Cook Once, Eat All Week–Round 2

When I sat down to meal plan this week, I realized it was going to be one of those weeks where Matt and I wouldn’t cross paths for dinner one single time night this week between our work schedules.  We’re also about to be traveling out of a town a bunch over the next couple weekends and I wanted to try and minimize eating out while we were actually at home, so I decided to fall back on the ol’ cook-once-eat-all-week plan.  I’ve only done it one other time, despite the fact that when I first switched to working 4-10 hour days I swore it was going to be my weekly ritual.  And actually like doing it – it really only takes about half a day to do and then you’re set for the whole week, but it seems to require a lot of prep and mental gearing myself up to do it so I just hadn’t returned to it again.

Here’s the recipes from the first time around I did – they are very chicken-centric but they worked out well as far as using a lot of the same ingredients together.  This time I was lazier – I didn’t want to brainstorm 5 overlapping recipes so I just did a google search to see who had already done this I could just copy.  There were so many options out there – not recreating the wheel was DEFINITELY the way to go and makes me more inclined to continue doing this.

I ended up using a link from Self Magazine.  Here’s the link to the recipes – I won’t retype them here but I’ll just add a few pointers from my experience today in case you {or future me} wants to recreate this.

Here’s what the meal plan includes {and note how little my food actually looks like the photos from the recipes.  Ha.)

Adobo Chipotle Mini Meatloaves – to be served w/ a side green salad or quick bag of steamer veggies

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Spicy Thai Soup with Lime Shrimp

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Cheesy Beans & Shrimp Enchiladas

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie (Definitely looks nothing like the photo…in fact, I really hope this one tastes better than it looks.)

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Vegetable & Chickpea Ragout w/ Penne*

*I purposefully made this one more saucy because I knew Matt would rather have a pasta-sauce type dish than a dish that looked more like pasta and veggies.  I didn’t combine them either b/c I didn’t know at one point during the week would eat them, but I did cook the noodles ahead of time.  (Also, I had to google “ragout” – apparently it is french for stew.  Who knew!)

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I can’t speak to how anything tastes yet except the shrimp soup which was very yummy.  My fingers are crossed that the rest turned out as good!  But either way, it beats Lean Cuisines or pick up.

Some pointers:

Start with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher.  Get everything out on the counter to start with, including the bowls you’ll need and dishes you’ll put the final dish in.  Clean as you go.  I cannot highlight that step strongly enough!

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I know it’s not green but I print the recipes out before hand – it’s just easier for me to have physical pieces of paper when my hands get messy instead of using my iPad to look at the recipes.  I also read through each of them before I started cooking so I had an idea in my mind what I was going to be doing at each step.

I love listening to an audiobook when I’ve got a long task to do like any housework or long cooking prep.  Right now I’m listening to Steve Job’s biography which could seriously last me through cooking about 6 weeks worth of dishes.  Listening seems to make the time go faster and tasks feel less chore-like.  (Oh and the dog treat was to keep Buddy out of my way while I cooked.  It only lasted for about 5 minutes.)

(And in case it’s not obvious, that is water in my wine glass.)

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The nice thing about these recipes was the included grocery list and the directions included what order to cook things in.  When I did this the last time I was using my own recipes, so a pre-cooking step was (obviously) to write down all the groceries ahead of time and also to write down the order to cook things in.  There are lots of times when a sauce is simmering or a dish is the oven that you can start it on the next dish.

These dishes also had directions for how to freeze if you weren’t going to use right away.  I just cooked them all and put them in the fridge, because Matt’s more likely to microwave something than put it in the oven when he gets off a shift at midnight.  (Understandably so.)

The whole thing from start to finish only took me three hours.  Really!  And because I forced myself to stick to the clean-as-you-go rule, it was three hours from start to really and truly finished.  This is what my kitchen looked like when the last timer went off.

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Hurrah!  And now we have meals for the week.  I’ll try to remember to update as we taste test just in case something doesn’t make the cut – but considering these were published in a magazine, I’m guessing if anything goes wrong it’s operator error.

I must admit though – even though it only took half the morning, it’s still a tiring process.  Even my assistant was wiped out!

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Cook Once, Eat All Week–Round 2

When I sat down to meal plan this week, I realized it was going to be one of those weeks where Matt and I wouldn’t cross paths for dinner one single time night this week between our work schedules.  We’re also about to be traveling out of a town a bunch over the next couple weekends and I didn’t really want to fall back on doing a lot of pick up or out to eat this week, so I decided to fall back on the ol’ cook-once-eat-all-week plan.  I’ve only done it one other time, despite the fact that when I first switched to working 4-10 hour days I swore it was going to be my weekly ritual.  I actually quite like doing it – it really only takes about half a day to do and then you’re set for the whole week, but it seems to require a lot of prep and mental gearing myself up to do it so I just had returned to it again.

Here’s the recipes from the first time around I did – they are very chicken-centric but they worked out well as far as using a lot of the same ingredients together.  This time I was lazier – I didn’t want to brainstorm 5 overlapping recipes so I just did a google search to see who had already done this I could just copy.  There were so many options out there – not recreating the wheel was DEFINITELY the way to go and makes more inclined to continue doing this.

I ended up using a link from Self Magazine that I’m pretty sure I either pinned or physically tore out of the magazine once upon a time because the recipes looked really familiar.  Here’s the link to the recipes – I won’t retype them here but I’ll just add a few pointers from my experience today in case you {or future me} wants to recreate this.

Here’s what the meal plan includes {and note how little my food actually looks like the photos from the recipes.  Ha.)

Adobo Chipotle Mini Meatloaves – to be served w/ a side green salad or quick bag of steamer veggies

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Spicy Thai Soup with Lime Shrimp

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Cheesy Beans & Shrimp Enchiladas

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie (Definitely looks nothing like the photo…in fact, I really hope this one tastes better than it looks.)

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Vegetable & Chickpea Ragout w/ Penne*

*I purposefully made this one more saucy because I knew Matt would rather have a pasta-sauce type dish than a dish that looked more like pasta and veggies.  I didn’t combine them either b/c I didn’t know at one point during the week would eat them, but I did cook the noodles ahead of time.

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I can’t speak to how anything tastes yet except the shrimp soup which was yummy.  My fingers are crossed that the rest turned out as good!  But either way, it beats Lean Cuisines or pick up.

Some notes from my prep:

Start with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher.  Get everything out on the counter to start with, including the bowls you’ll need and dishes you’ll put the final dish in.  Clean as you go.  I cannot highlight that step strongly enough!

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I know it’s not green but I print the recipes out before hand – it’s just easier for me to have physical pieces of paper when my hands get messy instead of using my iPad to look at the recipes.  I also read through each of them before I started cooking so I had an idea in my mind what I was going to be doing at each step.

I love listening to a book on tape when I’ve got a long task to do like any housework or long cooking prep.  I’m listening to Steve Job’s biography which could seriously last me through cooking about 6 weeks worth of dishes.  Listening seems to make the time go faster and tasks feel less chore-like.  (Oh and the dog treat was to keep Buddy out of my way while I cooked.  It only lasted for about 5 minutes.)

(And in case it’s not obvious, that is water in my wine glass.)

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The nice thing about these recipes were that it told you the groceries you needed and the order you would prep things in.  When I did this the last time I was using my own recipes, so a pre-cooking step was (obviously) to write down all your groceries ahead of time and make sure you have everything before you begin but also to write down the order you are going to cook things in.  There are lots of times when a sauce is simmering or a dish is the oven that you can start it on the next dish.

These dishes also had directions for how to freeze if you weren’t going to use right away.  I just cooked them all and put them in the fridge, because Matt’s more likely to microwave something than put it in the oven when he gets off a shift at midnight.  (Understandably so.)

The whole thing from start to finish only took me three hours.  Really!  And because I forced myself to stick to the clean-as-you-go rule, it was three hours from start to really and truly finished.  This is what my kitchen looked like when the last timer went off.

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Hurrah!  And now we have meals for the week.  I’ll try to remember to update as we taste test just in case something doesn’t make the cut – but considering these were published in a magazine, I’m guessing if anything goes wrong it’s operator error.

I must admit though – even though it only took half the morning, it’s still a tiring process.  Even my assistant was wiped out!

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5 Onions, 8 Pounds of Chicken and 2 Dishwasher Loads.

Just your typical Sunday afternoon, right?

I’ve known a couple people who do the “cook all your meals on Sunday” thing and I’ve always had a mixture of apprehension and hesitation about it.  It seems like a tremendous amount of work (is it really a time saving?) and that it would be difficult to make healthy meals, as I’ve always pictured casseroles and other dense heavy meals sitting in the freezer.

But lo and behold, here I find myself with 4 recipes on the counter, along with 5 onions, 8 pounds of chicken, and just about pot and pan in my cupboard out, ready to be put to work.  I genuinely love cooking, and furthermore, believe that most of the time, home cooked meals are healthier than restaurants meals.  (They are, certainly, exceptions to this.  Especially in the South.)  BUT, as of March, I’m going to be switching to a 4-day work week and the 10 hour days, combined with a 40 minute commute both ways means I’ll be getting home pretty late most nights.  Add a trip to the gym or an errand after work, and I could already forsee it was going to become quite tricky to assume I’d be cooking on a regular basis at night.  Lest we become on first name basis with the folks at Jersey Mike’s down the street, I decided to tackle the Sunday cook-a-thon – since I will now have a 3rd day off every week (woohoo!), I figure it could very well be a good time investment. 

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I gave it a test run this weekend, and while it didn’t go perfectly, it was overall pretty successful.  I cooked for 7 hours, used every pot and pan I own, chopped enough onions to give watching Stepmom a run for the cryfest title, and had to run the dishwasher twice.  I didn’t quite pick out enough variety in my meals (all chicken, oops) and they weren’t the healthiest things in my repertoire BUT….

When all is said and done, I had 5 meals with 4 servings (10 meals for 2) PLUS I was able to take 3 2 servings meals to my next door neighbors, who just had a baby.  So, 16 meals in 7 hours?  Not bad.

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Kitchen: After…. Oh dear.

It’s going to take me a while to perfect this strategy, but overall I think it’s going to work and I’m pleased with the solution instead of subjecting us to takeout or quick heat meals because “we’re busy.” 

Here’s what I made:

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Since it was the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, part of my prep was also making our Valentine’s Day dinner: seared steaks, roasted asparagus with proscuitto, twice baked potatoes and this delicious chocolate espresso cheesecake that was made mostly of cottage cheese.  Not kidding.  And I’m telling you that now, because my hubby has already eaten it and now he can know.  Hi, honey! 

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All in all, this actually ended up being about 2 week’s worth of food, because we’re starting the 2nd week and we still haven’t finished it all up.  I’ve even taking it for a lunch a few times, and it’s been a nice change of pace from my usual winter meal, turkey sandwiches. 

The key to being able to do this, I think, is to be okay with eating the same thing a few times during the week.  (Or making smaller portions, or freezing 1/2 of each dish.)  I have no problem eating the same meal a few days in a row, but I’ve definitely talked to a few people about this strategy who were horrified at the idea of having chicken tetrazzini more than once in a week.  *Shrugs*.  If you’ve got the time to cook every night and have that variety, then there’s probably no need to attempt this.  I never did, until I was faced with the alternative of not having time to cook and knowing that we would get into the habit of picking up meals or relying on quick and easy, more processed foods. 

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Some tips if you attempt this:

  • Plan ahead: Pick your recipes ahead of time, and look for things that have overlapping ingredients.  I definitely took this one a bit too far with all chicken recipes, but besides that the ones I picked out also all had green peppers, chicken broth and onion in them.  This allowed me to use up ingredients among the recipes easier. 
  • Start with an empty dishwasher: Keep it open and load as you go.  This helps keep clutter off the counter and it will make clean up less daunting.
  • Batch task: I learned this skill when I worked at GapKids and it has helped me in so many situations!  Group like tasks together.  For example, pull out all ingredients first.  Measure out dry ingredients.  Chop all vegetables at once.  Then prep all meat.  When you have a break (when something is cooking or simmering) wash dishes as you go. 
  • Prep snacks and other meals too.  You’ve already got the kitchen duty.  Now is a perfect time to pre-chop veggies or salad mix.  I bought a 3 pack of a peppers and only needed the green pepper and half the red pepper for my meals.  The yellow and other half of the red ended up in strips to go with hummus for snacks later.
  • Listen to music!  Whenever I have a long task to do, like cleaning the house or walking the dog or cooking, my iPod has been my saving grace.  A little music, or even a book on tape can distract me enough that the hours fly by and the job gets done.  I spent the first hour of my cooking bonanza listening to a church sermon, the middle 3 listening to Pandora radio (“Club Can’t Handle Me Right Now” station – hello, dancing in the kitchen) and the last 3 listening to the book “The Help.”  I also like to download (free!) lectures from iTunes University or interesting podcasts.  But that’s just me.  But whatever you do: dont watch TV and cook.  I have learned this over and over again.  Well, again, maybe this is just me – but I get so distracted by the show, I end up working slower and it takes me twice as long to do everything.
  • Have an assistant.  Even a furry one.

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Keep your eyes on the prize.  Even though I wasn’t working later yet this week, it was still so nice to do things after work and know that there was still a home cooked meal to be had that night.  On Monday and Thursday, I went for a run.  On Tuesday, I did my last Christmas return and went to dance class with Jamie and Anne.  On Wednesday, I worked til 8 and on Friday, I crashed with a DVRed How I Met Your Mother and some crafting.  Tonight, we’ll probably go out for dinner… because we want to.  Not because we have to.  And that’s exactly how I’d hope it would be.

Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie

My Aunt Jennifer is one of the best cooks I know, so when a few years ago when she passed down her old recipe binder to me (I guess she was updating her recipes into a new one), I felt like I inherited a treasure book of secrets.  I always think of Chicken Pot Pie as the quintessential meal that people make to fill up someone’s freezer when they’re going through a rough time and so it was no surprise to me that Jennifer’s recipe was for 2 pies with the directions: “Make one and freeze one to give away.”

Yes ma’am.

This recipe is super easy, but I was really happy with how it tasted.  I put in a few more veggies than it called for, and it made for a very filling meal.

Side bar: I literally cannot eat or make CPP without singing a little diddy to myself of “chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot pie.”  My HS best friend (Hi, Kris!) and I had this as an inside joke, and like most good inside jokes, I had no clue where it originated from.  Enter google.  It took me about 3 minutes to find out it was from an episode of Just Shoot Me, where David Cross pretends to be Slow Donnie in order to get attention. 

It’s at 0:57.  And now, it can be stuck in your head too.  You’re welcome.

Anyways!  Cooking, right?  Yes, cooking.

For most of the recipes I made this week, I had boiled a lot of chicken and then shredded it.  This went into these pies, the tetrazini and the buffalo chicken sandwich. 

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Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie
14 oz frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & green bean mix)
1/3 C butter
1/3 C flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
3 c cooked shredded chicken (approx 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 pie crusts*

1. Melt butter
2. Add flour onion, salt and pepper.  Stir quickly to dissolve flour lumps.
3. Add broth and milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken and veggies.  Stir for a minute to thicken.
5. Pour mixture into 2 pie shells.
7. Bake at 425 for 40 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, put tin foil on the edge of the pie crust to keep it from burning.

*I buy the Pillsbury pie crusts that are in the fridge/dairy section.  Take them out of the fridge before you prep to come to room temp.  Directions are on the box.  You will need a pie dish to make this in, and if you’re giving one away you can usually find a disposable tin one with a lid in the plastics aisle.  You can also buy the frozen pie crusts already in a tin (buy 2) and 1 box of the Pillsbury dough as the top crusts for each of the pies.

I have also seen CPP recipes where, instead of using a top layer of pie crust, you use the Pillsburgy crescent rolls and lay it out in a lattice shape across the top.  This is intended to cut down on how much pastry dough is used in order to make the recipe a little healthier.  I’ve done this in the past, and it does turn out fine.  So if you wanted to healthify this a little bit, you could do that. 

I decided to make it the traditional way this time though.

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Before & After.  The after-after?  An empty pie plate.  Yum!

If you freeze or give-away, include the instructions to reheat in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  For a truly authentic experience, be sure to add a Well, bless your heart as you deliver it to a friend or neighbor in need.

The next few day’s posts will be featured in one post at the end of the week explaining how I cooked *all* these meals in one day.  Yea, I’m superwoman.  No big deal.

Farmer’s Market Sandwich (Again)

I’m kind of obsessed with this sandwich.  I made it for dinner Tuesday night, and then had it again for lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

It’s good, ya’ll.  Even if you’re not a big fan of squash, you might like it this way.  Besides, what else are you going to do with all the extra squash your neighbor keeps giving you?

I made a video how-to of this last year, which I’ll post at the end.  But if you prefer the drool-worthy picture step-by-step, here you go.

You’ll need: squash or zucchini, olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, pesto, basil and real mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball). 

1. Preheat oven to 350. 

2. Cut your squash (and/or zucchini) into rounds that about as thick as a quarter. 

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(PS, that’s my cute sister in my kitchen!)

3. Lay the squash coins out flat on a cooking sheet.

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4. Drizzle with olive oil or… even better the balsamic vinegar recipe I gave you in my previous post!  Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash’s, or Italian Seasoning or good ol’ salt n pepper.

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5. Roast the coins in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.  Check them half way through, and flip ‘em over.

6. Meanwhile, spread about 2 tsp of pesto on a slice of bread.

7. Lay two thin slices of mozzrella (abt 1 oz) on the bread.  Sprinkle a little pepper on, and microwave for 10 seconds just to get it a little melty.  This is about where you should be dying from the delicious aroma of pesto + melted cheese. 

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8. Cover the mozz with basil.  I really don’t believe in too much basil, but use your own discretion. 

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9. Once the squash is cooked, add it as the “meat” of your sandwich.

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10. Devour.  Repeat for the next four days in a row.

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Okay, if that wasn’t good enough for you, you can watch me make it here.  This is a lower-calorie version with a few swaps, but the steps are still the same. 

Cooking With Wine: Steak and Couscous Salad

What could possibly be better than going on a tour of wine country with four of your best friends?  How about if those four friends also have to be phenomenal cooks?

I just got back from a trip to Sonoma with my college girlfriends, and while vineyards were certainly the high point of our trip, one of my other favorite parts of the trip was gathering with my friends in a beautiful kitchen every night and taking turns cooking and sharing our joy of food with each other.

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We were there for 3 nights, so we shared cooking duties – each of taking on appetizers, side dishes, main entrees, and of course, dessert.  Many of the meals were as healthy as they were delicious, so I thought I’d share them here.

Our first night there, Jess was in charge of the main entree.  Her meal was a variation of a recipe she’d come across in Real Simple, and it was exactly that – but very delicious too!  She grilled both London broil and chicken (catering to our various preferences) and cooked couscous on the stove.

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She also caramelized onions, tossed with peanuts.  The onions/pine nuts were tossed with spinach, and an olive oil / balsamic mix and then the steak and couscous were placed on top.

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Simple, but delicious, and we all loved it.  (Paired with the Friends Red from Preston Vineyards.)

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A few notes about couscous if you’ve never tried it… it’s definitely a love/hate kind of food.  It’s fluffy, and a little bit like orzo or rice.  It’s a whole grain, which means it’s a great source of fiber, b vitamins, niacin and selenium.  It’s about calorically equivalent to rice.

(Picture does not represent the following… my portions were a little larger today!  But here are some stats: 3 oz steak, ¼ cup cooked couscous, 1 cup spinach with a 1T:1T oil/vinegar mix = 345 cals, 33g protein, 17g fat (3.5 sat), 10 g carbs.  Lots of yum.)

Quiero Fajitas.

Fajitas!  Fajitas fajitas fajitas.  How have I been going on and on about my food for so long and not talked about fajitas yet?  This is an every few weeks standard in our house because: 1) it’s easy. 2) it’s fast. 3) it’s healthy.  Win, win, win.  Also, living in North Carolina, you really can’t escape falling in love with Mexican food.  When you make Mexican at home though, you don’t have to do battle with the chips basket!

You can do any combination of protein and veggies that you want, and it’s basically just a matter of chopping and heating.  I’ll give you the run down of what I made the other night, but honestly, you could open your fridge and make these tonight with what you have on hand.

(I’ll show you the sauce I made too, but you can just use olive oil, some chili powder and garlic to flavor it.)

Okay, enough talk.  Let’s HEAT!

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Here’s the cast and crew.  Some protein (chicken in this case), and veggies (peppers) and tortilla shells.

For the sauce: limes (or lime juice), Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco *Chipotle* sauce.  This a combo my friend Kate suggested a long time ago, and I’ve used it ever since to give my fajitas a smoky taste.

For those of you who like precision in the kitchen: the juice from 2 limes (~1/4 cup), 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce and 1 Tbsp of the Chipotle sauce, depending on how much heat you want.

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Chop veggies up into 2-bite pieces.  I usually use peppers and onions.

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Kitchen hint!  To make clean up easier, I put a plastic grocery bag inside a bowl.  Throw all your cuttings in there, and when you’re done, just scoop up the bag and throw it out.  This will save you from having LOTS of clean up when you’re all done.  (Obviously you could compost it, too… I’m not there yet, but maybe YOU are!)

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Onwards!

Put your cut-up veggies off to the side, and get your protein out.  You will cook this first, but cutting it second prevents you from having to get a second cutting board out.  (Another kitchen tip, free from me to you!)

Cut the chicken (for whatever protein you are using) into 2-bite pieces as well.  Do ya’ll know what I mean by 2-bite pieces?  Hopefully that’s self-explanatory, but you know, a piece you could eat in… 2 bites!  (This makes it easier to eat AND cook.)

Add some olive oil to a medium-heat pan.  For fajitas for 2, I use 2 Tbsp of olive oil.

Add the chicken to the pan, and cook it to almost finished.

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Add the vegetables, and cook to the texture you want.  (I like ‘em crispy.)

By the way, you probably want a bigger pan than what I used here.

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Add the sauce that you mixed up earlier.

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While the sauce simmers with the fajita mixings, put tortillas on a plate with paper towels and a little sprinkle of water.  Microwave for 30 seconds.

Scoop the fajita mixings into a bowl.  Serve with sour cream, salsa or whatever you want!

And then… it’s time to EAT!  “Vamos a comer!”

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(Directions for homemade tortilla chips to be forthcoming!)

Don’t Get Crabby! Make These Cakes!

Ever since living in Baltimore, I have become enamored with crab cakes.  However, most of the time when you order them in a restaurant they tend to be more filler – mayo and bread – than actual delicious, good for you crab meat.

But, I’ve got good news for you: you can make them at home, they’re quite easy and they can be healthy and delicious.

(And by the way, if you can’t eat shellfish, you can buy imitation crab which is usually another white fish, like Alaskan Pollock.)

Assemble the ingredients: 1 pound lump crabmeat, 4 egg whites, 1 piece whole wheat bread, Old Bay Seasoning, olive oil.

Mash up the crab meat with a fork, breaking the pieces up.  The smaller they are, the easier your cakes will hold together – although I personally love crab cakes with bigger pieces!  So this is up to you.

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Add the 4 egg whites.

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Pulse 1 piece of whole wheat bread in a food processor or blender and add crumbs.  *You can also skip that step and use 1/2 cup of bread crumbs or panko.

Add in Old Bay seasoning.  This is a must! Ok, if you don’t have this on hand, you can add salt, pepper, a pinch of paprika, mustard and celery seed.  But really… if you’re going to make crab cakes, you should have Old Bay seasoning.

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Shape into patties.  The smaller they are, the easy they will be to flip in your skillet.  Using a pound of crab meat should make about 6-8 patties.

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to a hot pan, and add the crab cakes.  Cook on each side until golden brown.

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I love to serve these on a bed of green lettuce.  They are the perfect complement to greens!

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You can also serve them the old-fashioned way with tartar sauce, but try mixing in some greek yogurt to your mayo to cut down on the mayo.  Once you add in the pickle relish and a squeeze of lemon juice, you won’t pick up on the yogurt at all.

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Then, sit back and enjoy!  I like to pretend I’m sitting at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, about to get ready to go see the O’s play at Camden Yards!

megs and dad at camden Dad & Meg, Camden Yards, 2005

(Stats: I use 2 Tbsp of olive oil total, a Tbsp for each batch of 4.  That’s included in the stats.  Each patty is 100 calories, 4 g fat,  10 g carb, 6.5 g protein.)

Fish Tacos

This is a pretty sneaky fab meal.  It’s easy to put together, but it will impres.  The key to making it healthier is the way you bread and cook the fish.  Typically, fish tacos are heavily breaded and fried.  To make it healthier, the swaps are easy and basic: egg whites for the dredge, panko for the crust and minimal amounts of olive oil to pan-fry. 

Let’s get to it.

Start with a light flavored white fish – cod is ideal, but anything without any overpowering flavor will work. You’ll want to buy about 3-4 oz per person.  Cut your fish into 1×1 inch chunks and toss them into a ziploc bag.

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You can marinade them a number of different ways, but my favorite marinade comes from Guy Fieri (Food Network).  It does involve tequila, but you can leave that out if you don’t want your fish to have too much fun before you cook ’em.

Marinade (inspired by Guy Fieri):

  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp of Tequila
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • generous pinch of salt + pepper

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Mix these together and then pour over the fish in the ziploc bag.  Let it chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

MEANWHILE….

Start prepping your tortillas.  I use my grill pan and just get them a little toasty.  You can also microwave them for a few (15-ish) seconds.  Cover them with a paper towel and sprinkle a bit of water on them.  You still want them fold-able like a taco, but this will just warm them up.

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Prepare any other toppings you want for your tacos.  I like to put out sour cream, guacamole, salsa, some chopped up cilantro and a cabbage slaw.  (I’m not going to give you the recipe of the one you’ll see pictured though, because it was no bueno.) 

Once the fish has marinated, it’s time to dredge and cook.  This goes quickly so have EVERYTHING else ready to go.  (Set the table, etc.)  Get a frying pan out and add about 1 Tbsp per serving of 3-4 oz of fish.  You can eyeball it – if you think you can get away with less, go for it.  You definitely should not need more than that. 

Get out 3 more plastic bags.  Fill one with flour, one with egg whites (or skim milk) and one with panko bread crumbs.

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If you’re not familiar with Panko, this is a Japanese type of bread crumb.  You can find it in the section with the other bread crumbs.  It’s super crunchy and tastes great, but is lower in calories than a traditional bread crumb.  It’ll give your fish a really crunchy coating even without deep frying.

Transfer the fish to the flour and shake.  To the egg whites and shake.  To the panko and shake.  Feel free to dance around a little bit while you’re shaking, it helps.  Trust me, I’m an expert.

Once you’ve done the last step, get your stove a-crankin.  Once it’s hot (oil starts popping), add your fish in.  Make sure to move the fish around and flip them – the key to do this with less oil is to have high heat and keep ‘em moving.  Once you feel them starting to firm up, sacrifice one and cut it open to check.  They should no longer have a sheen on the inside and should be kind of flakey.

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Once they are done, you are ready to eat!  Serve them up with the warm tortillas and toppings.  And, if you need something to do with all that leftover tequila, I just so happen to know the perfect beverage to use it up.

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Recap (Serving Size: 2 people, 2 tacos each)

6-8 oz of white fish, marinated in:

  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tsp of Tequila
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • generous pinch of salt + pepper
  • Tossed with:

    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

    Pan-Fry in:

    • 1-2 Tbsp of Olive Oil (Less is more.  You can always add more as you go if you need to.)

    Serve with:

    • Warm tortillas (grill til crispy but still flexible or microwave for 15 seconds)
    • Sour Cream
    • Guacamole
    • Salsa
    • Cabbage Slaw
    • Margaritas

     

    (Calorie stats are going to vary depending on how much flour or panko you use, as well as any toppings and how many tortillas you have.  I found on average a 2-taco meal with a T of guac shared between the two was about 550 calories.)

    The Rub (Subtitle: Gift Giving for Dad)

    The easiest way to win my Dad over at Christmas time is with something homemade.  I was at a loss for what to get my Dad this year until one day, while digging in my pantry for a homemade rub, I got the idea to make a batch of rubs for my Dad, who is the ultimate grill-master. 

    I decided to put together a gift basket of 5 different homemade rubs and 6 different types of beers, sold as singles at World Market.  I got the spice jars at World Market as well, and looked up different rub recipes online and in cookbooks that I had.  This also turned out to be a great way to use up spices, since I seem to have some that hearken back to my Baltimore days.  Five years ago.  Woops.

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    This was incredibly easy.  It basically involved measuring, funneling and occasionally liking my finger and doing an impromptu taste test.  “Too much cayenne? Nahhhh.”

     

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    These were a big hit with my Dad.  I encourage anyone with a meat lover on their list to try it out for next year.  It was very easy to find different rubs online, and the ingredients and materials were quite inexpensive.  The rubs I made are listed below.  The quantity I made filled up a container about the size of an average salt shaker. 

    Last Minute Sirloin Rub:

    4 t garlic powder, 4 t salt, 2 t cumin, 2 t chile powder, 1 T pepper

    Carne Asada Rub:

    4 t paprika, 2 t brown sugar, 2 t chile powder, 2 t salt, 1 t pepper, 1 t cumin

    Cowboy Rub:

    4 t coffee, 4 t thyme, 4 t salt, 2 t pepper

    Memphis BBQ Rub:

    1 T pepper, 1 T mustard, 1 T paprika, 1 T brown sugar, 1 T salt, 2 t garlic powder, 2 t onion salt, 1/2 t cayenne

    (For the record, the Memphis is my favorite.)  Cowboy goes great on a skirt steak, Carne delicious on pork.  The Memphis goes great on chicken or pork.  Enjoy!