Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ranch Chicken w/Creamy Cheesy Quinoa

Ranch Chicken w/Creamy Cheesy Quinoa... Last night was one of those dinners where I had no idea what I was making until it was all finished. It wasn't complicated, and I just used ingredients I had on hand, but it was in no way what I had planned as "what I would make for dinner on Tuesday night". It started with this chicken. I've perhaps stated before that I'm not really a chicken lover, I like dark meat chicken roasted and juicy. I like fried chicken. I like chicken when its been pounded and lightly dredged in flour in a lemony sauce. The idea here is that I do eat chicken, and I certainly appreciate that it's a healthful option in the protein department, but often I just find it so stinkin bland. So at the grocery store on Sunday we asked the butcher (whilst ordering some way more interesting Italian sausages for later this week) what he recommended in the chicken department. He said, "I'll get you two breasts with the skin and bone and I'll butterfly them". Fine.

He did just that and I tossed and turned over what the heck to do with these strange pieces of meat that were kind of too big for my grill pan. I considered marinating them in BBQ sauce - nah. I considered chopping them up myself - nah. Then it hit me. I had a random packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning that happened to come with something else I bought recently (which for the life of me I cannot remember). So I started thinking that the ranch seasoning could make a nice and flavorful enhancement to the chicken. Once I decided on that I figured the best thing to do would be stuff the chickens, roll them, and bake them. I considered stuffing them with cheese, too heavy. I considered stuffing them with veggies, but nothing in my fridge worked. Then I used the Phone a Friend Option and got a great suggestion from my mom... lemon slices! Easy and healthful but will definitely add some nice acidic flavor and aroma. Done.

How To:

The Chicken:
I laid both butterflied breasts in a large Pyrex baking dish and liberally sprinkled the inside and outside (with the skin on) with the ranch seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil. I added three thin lemon slices to the inside of each breast and then rolled/folded them up. I made sure the skin side was up and I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The last 10-15 minutes I cranked the heat up closer to 400 degrees to make sure the skin got nice and crispy. They turned out Dahlish! Very juice for breast meat and the Ranch was great seasoning. The lemon added a nice flavor and all in all I was very pleased with them - thanks to Jose at Mariano's I will definitely be purchasing butterflied chicken breasts with skin and bone more often!

The Kale:
Sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice. Perfection.

The Quinoa:
This was my most last minute piece of the meal. I needed a starch. I realized I had about 1/2 a cup of quinoa in the pantry and so I cooked it with two bay leaves and a slice of lemon. At that point I had no idea I'd make it into something more decadent when it was all fluffed up, so the lemon and bay leaves were in there to add some flavor to one of the most flavorless things to ever exist - yea I'm talkin to you quinoa.

Once the grains were fully cooked, about 10 minutes simmering after coming to a full boil, I removed the bay leaves and lemon. I knew this was not going to satisfy. So I grabbed a little hunk of butter, a splash of milk, and a handful of already shredded cheddar/colby mix that was in the fridge. I added those three things over medium heat and gave it a nice stir. A pinch of salt later and I pretty much had home made mac n cheese, minus the mac and plus the quinoa. I won't say this was healthful per se, but it was a lot better knowing my cheese and milk and butter were entangled with protein rich grains than empty white flour carbs.

The meal was Dahlish and easy and fun because it was created on the fly! I hope some of these pieces of my meal help inspire you to use some random packet of seasoning in the pantry or to recreate a favorite comfort food with just one ingredient that is slightly more healthful than the original. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salsa Verde Shrimp w/ Roasted Cauliflower

Salsa Verde Shrimp w/ Roasted Cauliflower... Cauliflower is one of those great veggies that I forget about all too often. As much as I love and appreciate my greens and bright veggies, there is something hearty about the smooth meaty texture of cauliflower that makes it a great blank canvas. It holds up well when used in a heavy sauce, yet absorbs light flavors nicely and crisps up perfectly in the oven. Not to mention, at least for me, I can trick myself into feeling like having cauliflower as a side dish feels like having a starch/carbs.

Last night I decided to roast the florets and serve them up with shrimp marinated in TJ's salsa verde that I absolutely adore, and for some greenery there was sauteed asparagus on the side.

How To:

The Shrimp:
I got a bunch of fresh shrimp at the store on Sunday, big meaty guys with their light shell still on. I removed the shells and tails and deveined them, gave them a little rinse and then marinated them for about an hour in the salsa verde in the fridge. Once I was ready to cook them (they only took about 5 minutes over medium/high heat) I tossed them in a saute pan and then flipped them over so they were nice and pink on each side. 

The Cauliflower:
I chopped one large head of cauliflower into small bite sized florets and drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a couple cloves of fresh pressed garlic. I laid them evenly on a baking sheet and popped them in the oven for about 35 minutes at 425 degrees. They definitely need at least 30 minutes in the oven, and then eyeball it and if you want them more browned/crispy leave them in for another 5-10 minutes. I put mine in the oven and then set a timer so that I knew when I had about 10 minutes left on them so I could start getting my shrimp and asparagus sauteing to finish up right at the same time.

The Asparagus:
Simple simple, olive oil and a pinch of salt. A splash of water towards the end to steam them through. Voila.

This was a very simple and light meal for a Monday night and helped to start the week off feeling very healthful! Hope you think this is as Dahlicious as I do!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1 Week of Breakfast: Made in 40 minutes on Sunday

1 Week of Breakfast: Made in 40 minutes on Sunday... So I decided that my usual TJ's Greek Yogurt & Kashi breakfast routine needed a little shaking up. To be honest I'm actually not sick of it at all yet (even though I have eaten it almost every weekday morning for over a year now) but I have been giving some thought to attempting to kind of do a paleo diet for the next month or so. I'm saying "kind of" because I haven't decided how serious I am going to be about it. For starters I am going on a trip this weekend over Presidents so it will NOT be in effect, but perhaps when I return I will get back into it. So that means taking out dairy and pretty much all carbs - aka grains. I did however make a snack/dessert that includes some oats but I'm saying "oh well!" to that one because I think it's still a good treat.

Anywho here is the breakfast: Egg casserole with spinach, ham and yellow bell peppers

So Easy. Simply whisk a dozen eggs in a large bowl. Next dice up a few slices of ham from the deli counter along with one bell pepper. Add your diced ingredients to the eggs and give it a mix. Then take a handful of spinach and mix that in as well. Add some seasoning if you'd like. I'm trying to steer clear of adding extra salt to my food so I opted for other enhancements like pepper...I'll admit, I missed the salt.

Pour the mixture into a Pyrex baking dish and pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Once it cools slice it into smaller pieces that you can put in a Tupperware container and bring to work each morning. I usually pop it in the microwave at work for a minute to heat up and eat it with a little bit of Siracha. I like the kick and it's a great way to add some flavor. I'll be completely candid and tell you I am just so-so about this breakfast, but my other half had a piece before hoping on a plane Monday morning and told me it was the best thing I've ever made. Either his taste buds aren't up to par or my cooking skills aren't what I think they are!

Anyways, it's a good alternative, and if you like scrambled eggs/omelets this will be right up your alley! I'm more of a runny yolk kinda girl.

PS it's only been two days and just knowing I CAN'T eat pasta or yogurt is making me want it more than usual .. I don't imagine this little test will be lasting too long. Plus I'm generally a proponent of "everything in moderation".. a little pasta never hurt anyone!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dukkah Chicken w/ Confetti rice & Zucchini

Dukkah Chicken w/ Confetti rice & Zucchini... So my mom has been using this spice combination that she gets from a local shop that sells olive oils and such, and I finally found a version of it at TJ's this past week! Turns out after we compared all the ingredients, the one she buys is a bit different from mine, but in either case the idea is that there are crushed nuts and a variety of dried herbs/spices to make a yummy crust on your protein or, as the packaging suggests, add it to a dip!

On the Menu:
Dukkah crusted chicken, with TJ's ginger & lemongrass rice, sauteed zucchini, & homemade gravy

How to:

The Chicken:
I used chicken tenders (which I used half for this meal and then half for a BBQ chicken pizza later in the week, yea it was Dahlish also). Anywho, I dredged my tenders very lightly in flour and then let them brown in a sauté pan on both sides. When I deemed the little guys golden enough I sprinkled some of the Dukkah on a plate and crusted one side of each tender. Then I placed them in a Pyrex baking dish and popped them in the oven on 275 for about 10-15 minutes.

The Gravy:
I leveraged the "drippings" from the browning process and just added some chicken stock and white wine to the hot sauté pan. I used a whisk to continually stir the flour/stock/wine combo adding a little more of each until it was the consistency I wanted. I also added a pinch of the Dukkah.

The Zucchini:
Simply sliced them in half long ways and cut small half moon pieces, then sauteed on medium/high heat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The Rice:
Easy peasy, just like the other ones I've posted about on here - steam for 3 minutes in the microwave per the directions. I would highly recommend trying this particular variety though, it had a yummy crunch and Dahlicious lemony gingery hint.

I would definitely recommend using this Dukkah combo and will be trying it out again later this week on some salmon fillets. Dahlish!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tofu & Orecchiette Casserole

Tofu & Orecchiette Casserole... This was one of those odd meals that's not planned but sort of creates itself as the night of cooking unfolds. I had tofu in my fridge, as well as some mixed greens (collards, mustard greens, & spinach), some leftover homemade marinara sauce from pizza I made earlier in the week, shredded mozzarella, orecchiette pasta, and an onion.

It started with sauteing some onion and tofu and greens. Then I thought about adding the sauce. Once I added the homemade bit I had, I realized it could use some more and had half a jar in the fridge of store bought sauce so added that to the mixture. I let it simmer and started bring a pot of water to a boil because the little red devil on my left should kept whispering "I knowwww you want pasta". So here I had this tofu marinara mixture and al dente orecchiette. I mixed it all together in my saute pan, but it still just didn't feel finished. The mozz!!!

I transferred the yummy conglomerate into a Pyrex baking dish and smothered the top in the shredded mozzarella.  I popped it in the oven for about 5 minutes on broil until the cheese was bubbly and golden.

I took it out and served up a heaping scoop along side a simple salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, and TJ's balsamic vinaigrette.


It was so yummy and hearty and to be fair the only real bad parts were the pasta and cheese. You could easily have subbed whole wheat or gluten free pasta, even quinoa. To be honest you could even just skip the pasta altogether. Either way it was Dahlish and just happened. I love those kinds of meals!