I posted a photograph of this dish and now everyone wants the recipe but I got it from the fabulous Budget Meal Planner emails so no easy place to point people to so…surprise blog post! With the world gone nutty, I have been meaning to write but my usual coping mechanism of swinging wildly between reading obsessively and binging TV shows hasn’t really inspired me to write anything yet. I imagine it’s coming but the current use of my planners (yes, I have two now…I may also be coping in doubling down on planning all the things) seems to be getting me through it (with occasional breakdowns over really dumb things). Now, onto the recipe!
This came together a lot faster than I thought it would. I recommend having everything chopped and measured out before cooking as otherwise this won’t work super well. Also, I started it way too early as my rice was nowhere near done when the meat dish was ready to eat. That said, it was an easy and fast weeknight dinner and left me with leftovers for the next few days. I think though the recipe called for way too much rice. I made the usual amount on the Publix bag (1 cup of dry rice) and that is plenty. The recipe originally called for 2 cups of dry rice to be prepared. This is yummy – the sauce adds a bit of of a kick with the sriracha but it also has a touch of sweetness due to the brown sugar. I’ve tried a few different Korean BBQ recipes but this one is my favorite so far. Also, for my vegetarian friends, pretty sure this would be tasty with meatless crumbles or tofu too!
Ingredients (4 servings):
• 1 lb. ground beef • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil • 1 carrot, sliced • 3 garlic cloves • 1 tsp. fresh ginger • 1/2 cup brown sugar • 1/4 cup soy sauce • 1 tsp. sriracha • 2 stalks green onion • 1 cup dry rice
Begin by cooking rice according to package instructions.
In a large pan over high heat, add sesame oil, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Immediately add ground beef and cook until it browns. Crumbling it as it cooks.
When the beef is about half way cooked, add sliced carrots.
Remove about 80% of the fat that accumulates, and add brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha. Cook until liquid has mostly disappeared (this took the longest – maybe about 10 minutes).
Serve 1/4th of the mixture with rice. Top with green onion slices.
Recently, one of my cousins asked how many books I had read in my lifetime. According to GoodReads, it’s a little north of 1300 as of right now. Now, not every book I’ve ever read is listed on there (most of my childhood books never made it in there and I was a prolific picture book reader as a kid) so I guessed 1500 for him. He came back that he was surprised it was so low. And I admit, I had the same thought. 35 years (as of next week) and I only had 1500 books under my belt?! I mean, that’s an average of 42 books a year which isn’t shabby but still, I felt like my bookworm credentials were in danger. We discussed that that probably didn’t include textbooks and school books and other readings I’d done along the way so he bumped me up a lot higher that is probably right and moved on. I never even asked why he wanted to know!
Then, over the weekend, I went full-on librarian nerd and made a listing of all my Musical/Play/ Dance souvenir programs which led me to make a list of every show I have any kind of program for (which meant digging into my memory boxes so….that escalated quickly). I was disappointed to find only 56. Though this made more sense. These shows tend to be a bit pricy (especially for me – I want to be as close as possible and those seats cost) so this number is impressive but still. So many I’ve missed. I mean, I’ve apparently seen The Phantom of the Opera 4 times (I remember 3) and The Lion King 3 times (I really only remember 2 so…that was a surprise) but have missed so many shows I wanted to see. I was also really upset to find that somewhere along the way I lost the Playbill from my first Broadway show (Guys and Dolls, 1992) and apparently never had any programs from the Rockette shows I know I went to at Christmas in NYC.
So, do the numbers matter? Of course, the answer is no. In fact, the number of books is sort of obscene in some ways. I fully admit that I don’t remember them all and curse myself now for not keeping better reviews for the books I’ve read so I could look back and be like, “Right…you’re that one.” I am bummed by the show number though. I adore going to musicals; the talent and dance and stories thrill me as much today as they did that awestruck 7 year old watching Nathan Lane play his namesake role from up in the rafters of a New York theatre.
I am lucky to live where there is a lively theatre community and a world renown theatre program and I’ve gotten picky about my shows in my old age (why would I go if I know it’s not music I like?) but maybe then I have only myself to blame for that number. But, I still haven’t quite forgiven Tallahassee for never building that Performing Arts Center they were supposed to so the city could get touring company productions to visit. That said, my annual birthday Broadway Bash is soon; FSU Theatre School is putting on In The Heights so another one gets added to the list soon. 57 here I come!
Update: I realize now I am missing shows I saw at my local high school growing up (because apparently those programs have also been lost to time). That was how I discovered tapping is insane and I want to do that (thanks Crazy for You!) and male duets are swoonworthy (thanks Secret Garden!). I also didn’t list shows I was actually in because…that seemed like cheating.
Late last year, and I don’t remember how I found it, I stumbled into the free subscription for Budget Meal Planner. It was such a cool idea (a weekly set of recipes with a theme and a shopping list to go with it) and so many of the recipes sounded tasty but I haven’t tried one until now. I wanted something pretty straight forward to ease me back into home cooking and Sunday meal prep because, after a month of being sick (ear infections as an adult are not fun), I needed to get myself back on track.
I decided to start with Steak and Zucchini Foil Packets. These were tasty and easy to put together. Some chopping but…I kind of like chopping. I find it soothing and the perfect task for listening to podcasts. I did modify. I didn’t put in the potatoes the recipe called for. Two reasons: 1) The bowl I had was never going to fit potatoes in it along with everything else (and it was my biggest one so…) and 2) I really prefer my potatoes mashed. This ended up being a good call because I worry cooking the potatoes in the foils would just make them kind of…mushy and unappealing.
Now, as I cleaned up from the recipe (shared below with my edits), I did have a think about foil recipes. I like them; they are usually quick, tasty and have a really easy clean-up. But, I’m also trying to be better about sustainability and reusing things and…I threw a lot of foil out in the course of making this meal so I might stick to sheet pan dinners in the future. I wonder if I could make this as a sheet pan meal. Ooo, and maybe then the potatoes would crisp and not go mushy as I think they would. I do love me some crunchy roasted potatoes after all. I will add to the list to experiment in the future. In the meantime, here is the recipe!
For 4 meals: • 3/4 lb. diced beef (I got what was on sale at Publix this week, sirloin) • 1/2 lb. zucchini • 2 bell peppers • [1 lb. potatoes] I left these out and made a batch of mashed potatoes instead • 3 tbsp. olive oil • 2 garlic cloves • 1 tsp. thyme [For my vegetarian friends, this can be made using marinated tofu per the original recipe writer]
In a large bowl, combine diced beef, [cubed (about 1-inch) potatoes if adding], cubed zucchini, bell pepper slices, olive oil, minced garlic, and thyme. Mix everything well, cover, and let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450F. Cut 3 large sheets of aluminum foil and place equal portions of the beef mixture in each. Wrap and seal foils tightly and let cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
Sidenote: The original recipe said for 3 meals but from what I made, I have enough easily for 4 meals though I did do only 3 foil packets for the cooking.
(and steal the title from a favorite indie bookstore, shout out to The Bookshelf! I need to come visit you more – well, my checking account doesn’t agree but whatever)
All. I have a blog. A fact I apparently forgot about. Well, that’s not quite true. I remembered. And totally meant to write and then 2019 kept going and then I had guilt and went through a reading slump and then a cooking slump and then I was like, maybe it’s time to just let it go? I mean, I was never very prolific and did this because I wanted to and it was fun (heaven knows I’ve never made a dime). But, I missed the act of writing and sharing books and recipes and any other random themes that came onto my radar. So much so my Evernote is filled with half-finished nonsense notes which are mostly brain dumps. And, I want to write more so…here it goes.
How to get back into the swing of things? I love my planner. I love plans. I love calendars. I love writing things down and then being too tired to do any of it and pulling a Scarlett O’Hara and saying, I’ll think about that tomorrow (truth: I loathe that character so the fact I apparently am like her in this way is enough motivation to get me back on track right now). So, I’m putting on my planner hat and making a plan. And I’m sharing it so I have to stick to it and maybe then, I’ll hold myself accountable (and if I’m lucky, the occasionally family member who reads will keep me honest too).
So, I have a plan. A loose plan. Making liberal use of all kinds of journal prompts I found when I googled “journal prompts.” Like any good information professional, Google is both my friend and a hated enemy. I will resolve to write two times a week, at the least. I will write ahead if I am traveling. I will use a book-based prompt or book review for one post and another prompt and/or a cooking post for the other. I am also trying to actually use all my streaming services this year (each has been assigned its own night of the week) so potentially reviewing what I’m watching will help here as well. We’ll call that a bonus post per week if I’ve got one.
I have been keeping a long list of things I should write about but nothing has sent me back to this blog until a baking experiment this week. I watch The Great British Bake-Off the second a new season is available on Netflix. The combination of Britishness, tea and the fact that these “competitors” are willing to help their fellow contestants whenever they need help make this a refreshing, and delicious, show to dig into. It also usually inspires me to attempt baking again. But, lacking a new season, another event inspired me. I was invited to a wine & dine with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. I chose to tackle Green Velvet Cupcakes and it’s the first thing I’ve cooked or baked in a long time that really made me feel like I’d made something delicious worth sharing.
I was expecting this recipe to just be red velvet cake but green. I was happy to find myself surprised. I’m not actually a big fan of red velvet cake. The idea always appeals more than the cake itself and I usually end up just eating as much of the cream cheese frosting around the cake itself as I can. So, green velvet cake was a pleasant surprise. It is tasty; nice and springy with a hint of chocolate. Plus, it’s green. Not a vivid green; more like a spring green. Novel enough to please but not so green I thought was I eating something alien.
The frosting though…that is what I am most proud of. I think it’s a type of buttercream frosting or at least that is what I’m calling it. I think I might be most proud of the fact I managed to make it without a stand mixer or killing my arm. Standing and running a hand mixer for 12 minutes doesn’t sound like a workout but it. is. This frosting is delicious (and so pretty). Nice and light with the right hint of sugar and vanilla but not feeling like I’m getting cavities by eating it (in fact, eating it with a spoon may have been something I did…without feeling sick afterwards. More like I’d ate whipped cream with a bit more oomph).
Plus, it was just so nice to make something I liked again! I’ve enjoyed the few dishes I’ve made lately but nothing I felt like bragging about or sharing. It’s all been kind of…eh. Was this complicated and difficult to make? Yes but totally worth it. It tasted better than anything I’ve made in a long time. Happy St. Pat’s Day everyone from someone who was lucky enough to find some fun in the kitchen again this weekend.
Green Velvet Cupcakes (can also be used to make a layer cake; I did cupcakes since I didn’t have the right pans to try a layered cake – maybe next challenge!)
Cupcakes: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process) 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon fine salt 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken 1 tablespoon green liquid food coloring 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 2 cups granulated sugar 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Frosting: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups milk 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract Pinch fine salt Green liquid or gel food coloring, optional Green candies and sanding sugar for decorating, optional
Directions: 1) For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. BPut cupcake liners in the pan and set. aside. 2) Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 3) Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup; set aside. 4) Beat the granulated sugar and butter in a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on medium speed until very light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 5) With the mixer still running, slowly add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest speed; with it running, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture, then 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and beat until well mixed. 6) Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool entirely before frosting.
For the Frosting: 1) Put the flour in a small saucepan. Vigorously whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, making sure to get the whisk into the edges of the pan, until you have a smooth, thick paste. (This step keeps the flour from clumping.) Slowly whisk in the remaining milk until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. 2) Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. (Toward the end of the process, the mixture will become a thick paste; it may seem to be forming lumps, but whisk vigorously and the lumps will disappear.) 3) Scrape the frosting into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 45 minutes. 4) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. 5) Add the cooled flour mixture a tablespoon at a time and beat until smooth. 6) Switch to the whisk attachment (or continue with the hand mixer), add the vanilla, salt and 3 to 5 drops food coloring if using and whip until very light and fluffy, like thick whipped cream, up to 10 minutes with a stand mixer or 12 minutes with a hand mixer. 7) Frost and decorate the cupcakes (be generous with the frosting!)
To assemble (if making a layer cake): 1) Place one layer on a cake plate, spread frosting on top and repeat with the 2 remaining layers. 3) Frost the sides and decorate with candies and sanding sugar if using.
Cook’s Note This recipe can instead be baked in three 8-inch layers or two 9-inch layers.
[Thanks to my P.E.O. sister Sue Colombo for the recipe which I believe came from the Food Network originally!]
I am usually meticulous in checking the recipe I mean to make vs. what I have in my cupboards vs. what goes on my shopping list. But, every once in a while, my brain fills in the gaps in a less than perfect way. This week’s recipe is tasty though a pain to make, to be honest, and won’t go into the keep pile any time soon. However, it was a success in that I had to make the recipe work when I didn’t actually have all the right ingredients or the right amount of ingredients.
I’m a stickler for recipes. I have no instincts in the kitchen, I freely admit that. If the recipe doesn’t tell me to do something or measure something, it isn’t getting done. One of my favorite lines from a book is about this. In discussing learning to cook the character is using a beginner’s cookbook and she notes, “It was just the thing; the writer assumes you know nothing about cookery and writes useful hints – “When adding eggs, break the shells first.” I have progressed beyond that level but I’ve never gotten to a point where I can just whip something up without a recipe telling me useful things.
So, I panic when I’m in the middle of making something and realize I don’t have the thing I’m supposed to have. That happened multiple times with this recipe. One, I bought chicken breasts and not ground chicken. This mostly worked out and I would argue I probably like the recipe better because of it. I’m not the biggest ground chicken fan. Two, I thought I had more soy sauce and honey in my cupboards so I did fancy math to re-portion all the ingredients to make the sauce. Three, in my quest to never chop anything, I bought the wrong kind of peas because I wanted the peas already portioned out and didn’t get fresh ginger so I needed to do the fun math to figure out the dried to fresh ratio when it comes to herbs (is there an app for this yet? Because I do it all the time and it’s not something I think I do right at all).
All of this worked out in the end and the dish is tasty but it stressed me out while cooking. I would also argue this recipe, in its efforts to be a healthier alternative, is overly complicated. I am sure you could buy ready made sauce that would be fine to use and I’m not convinced baking the mixture after cooking it added much to the dish itself and made me turn my oven on in August in Florida. So, lesson learned. Double check the recipe, its ingredients versus what I have and what’s on the shopping list to avoid stress in the kitchen for this cook who likes to actually weigh ingredients for accuracy.
For the Sauce:
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Bake:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 pound ground chicken (or as I do, 1 pound diced chicken breasts)
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced (or 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
1 cup broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 cup snow peas, cut in half
3 cups cooked brown rice
For the Sauce:
In a small sauce pot, combine the soy sauce, honey, 1/2 cup of the water, ginger, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil.
While the sauce is boiling, combine the last 1/4 cup of water and cornstarch in a small bowl (Krystal’s note: Try and do this in a liquid measuring cup. The bowl I used got more of this on the stove than in the sauce…). Whisk well and gradually pour into the boiling sauce, stirring the sauce constantly.
Reduce to a simmer, and continue to stir the sauce until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the Bake:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil on medium heat. Once hot add the ground chicken, breaking up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
When no pink remains in the chicken, add onion, garlic, ginger, broccoli, carrot, and snow peas. Cook until onions soften.
Add the rice and mix well to combine.
Stir in the sauce, until all ingredients are coated well.
Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
I am happy to report I seem to have finally shrugged off my spring reading slump and am enjoying some lovely lazy days reading. I think it helps I’ve been sticking to books about food, romantic comedies and only one “serious” read (but it was so good, it was worth the few tears!). Here are the titles that helped me get back to reading more like myself:
This was a fun read; as someone who often finds herself hungry for what the characters in her latest book are eating, I enjoyed Nicoletti’s deep dive into literary food. Also, as a book to help one out of a reading slump, this reads fast and easy. But does make you really hungry so maybe avoid if also on a diet. I also found the recipes to be quite complex – nothing I couldn’t do if I tried but during the summer…who really wants to be cooking and baking all that much?
This was the book Anne Bogel (aka Modern Mrs. Darcy) recommended to me (well, the third book since the first two were already out of stock). But it did not disappoint. This book is delightful. A bit You’ve Got Mail meets Clueless, it’s fairly predictable but that’s the beauty of it. It has characters you’re rooting for the whole time even when they are in the dark about what is going to happen next but you definitely know. And you just need books like that sometimes; they are comforting and wonderful to devour in one seating. This would be a perfect beach read if you’re in need of one. (and I gushed on this at book club so much it’s the first book we’re reading in the fall!)
After easing myself back on the reading train, I hit up this title which I picked up at the local indie bookstore on sale a few months back. This was such a bittersweet and beautiful book to read. I took it slow; it was a story I both wanted to savor and also slightly dreaded what would happen next. June is such a fantastic and heartwarming character – both still so young and naive while being an old soul at the same time. She’s a teenager so she also has her annoying moments but her relationships are fascinating to watch develop, crumble and rebuild over the course of the novel. The book also made me tear up, which not many books achieve, so kudos to the author for that. Seriously though, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommend.
Really quick (re: one sitting) book to read. Fun, cute (but predictable) rom-com read that just really makes me miss traveling and England…a lot. The main character manages to be less annoying than some in this genre can be so kudos for that. It did take be a bit to get into the book though – I almost DNF’d before it really caught my attention and then I flew through the rest.
I am always apprehensive to take on seafood in my kitchen. One, because I haven’t much experience cooking with it and two, living in an apartment, the smell is a bit of a deterrent as well. But I really like a lot of seafood (I’ve successfully made crab cakes before)and it’s one of my goals this year to try to get brave and cook more seafood at home. So, this weekend I tackled shrimp.
Shrimp was on sale at Publix which is why it was the one I decided to try this weekend. The guy at the seafood counter enjoyed trying to help me figure out what I needed (he was very patient with me since I didn’t have a clue what I needed really). I bought it deveined but not peeled so I did have to take the tails off and peel them all before cooking. It was my favorite task I’ve done in the kitchen but it wasn’t awful and went better than I expected actually.
What actually failed is I tried to use frozen zucchini noodles for this recipe and I didn’t have them thawed enough which caused some issues. In the future, I’ll cook the noodles as the package notes and then integrate into the recipe. I think that would work fine and still saves me from the spiralizer (which isn’t hard to use but is a pain in the butt to clean afterward). This recipe had a bit more of a kick than I expected but it’s still tasty and the shrimp cooked up so easily. I was impressed by how quickly they turn that shrimp pink! While I don’t think I’ll be hanging onto this recipe, I have got over the fear of shrimp in the kitchen so I have some other recipes I hope to try this year!
[no picture this week as 1) I forgot to take one and 2) Mine did not look as good as the site I got the recipe at so go there and see their pretty dish!]
Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp & Tomatoes (original recipe here)
Servings: 6 (which…I disagree with. Mine came out to more like 4)
3 medium zucchini, remove most of the peeling (or zucchini noodles already made)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (I used the kind in a bottle – it was fine)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 pound raw shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled and deveined
To make pasta, attach zucchini, one at a time, to a vegetable spiralizer. Use the smaller holes for spaghetti.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until opaque and pink, 2-3 minutes. Place shrimp on a plate and cover.
Add the garlic to the pan and sauté 1 minute. Add remaining olive oil, zucchini pasta, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice, and tomatoes, toss to combine. Continue cooking until pasta is tender, about 5 – 7 minutes.
Place shrimp on top of pasta, cover skillet and remove from heat. Allow to set for 1 minute, ensuring shrimp is hot.
I adore cheeseburgers. It’s one of those dishes that I am always in the mood for, no matter what. I will never say no to getting a cheeseburger. It may be a bit of a downfall though when trying to eat healthier. So, I have collected LOTS of “healthy” cheeseburger recipes over the years. Most are just deconstructed salads than never really satisfy a craving for a big old burger. But, I tried a new recipe out last week that did a pretty good job finally!
First of all, I love a dish that comes portion controlled out of the gate. I am hit or miss about measuring out portions as well as I should be these days. I am trying to get back into my good habits but it’s not going well. So, this recipe immediately wins because it uses a handy muffin tin to portion out the correct amounts for me! I also like that the serving for this is two “muffins” so basically you get two cheeseburger sliders for dinner. I also liked the meat mixture to create the “burgers” – adding the mustard into the meat mixture really adds a nice little kick and then the ketchup and pickle on top make this an excellent cheeseburger substitute. It also comes together really easily with a fairly small amount of chopping for once. This one went onto the keeper pile for sure!
There is nothing wrong with this recipe really. Other than it really should have told me to “half-moon” cut all the vegetables, and not just the zucchini, it’s very cool looking and easy to make. Lots of chopping but let’s face it, all recipes have lots of chopping. But, it’s just not hitting the spot for me this week. Also, and I find this very rarely, it’s a recipe that is not holding up as leftovers. I may make this again when I have company and it will all get eaten at one sitting as it was really best right out of the oven. I will also serve it with a side of spaghetti and sauce. It is a dish that needs some sauce to really make it sing.
There is chicken there among the giant pieces of veggies (fixed the recipe to deal with that next time around!)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 zucchini, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
3 medium tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
1 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced and halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 c. shredded mozzarella
Preheat oven to 400º. Place chicken on a cutting board and make 5 slits in each breast, being careful not to cut through completely. Place on sheet pan.
Drizzle oil over chicken and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
Stuff each chicken breast with zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and red onion.
Sprinkle each chicken breast with mozzarella.
Bake until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 25 minutes.