peas
1/2 cup chopped ripe tomato
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Snapper:
4 (7- to 8-ounce) snapper fillets
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

Let’s make it!

Prepare the Lemon Thyme Butter:
Combine butter, lemon thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Make the Succotash:
1. Heat oil and butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat until golden brown. Add shallots or onion and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.
2. Add corn and saute 2 minutes. Add beans and saute 1 minute. Add tomato, parsley, and chives, stirring to combine. Cook until mixture is hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low to keep warm.

Cook the snapper:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Sprinkle snapper with salt and pepper. Heat oil and butter in a large ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat until butter turns golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and place fish in pan. Saute 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until fish is golden brown.
3. Place pan in oven and bake 10 minutes.
4. Place 1 tablespoon lemon thyme butter on each fish fillet and return pan to oven for a few seconds to melt butter. Place 1 cup warm succotash on plate. Top with sautéed snapper.

And … the finished product (with my crappy phone camera):

So, a few things about this one. First of all, it was DELICIOUS. Even my meat-and-potatoes hubby loved it and went back for more succotash after being scared to try it at first. (TBH, I did have to give him a baked potato on the side – guy needs his starch with every meal – but I was good with just the meal as pictured.) A few things I did a little differently than the recipe states, first I couldn’t find lemon thyme, so I used regular thyme and added a little lemon zest, which was perfect. Easy substitute. Also you can see in the picture that the snapper isn’t “golden brown” as the recipe suggests, well I guess I didn’t get my pan hot enough first because that’s the color that it became after¬†sauteing¬†for 2 minutes on each side. No problem, it was still delicious.

Also, I know this sort of defeats the purpose of the book, but I used frozen corn and lima beans. Because, well, it’s November, and if you can get fresh corn in November, I certainly don’t know where. But I fully plan to make this again in the summer when fresh corn is abundant and I’m assuming fresh beans as well. Honestly, it was really great and I’ll be cooking this again and again, maybe doing a little experimenting with the type of fish I use. I loved the snapper but the recipe says you can also substitute tilapia, and I ALWAYS have tilapia in my freezer because it’s incredibly affordable. So if you are interested in this one and on a tight budget I suggest you try it with the tilapia. It also suggests you can do this with shrimp or scallops, and I always have frozen shrimp so I may try that too. The possibilities are endless!

Don’t miss the rest of our Moveable Blog Feast!

Monday and Tuesday – Sandy is featuring drinks and appetizers
Thursday – Heather is featuring sides
Friday – Jill is featuring a dessert

Field to Feast by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, & Heather McPherson

Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, & Heather McPherson
Published by University Press of Florida
Review copy received at SIBA

From the publisher:

Florida offers more to savor than merely seafood and citrus. Name an ingredient and you’re likely to find it here. To research¬†Field to Feast, authors Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, and Heather McPherson¬†traveled¬†thousands of miles, tasting some of the freshest ingredients along the way. They found world-famous chefs who eagerly shared their best recipes to highlight those flavors. The result is a cookbook like no other; a delicious celebration of Florida food and cooking that‚Äôll lead you from the kitchen to the farmers’ market and home again.

When I received this book at SIBA, I was practically drooling over the gorgeous photos and delicious-sounding recipes inside, all while I was supposed to be listening and paying attention as another author spoke. It was with much anticipation that I finally tore into the book, and I read the thing cover-to-cover the other night, excitedly perusing the recipes and the inspiring stories of farmers and chefs who, in some cases, live right here in my own city and participate in this awesome farm to table movement that I know almost nothing about.

So, the cookbook is full of recipes using local, fresh ingredients, and I think while it features Florida farmers, no matter where you live there are a myriad of ways you can take advantage of the recipes in the book. They are great recipes even if you don’t have the ability (financially or location-wise) to shop farmers’ markets. Many of them are very easy and most are healthy – especially given the fact that using fresh ingredients boosts the health factor a ton.

Each recipe is accompanied by a profile of a Florida farmer, chef, or artisan and I loved reading these stories. I was surprised to learn that a few restaurants that I already knew of here in Central FL were committed to the farm to table style of cooking and eating. That fact makes me even more intrigued to try these restaurants, and reading about all the farmers was incredibly inspiring. I don’t ever see myself farming, but I’m fascinated by the concept of farming, and learning about real people who do it definitely held my interest.

And the photographs! Oh my goodness, the photographs in this book are beyond gorgeous. I cannot even explain how pretty the book is.

Stay tuned this week because bloggers Sandy, Heather, Jill and I will be doing A Moveable Blog “Field to Feast” where we will each be featuring a recipe from this book throughout this week. Here’s the schedule so you can follow along:

Monday Sandy will feature a drink
Tuesday Sandy will feature an appetizer
Wednesday I will feature a main course
Thursday Heather will feature two sides
Friday Jill will feature a dessert

Please come along with us as we journey through this awesome cookbook this week. And in the meantime, get yourself a copy! I promise you will not be disappointed.

Weekend Cooking: Honey-Pecan Chicken Thighs

One of the cookbooks I received recently at SIBA was the very¬†intriguing¬†Pecans: A Savor the South Cookbook by Kathleen Purvis. I say intriguing because I do enjoy pecans quite a bit but cook with them almost never. So I was excited to tear into this cookbook and try a few of the recipes. The only recipe I’ve tried so far, I loved, so I decided to share it with all of you today! The Honey-Pecan Chicken Thighs were super easy to make, they turned out delicious, and paired beautifully with the baked sweet potatoes I made to go with them. I highly recommend you try the recipe for yourself!

Honey-Pecan Chicken Thighs
makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Warm the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken thighs in the skillet skin-down. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the skin is browned. Turn and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the thighs from the skillet with tongs and place in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer.

3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the vinegar, honey, and cayenne to the skillet, stirring up any browned bits, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

4. Combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water in a small dish, stirring to completely dissolve the cornstarch. Stir the cornstarch and water into the sauce in the skillet, cooking for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Add the salt and pecans. Pour the sauce over the thighs in the baking dish.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, then spoon the sauce and pecans over the chicken thighs to glaze. Continue baking for 15 minutes, or until the thighs are done.

I wish I had a picture of this deliciousness to show you, but unfortunately the hubby and I were too excited to start eating for me to remember to take a picture! You’ll just have to trust me that these looked amazing and tasted just as good.

Weekend Cooking: Just a Question

Today’s Weekend Cooking post is a simple question. I always have random ingredients on hand at home and am not enough of an accomplished cook to figure out how to make meals out of them. I hear there are websites out there where you can type in a few ingredients and it will search for recipes that incorporate them. Do any of you use such a site? If so, which one? And if not, what website is your favorite to find new recipes?

And what do you do with all those random ingredients, anyway? HELP!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is held every Saturday. Stop by her blog and check out all the fun!

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn
Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publicist

Chef Kathleen Flinn was innocently shopping in her local grocery store when the idea came to her to begin a cooking class for beginner cooks – women (and men, if interested, although none were) who didn’t believe themselves capable of cooking, who relied on fast foods, frozen foods, and boxed hamburger-helper type meals to feed their families. She started her cooking classes with nine women, and in this book she details the weeks she spent with these women and how each one of them were able to grow into confident home cooks.

I have to say, I loved The Kitchen Counter Cooking School! Not only is this a memoir – a well-written one at that – but it’s also a cookbook. Flinn has an easy, fun writing style that kept me interested and highly entertained. I love the idea for the book and I connected to many of the individuals’ struggles to feel confident cooking healthy, delicious meals for their families. Although I have developed quite a bit over the last few years in my own cooking abilities, confidence in the kitchen is something I still really struggle with. So it was great to read about these women who were WAY less skilled than myself in this area improve so much in just a few weeks. It was inspiring, actually.

Also, this book taught me so much! I honestly can say that I will use many of the recipes provided in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Not only are there simple recipes like¬†Alfredo¬†sauce, but there are more complicated ones that I previously would have been nervous to attempt. But Flinn’s cooking philosophy really resonated with me, and much of the advice she gave the women in her class I plan to take to heart and apply to my own cooking endeavors.

I have to say that if you are an amateur foodie like myself, or interested in developing your own cooking skills, I highly recommend The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Not only is Flinn clearly a talented chef, she has excellent writing abilities as well.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and takes place every Saturday. Drop by her blog for more foodie/cooking posts!