Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pork Chops & Figs

Pork Chops & Figs... As a 20 something myself I understand that it's a funny in between time in life. Some of us have 9-5 jobs, others have round the clock jobs, and some have random gigs here and there throughout the day and week. Some of us have significant others, some have kids, some have just their own mouth to feed 3 times a day. Whatever your situation is, I really urge you to start thinking about food as more than an obligation or a treat. Food should be an enjoyable thing; look - we have to eat every day for the rest of our lives so you might as well come to love it. That being said, one has to be careful not to overindulge on a regular basis and learn when a treat is deserved or not. A random Tuesday night is not generally deserving of an ice cream sundae... ya dig?

Anyways, my point with all of this is that learning how to create and enjoy a well rounded meal is going to make life a lot easier, and more delightful (for you and whoever you have the pleasure of cooking for one day). It does take some planning as I have mentioned before, but that's part of the whole growing up thing right? Taking time to be a bit more thoughtful about your health and your day. For me growing up in a house where we ate a lot of home cooked meals around one table together was invaluable and I hope to be able to re-create that for my future family one day, and it really starts with getting into the habit now. It isn't hard to make a healthful yet Dahlicious meal and as I've mentioned before on the blog, my goal is to share the things I make for breakfast, lunch and dinner to hopefully inspire you all to do the same. I think last night's meal was a good example of this and so I wanted to remind myself, and you wonderful followers, what this whole Dahlicious blog is all about. Healthful, Yummy, Accessible food - Enjoy!

The Meal:
Grilled boneless pork chops with roasted butternut squash, steamed green beans, roasted fig & fresh mozzarella salad

The Pork:
On Sunday I got 2 nice plumpy little pork chops from the butcher that I planned to grill all week and pushed off until Wednesday as other meal ideas seemed to clamor to the forefront of my mind in the earlier part of the week. For these bad boys I simply seasoned them with grill seasoning and then seared both sides for about 3 minutes on high heat. They were each about 1.5 - 2 inches thick so I knew this wouldn't cook them all the way through but I wanted the crusty outside you get from the high heat. Once both sides were good to go, I popped them in the oven (which was already at 375 with the butternut squash inside) and let them finish cooking for about 15 minutes.

The Squash:
First of all let me say I can't believe it's already fall and time to break out the hearty squashes again. I feel like roasting butternuts and acorns last fall was just a week ago - crazy! Anyways, butternut squashes are tricky because the skin takes a bit of work to cut off and being that it's so curved you have to be careful. You can often buy it already cubed which is a fine option. I happened to have time on Tuesday night while chopping other veggies to cut it up ahead of time so that it was easy to throw right into the oven Wednesday night. Generally I cut the whole squash into quarters, then carefully use a knife to remove the skin. Scoop out the inside seeds and cut into small similar sized cubes. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper then into the oven at 375 degrees for about 35 - 45 minutes.

The Green Beans: 
I crave greens and have a hard time ever making a meal that doesn't include some. Last night't were a bit on the boring side but with all of the other sweet flavors in the meal it was nice to have some simple greens. I chopped off the ends and quickly steamed them, making sure they still had a nice little crunch.

The Fig & Mozz:
I am aware this would have been even more greatly enhanced had I had burratta on hand, but a girl can only have so much cheese in her fridge. Anyways, I really love figs but I have never used them in a home made meal myself! Not quite sure what drove the desire to grab them this week but I did, and I sure am glad. Figs can be eaten raw or roasted... or I'm sure other ways I don't even know yet. I chose to roast them, which included cutting them in half long ways, and putting them on the same baking sheet as the butternut squash just in the last 10 minutes of cooking. When I took them out they were soft and creamy and warm, SO DAHLISH! Served with cold fresh mozz and a tiny bit of balsamic it was the perfect addition to the meal.

I love naturally pretty food

I mean these colors are almost a work of art

All in all I think this was a nicely rounded meal - I know it probably looks like a lot for one person, but I made enough for 2 and brought the leftovers to work for lunch... handy right? So if you are a single person out there, no excuses, you too can do it. I promise!

Hope everyone is having an enjoyable week of eating!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken & Lentils

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken & Lentils... Last night I put together a really yummy little meal that unfolded very nicely without much planning. At the grocery store this weekend I picked up a couple of chicken breasts from the butcher and also a package of prosciutto. Wasn't planning on necessarily using them together, but both seemed like good things to grab at the time.

The Chicken:
First I tenderized the breasts then I simply wrapped each one in 2 slices of prosciutto. I just made sure they were mostly covered all the way around so the chicken had a nice crispy coating while the inside stayed moist and tender. I pan roasted them on each side at a pretty high temp with plenty of oil for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they were nicely golden brown. Then I transferred the breasts to a baking sheet and popped them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes. This allowed the breasts to cook through fully while maintaining their juiciness.

The Veggies & Lentils:
In a large pan I sauteed 2 sliced little zucchinis with one small yellow onion and a  couple of crushed garlic cloves and  bit of salt and pepper. Once they were nice and caramelized I added my favorite TJ's lentils and gave it a mix.

This was such a simple meal and didn't take much prep yet it felt really well rounded and Dahlicious. The crispy prosciutto added a nice depth of flavor while locking in the moister of the chicken. The zucchini and onion were the perfect addition to the lentils and were super bountiful (I've got a bunch leftover for lunch!). I served it along side a light caprese salad with a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic glaze. YUM!

Homemade Brat Chili

Homemade Brat Chili... I've mentioned before on here that making a big pot of soup on Sunday for the week is one of my favorite things to do. As Sunday was officially the first day of Fall, I felt that kicking it off with a batch of Chili would be proper. I  went about this one without any specific recipe, just knowing what I like in Chili. I like it chunky, I like lots of tomatoes, and I like it hearty. While at the grocery store I picked up the following items:

1lb ground chuck
4 beer brats
2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes (one plain and one with peppers)
1 medium yellow onion
1 packet of chili seasoning
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of cannelloni beans
1 can of sweet corn
1 small can of tomato paste

My first step was browning the ground chuck with diced onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves. While that was cooking I poured the beans and corn into a strainer and rinsed them thoroughly. Once the meat was evenly browned I added the corn & beans and the packet of seasoning. I gave everything I good mix to make sure the seasoning was evenly coating the contents of my chili. To this I added the two cans of tomatoes and a large scoop of the tomato paste. I also filled one of the empty 14 oz tomato cans halfway with water and added that to the pot. I tossed in a couple of bay leaves as well as some salt and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. I brought it to a light boil then let it simmer for a couple hours on the stove.

While simmering I roasted a few brats. I'm not sure what inspired this idea but suddenly it seemed like something I wanted to try. I could have grilled them but it was easier at the time to pop them in the oven and let them roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Once they were fully cooked but still moist I chopped them up and added them to the chili. I let it continue to simmer and marinate in all the flavors.

When I was finally ready to scarf down a bowl I couldn't help but get back in touch with my semi Texan roots (not really a Texan but did live there for 5 years) by turning it into a variation of Frito Pie. I filled my bowl with chili, topped it with freshly grated cheddar cheese and a big pile of salty crunchy Frito's. I finished it off the a little dollop of sour cream on the side. I mean, Sunday night perfection in a bowl.

Anywho, it was so easy and really Dahlicious. I will definitely be making this again throughout the fall and winter. Enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jazzing Up A Stir Fry - Almond Butter & Coconut Oil

Jazzing Up A Stir Fry - Almond Butter & Coconut Oil... Stir fry's are an easy once a week go to, throwing all your forgotten veggies and proteins from the week into a hot pan, with some concoction of liquids for a sauce served over brown rice. It's my favorite end of the week meal. But sometimes I get a little tired of the routine and decide to spice it up. Usually fresh herbs are a great way to do that - green onion or mint. But this week I used a couple of other ingredients in my pantry.. coconut oil and almond butter.

During my travels to SE Asia, visiting all things coconut, I happened to receive a nice little bottle of virgin coconut oil as well as a packet of yummy little roasted coconut bits. I have never cooked with coconut oil before (side note my most favorite meal of the trip included homemade spring rolls FRIED in coconut oil served with a tangy garlic and white vinegar sauce; to.die.for) anyways, I decided this would be a good opportunity to crack open the bottle. Unfortunately on the plane ride home the stuff seemed to solidify into a solid rather than a liquid but I think that's OK because I have seen it sold in the grocery store that way - or at least that's what I told myself to justify using this new ingredient.

Anywho, here is how I jazzed up my Thursday night stir fry...

Per usual is was the same crowd that showed up to the pan, onion, bell pepper, and broccolini... but instead of just sauteing in grape seed oil I did about half and half with that and the coconut oil, it immediately permeated a scrumptious smell. Once the veggies were getting nice and golden brown I pushed them to the side and added in my chopped up chicken, again adding a little coconut oil and grape seed oil. I let those bad boys get nice and bronzed on each side then gave the whole thing a toss with just a couple little splashes of light teriyaki sauce - mainly to deglaze the pan a bit.

Off to the side I made a simple sauce... About 3 tablespoons of some favorite stir fry sauce, a few liberal dashes of soy sauce, and a big spoonful of almond butter. I obviously got the idea from a Pad Thai type peanut sauce, but since my home is an almond butter home, I swapped the two. I let that come to a nice little bubble until the ingredients were all mixed and the almond butter was nice and smooth. Then I simply added the sauce to the veggies, gave them a toss and let them soak up that Dahlicious goodness.

Served over brown rice it was super easy and pretty healthful not to mention Dahlish with the hints of almond and coconut. It wasn't overbearing which was good, but there are other flavors that might be fun to play with in it next time - ie fresh herbs or even sriracha or jalapenos.

Hope this inspires you to jazz up your next stir fry - happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oven Roasted Halibut with Spaghetti Squash

Oven Roasted Halibut with Spaghetti Squash... After a whirlwind eating extravaganza for the last two weeks I have decided to cook nice and light this week at home before taking off on another trip this weekend. I spent the past two weeks in South East Asia for work, gorging on dumplings and noodles and every morsel I could fit in my mouth. It was enjoyable but it's nice to be back to home cooked meals for a little while. Last night I wanted to make fish but was really feeling tired of tuna and salmon. I've been in a rut with those two fishes and decided to get myself out. At the store this weekend the Halibut happened to look great so I grabbed that along with a ton of veggies. I decided that I'd roast the halibut in the oven and then finish it with a little lemon/caper sauce atop spaghetti squash and some asparagus on the side.

The Halibut:
Super simple, in a foil pack with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. I also put a couple of slices of lemon under the filet to add extra flavor. I put it in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes which was not enough so I cranked it up to 425 for another 15-20 minutes. It was a thick piece, about an inch and a half or more so it took a while but it came out perfectly flaky and moist. In fact I had a hard time getting a picture because it was so flaky it wouldn't stay in a nice piece... you'll get the idea though.

The Sauce:
In the last few minutes that the Halibut was cooking I simply sauteed a couple cloves of garlic and a big spoonful of capers in olive oil over medium/high heat. I added a bit of chicken stock and let it reduce, then the same again, think quarter of a cup at a time - I eyeball it. Then I added a bit of lemon juice and black pepper and a tiny slab of butter for a little richness. Fresh herbs would have been a good addition if I had had any.. parsley perhaps.

The Veggies:
The spaghetti squash I did as I always do, roasted face down with the skin up on a baking sheet at 350 for 30 minutes. Super easy then just fork out the insides.
The asparagus I also did in a foil packet, pretty much along side the halibut but took it out about 10 minutes before the halibut was ready. Little olive oil, salt and pepper and they steam up nicely without any mess in the foil.

It was an easy dinner and so Dahlish. Super light but also really flavorful. It was nice to get back to non fried food and a lack of carbs, although I can't say I didn't enjoy my gluttonous trip!

I'll definitely be trying more halibut recipe's!