Making It Work (when you didn’t buy the right stuff)

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.

Chicken Teriyaki Bake (Original recipe: SkinnyMs)

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

For the Sauce:

  1. In a small sauce pot, combine the soy sauce, honey, 1/2 cup of the water, ginger, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, and continue to stir the sauce until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the Bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9X13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. When no pink remains in the chicken, add onion, garlic, ginger, broccoli, carrot, and snow peas. Cook until onions soften.
  4. Add the rice and mix well to combine.
  5. Stir in the sauce, until all ingredients are coated well.
  6. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

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Mac and Cheese with a Zing

We skipped spring around Tallahassee and seemed to go right into summer. The weather forecast assures me we’ll be reverting back to more seasonal weather come tomorrow but due to this heat wave, cooking has not been high on my list. In trying to ease myself back into my usual schedule, I choose a quick and easy recipe that’s a healthy take on an old favorite. This Mexican Mac and Cheese recipe is quick and easy to make. However, it’s really more of a side dish than a main entree. I’ve been pairing it with side salads and small portions of chicken to feel like I ate a good meal for dinner. It is also a Weight Watchers recipe I found online so it’s on the healthier side of things – bonus!

Mexican Mac and Cheese

Low-fat Mexican Mac and Cheese
Makes 6-7 servings

Ingredients:
8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni
5 oz. light processed cheese (NOTE: the recipe called for low fat or light Velveeta cheese which doesn’t seem to exist in Tallahassee. I ended up using 2% Milek Velveeta as it had the best nutritional stats)
1 tsp taco seasoning (NOTE: add more for more of a kick!)
1/2 cup salsa

Directions:

  1. Cook the macaroni per usual until done
  2. While the noodles are cooking, cube the cheese
  3. Once the noodles are done, drain and return to the pot
  4. Add the cubed cheese and taco seasoning to the pot. Stir well until the cheese has melted
  5. When melted, stir in the salsa and serve!

 

Working on a Re-Boot

So, to say I got off to a lazy start for 2017 is somewhat of an understatement. I have fallen off the wagon across the board (with eating right, working out, reading, staying organized, you name it). However, an upcoming move is forcing me to at least get myself organized. Getting myself back onto a workout schedule is proving more difficult but two upcoming 5Ks will mean at least have something to hold me accountable. Eating right is hit or miss at the moment and I was hoping for good things this weekend because I was finally going to try out my new spiralizer. Bonus, the recipe was delicious. Not so cool is it only made two servings and it was a lot of work for those two servings.

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See? Veggie City and so good just…not enough for the week.

Once I figured out how the spiralizer worked (and only destroyed a half of a zucchini to get there), it was a lot of fun but not particularly easy to get even enough for two portions. Another downfall for this was the amount of dishes generated and major con, the spiralizer and its various parts are not dishwasher friendly. And I really loathe washing dishes by hand.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, these portions are huge and filling but now I’m stuck trying to figure out dinner for the rest of the week. If a recipe can’t get me to at least Thursday, it’s not doing it’s job in my opinion (and usually means my eating habits go off the rails for the rest of the week because I never feel like cooking after work). So, fix for the future: make a double batch of this next time. Because it IS delish! So many tasty vegetables and I think I mentioned the portion is huge and so filling. I didn’t feel hungry five seconds after eating (which has been happening a lot lately with recipes I’ve been trying). It may not look like anything but a mess but I recommend this. I am a fan of the zucchini noodles; now just to figure out how to make enough to last a week.

Z’paghetti Primavera [Clever name; it’s one of HG’s recipes]

Prep: 15 minutes [I don’t know what planet they are from; there is a lot of chopping involved with this one; I was at least 45 minutes in prep and that is not including figuring out how to use my spiralizer…]

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
1 lb. zucchini
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion (1 medium sized yellow onion)
3/4 cup thinly sliced bell pepper (1 large; I used green but yellow might be good here for some color contrasts in the final product)
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped broccoli
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I quartered grape tomatoes)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. each salt and black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Using a spiral vegetable slicer, cut zucchini into spaghetti-like noodles.
  2. Bring an extra-large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium-high heat. Cook and stir zucchini until hot and slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer zucchini to a strainer, and thoroughly drain excess liquid.
  4. Remove skillet from heat. Re-spray, and bring to medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, broccoli, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, or until veggies are tender and water has evaporated.
  5. Add drained zucchini and all remaining ingredients except Parm. Cook and stir until entire dish is hot and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese. Serve topped with remaining 2 tbsp. cheese.

My first stir-fry (with steak too!)

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Well, I destroyed my kitchen and have decided in the future I will a) just buy the vegetable stir-fry kit and b) just buy the fresh ginger already grated and peeled at Public next time too. I fear peeling and then grating fresh ginger was not a success for me…But, it’s super tasty and delicious! I got this recipe out of a book (Good Housekeeping Light & Healthy Cooking, pg. 188) a while back because it was one of the easier sounding stir-fry recipes I’d seen and this was about as basic as it gets and fairly healthy. I tweaked the recipe here and there (I’ll be honest mostly out of laziness [so. much. chopping] and/or being thwarted by ginger root) but for the most part, I did OK and it was worth the clean-up!

I served it over brown rice per the instructions and it’s delicious. The servings are also huge which is a major bonus in my book! Enjoy!

Stir-Fried Steak and Vegetables
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 beef top round steak (1 pound) [Note: I actually just got a pound of whatever steak was on sale at Publix this week and it worked just fine!]
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 large garlic cloves, crushed with garlic press
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium red pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 pkg (8 oz.) sliced cremini mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 oz. snow peas, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 Tbsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
3/4 cups water
1 pouch (8 1/2 oz.) precooked brown rice, heated as directed

Directions

1. With knife blade held in slated position, almost parallel to cutting surface, cut steak crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices [Tip: put steak into freezer 15 minutes before cutting so that it’s firm to slice but will “thaw” by time you’re ready to cook].
2. In medium bowl, toss steak slices with 1 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 crashed garlic clove. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cut onion in half then cut crosswise into thin slices. Cut red pepper into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside.
4. In deep nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tsp. oil over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add half the beef and stir frequently (stir-fry) just until beef is no longer pink (30-45 seconds). Transfer beef to plate. Without adding additional oil to skillet, repeat with remaining beef.
5. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp oil until hot. Add mushrooms and onion; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned, 3-4 minutes.
6. Add broccoli, carrots, snow peas, red pepper, ginger, water and remaining soy sauce and garlic to skillet. Stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp, 5-6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in beef with its juices.
7. Serve over rice.

Kind of lost a year there…

From here.

It wasn’t intentional to just stop writing. Things got in the way. What those things were escape me now. I tried to use Evernote to journal a bit but didn’t stick to that either. I also wasn’t cooking very much. Or apparently reading anything I felt so passionate about that I needed to share it. In many ways, 2014 apparently wasn’t worth writing about for me. Let’s start out 2015 (six days late) on a better note.

I need to cook more again. I am avoiding doing the analysis on my budget last year because I can guarantee my eating out spending was off the charts. What caused this? I’m not sure. A slightly demonic cat who gets into the way in the kitchen? A lack of good recipes to try? Complete and utter laziness…I’m actually voting the last one on this list. I have no excuse. This year’s first goal, cook more! Even if it’s not a new recipe, even if it’s really just warming up something already in the cupboards. I need to curb the impulse to just stop at Panera on my way home.

I need to be better about sharing my reading. Looking back over my 2014 books read (GoodReads is an organizing loving book reader’s dream), I didn’t do much other than put stars on books. Did I really have nothing to say?! Again, laziness and a slight addiction to getting back to a Netflix binge after finishing a book. This year, I will take the time to reflect after I finish a book. Even if it’s only two sentences worth! (See exhibit A, I finished The Palace Job on the plane rides back to Florida last week. It’s a good read but I don’t have tons to say just “A great caper read! I will admit some of the magic logic went over my head but it never took away from my enjoyment of the book. If you’re looking for a fun ensemble led by one very cool kickass heroine, check this one out!”)

I also have decided I need a more balanced reading diet. I am heavy on the fiction. Which isn’t a bad thing but my to-read list, sub-group non-fiction, is getting longer every year and I rarely touch it. This year, my goal is one fiction book, one non-fiction book and so forth. I am currently reading The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop which starts me off nicely on this goal!

I also want to explore more. I got out a bit last year (I have partially finished blog posts to prove it) and explored around my neck of the woods more but I could share that better. I haven’t even done Yelp reviews in forever. I like Tallahassee and it has some pretty neat places and things to do. I should let other people know about them! Added bonus, I would get off my couch since I want to read and cook, activity might be a good idea to add to the list…

Other than that, 2015 is a pretty blank year for me. I do turn 30 (the horrors!) so maybe other exciting things will come along. But mostly, I’d like do my nice cozy hobbies (cooking, reading, Netflix binging, protecting my bookshelves from a cat who thinks books are toys) and write about them again!