Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cooking for a Cold - Chicken Soup & Ginger Tea

Cooking for a Cold - Chicken Soup & Ginger Tea... It's fall yall! And that means pumpkins, gourds, hearty stews, sweaters, boots, and COLDS! Yep, that change in weather is kicking in and with it comes a slightly compromised immune system, and then a cold. We happen to be feeling just a tiny under the weather over here, so I'm spending Sunday whipping up a few cold friendly foods. I've posted about my favorite chicken soup before, but this week's version kicks up the flavor a little with additional veggies and fresh herbs. Along with the soup, I'm posting a very simple way to make a killer ginger tea which is sure to sooth your throat.

Chicken Soup:
The basics are the same - onion, carrot, celery, chicken stock, diced canned tomatoes, herbs. But I've got a couple of additions to my mom's classic that I generaly throw in, which include white beans, garlic, and dark leafy greens (usually spinach). See my normal list of ingredients in this post.

Today I added a few more...

  • Kale (Instead of spinach, we all know Kale is the mother of nutrient rich dark leafy greens and with a cold brewing I can use all the vitamins and nutrients I can find)
  • Fresh chopped Thyme (happened to have some from last week)
  • Fresh chopped Oregano (normally I add a few small palm fulls of dried oregano but this week I opted for the fresh stuff)
  • Fresh Chopped shallot (I NEVER use shallot - and I have no idea why, I love garlic and I love onions and a shallot is basically a hybrid of the two. Since a cold often dampens my taste buds I figured having the trifecta of these three lovely aromatics would help me to actually TASTE the soup)
First I sauteed 2 garlic cloves (which I chopped with a garlic press), 2 chopped small yellow onions, and 1 finely chopped shallot in oil. I then added three large carrots, thinly sliced and a fully bunch of celery (probably 8 stalks including their leaves) roughly chopped. I then added a finely minced large palm full of the fresh oregano and thyme together and gave the whole thing a nice mix. I added some salt and pepper as well.

Next I chopped a large bunch of kale, after removing the hard stalks - the leaves are really the good stuff. You could also buy it pre-cut if you prefer. I let that cook into the veggies until it was slightly wilted, then added my rinsed and drained white beans and a can of diced tomatoes. Next went the chicken stock and bay leaves. A little more salt and pepper and a tiny bit of dried basil completed the process. I brought it all to a boil and then let it sit on a very light simmer for a few hours.

Saute all the veggies and herbs letting the kale steam through

Add the canned tomatoes and white beans

Simmer in stock!

The Tea:
While at the store I grabbed a few lemons, a bottle of local honey, and a ginger root. This tea was so easy and so yummy.

I added a few cups of water to a small pot and brought it to a boil. While the water was heating I cut the knob of ginger in half, and used a peeler to remove the skin (you could leave it on). Then I simply grated the knob on a cheese grater until I had a couple of table spoons worth. Once the water was boiling I added in the ginger and turned the heat to low. I let it steep for about 5 minutes. While it was steeping I added a generous squeeze of honey (think tablespoon) and juice from half of a lemon into a tea mug. Once the ginger water was done I added it to the mugs with the lemon/honey mix in the bottom. I don't have a really fine strainer to keep the ginger out of the mug, so I just used the lid of the pot to restrict the ginger pieces while only pouring the water into the mug.

It was warm and sweet and a little spicy from the ginger. It was super Dahlicious and I would highly recommend it!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dahlicious Lunch: Avocado Inspired

Dahlicious Lunch: Avocado Inspired... I've noticed that the few posts I have up on the blog regarding lunches have received a lot of views, which leads me to assume most of you have a hard time coming up with easy healthful lunches to bring to work (or where ever you are in the middle of the day). I happen to be pretty good about bringing my lunch - 1) it's the healthiest option I have found, 2) it's the least expensive option I have found, 3) if you are organized and do a little planning ahead of time it's actually pretty easy, 4) most of my colleagues are on the west coast and often schedule meetings at noon my time, so lunch is usually spent at my desk munching away while I have a few moments to hit the mute button.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I brought leftover chicken and white bean soup which I made a big pot of on Sunday. Now that the leftovers have all been devoured I had to get a little creative with the rest of the week. I have tons of stuff in the fridge so it wasn't difficult to find a few options.

I happen to have 2 beautifully ripe avocados sitting out so I started with that, along with a gorgeous yellow heirloom tomato. And what goes better with a gorgeous heirloom tomato than fresh mozz? That's right, nothing.

So the first part of lunch is a simple salad of mixed greens (baby kale, arugula, spinach), topped with tomato, fresh mozz, and avocado chunks. I brought a small container of olive oil and balsamic to dress it at work.

The second part of my meal used up the rest of the avocado and worked in some protein and whole grains. For this I made a simple sando, whole wheat bread, a little spicy brown mustard, smashed avocado, and oven roasted turkey - so simple and so good!

Hopefully this serves as a little inspiration to whip up a healthful lunch based on ingredients you already have and need to use up! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Brown Sugar Salmon

Brown Sugar Salmon... I am going to admit that this meal looks shockingly identical to the one directly below. But it's not. Kind of.

The essentials are the same: Salmon, snap peas, confetti rice. What can I say, when I make something Dahlicious I tend to crave it. And it's an admittedly super easy meal to make.

The Meal:
Brown Sugar Soy Salmon with green onions, confetti rice, and snap peas

The Salmon:
This is really the main differentiating factor in this meal vs the coconut one. I grabbed salmon at the store on Sunday (pretty much a weekly staple in my kitchen) and it was really a good piece of salmon. Sometimes they have better selections than other times, but I always opt to pay a little more for the wild fishies. This happened to just be a nice piece of fish, it was the perfect thickness (sometimes I get a piece of salmon that is awkwardly thin and not meaty and I hate that), and it had a great salmon taste without being fishy at all.

For the marinade I simply mixed together soy sauce, a spoonful of brown sugar, a couple drops of sesame oil, and a palm full of fresh chopped green onion. You could add garlic, or ginger or lime juice, or toasted sesames if you have them on hand - those would all make swell additions. I poured the mixture over top and let the filet soak up that yumminess while I got into zen mode at a yoga class. This meant my salmon got to marinate for about an hour before I came home and promptly placed it in the oven at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. The temp and timing will range depending on how large of a piece of fish you are working with, mine was about an inch and half thick and the thickest point and weighed about a pound.

Pre marinating

Post marinating - see how the salmon became a bit darker after soaking up the goodness??

While the fish was cooking away, I sauteed the greens in a bit of oil and then in a separate bowl whisked up a little concoction. I combined a bit of light teriyaki sauce (very thin stuff, not thick and sweet), juice from half a lime, a squirt of Sriracha, and a drop of sesame oil. I added that to the greens as they were finishing off which gave them a really nice little coating.

I served the whole thing atop that wonderful confetti rice and voila. Easy peasy in about 20 minutes.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Repeat Recipe: Low Cal Coconut Salmon

Repeat Recipe: Low Cal Coconut Salmon.. A month or two back I used coconut milk in my cooking for the first time . It was SO dang Dahlicious but it was also really rich, so I decided I'd wait a while before making it again. Finally last night seemed like as good a night as any to embark on the sweet savory journey that is cooking with coconut milk.

I had grabbed the essentials at the grocery store on Sunday but opted for a few adjustments:

1) Light Coconut Milk instead of full fat.... I thought it would help it from being quite as heavy and just figured it would be good to try. Low and behold it was not.
2) Fresh ginger root & green onions instead of cilantro and water chestnuts.. only problem here is that I clearly don't know how you are supposed to keep green onions fresh between Sunday and Wednesday so they were dried up and unusable by the time dinner came around

Even though a few of my changes were not quite ideal, the meal was still great and I would recommend making it if you are looking to infuse some coconut flavor into your salmon, without the calories or heavy soup like broth that the full fat coconut milk provided.

Here's how I did this rendition:

In a large pan I added about half a cup of chicken broth and 2 smashed garlic cloves and brought that to a light simmer. (I used the chicken broth last time to thin it out and so this time using the light coconut milk I probably could have foregone the chicken broth). Once that was nice a bubbly I added the can of light coconut milk along with a slice of lime rind, a bunch of sliced fresh ginger, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, a couple of drops of sesame oil, a palm full of toasted coconut and a bay leaf.

Once that all came to a light boil I added my salmon (which had been marinating in lemon juice, lime juice, and oil for about an hour). I placed the salmon skin side up in the pan, then covered it with a lid and turned the heat down to low - just a medium simmer. I let the salmon poach for about 12-14 minutes, then I peeled the skin off and served it up!

The broth wasn't really thick enough to be a sauce but a little of it spooned over top was nice for flavor.

I served the salmon with sauteed snap peas and some super yummy confetti rice from TJ's that is full of little nuggets of flavor (ie ginger, lemongrass, baby corn), and a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes atop the salmon.

All in all in was Dahlish and much lighter and way fewer calories than using the full fat milk. I'm glad I have experimented with both now, so in the future I know which to use when I'm craving a heavier or lighter meal.

PS Here are the ingredients I used:
1 Can light coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 garlic cloves
~5-6 slices of fresh ginger
1 lime
1 lemon
1 bay leaf
a few drops of sesame oil
red pepper flakes
fresh wild salmon filet (skin on)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Semi Home Made Dinner Ideas

Semi Home Made Dinner Ideas... So far this week I have made two meals that I'll call semi homemade because they both included some vital element that was not made from scratch, well not made from scratch by yours truly that is.

On Monday I made a pretty classic meatloaf meal. I'll say that growing up we did meatloaf occasionally and (no offense mom because usually everything you make is fantastic) it was really not my fav. I'll explain further that in general in life I am not a fan of dry sauce-less food... so for me meatloaf always felt a bit pointless. However, I've had some Dahlicious meatloaf's and the one I am about to tell you about is one of them. I cannot take any credit for it as I merely took the thing from raw to cooked, but I will still take credit for the fact that it was moist and not overcooked.

Meatloaf Monday:
On Sunday I was at the grocery store with my roommate (read: significant other) and we were picking out the proteins for the week.. I had shrimp, salmon, chicken.. but what else. He suggested meatloaf. Done.

The meatloaf at Mariano's (new favorite grocery store - minus the fact that they don't have Justin's nut butter) is perfect for two in terms of size, it comes in a nice little tin baking dish that is so easy to put on a baking sheet and pop in the oven. It is perfectly seasoned and mixed and comes out tasting just like you want it to each time. I love it.

With the meatloaf (which takes 35-45 minutes at 350 or 375) I served roasted cauliflower and asparagus. Such an easy meal and totally filling, while still being relatively healthy with zero carbs in the mix.

The second semi home made meal I made was on Tuesday. After heading to the burbs for a home cooked meal on Sunday night, I was sent back to the city with not only a peach and raspberry cobbler for one night this week, but also a big tub of homemade marinara sauce. Full of San Marzanos, garlic, and fennel - Dahlish! I needed to use the sauce and since I was home alone I figured one easy thing to make would be shrimp and pasta. Except I wanted to avoid consuming too many carbs and I happened to have a perfect little spaghetti squash. Except I did want carbs... they were calling my name... so I just said to heck with it and I made a little of both. If no one sees you eating pasta the calories don't count right? Right??

Tuesday Carb Fake Out:
I had a bunch of fresh shrimp that needed to be used up so I first marinated them in lemon juice and olive oil while I got to chopping veggies and prepping the rest of the meal. Once the brussels sprouts were cut in quarters  and the spaghetti squash was halved and de-seeded, and once they were both dressed in oil and salt and pepper they were sent to the oven at 350 for about 35 minutes.

While the veggies roasted I sauteed the shrimp in a hot pan and added a heaping scoop of the leftover marinara sauce once they were pink on each side. While they marinated in the sauce on low heat to finish cooking, I cooked just a teeny tiny bit of whole wheat spaghetti to mix with my squash.

When everything was finished cooking I combined the two spaghetti's into a nice little mound and covered it with my shrimp marinara. I served it up with the crispy roasted brussels and a little side of prosciutto and fresh mozz. YUM!