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Adventures in the Kitchen – Indian Inspiration

16 Jan

This isn’t really an adventure, since the preparation was all in opening a package, cutting some chicken and adding water, but the result is SO delicious!

We live next door to an Indian family who makes curry on a daily basis. The yummy smell wafting into our kitchen beckons us. One such day, The Hubs and I decided to take matters into our own hands and set out to the store to see if we could get something with Indian flavors that wasn’t too hard to make.

Upon perusing the exotic food aisle, we came across some packages of Indian pastes made by Sukhi’s where all you had to do was add yogurt or water and veggies or chicken. Being the lazy bums we are, we picked the just add water package to make ourselves some Classic Indian Curry.

Here’s a picture of the chicken simmering. The liquid ends up turning into an awesome sauce. So awesome that upon cleaning up, The Hubs “cleaned up” the pot with a fresh piece of naan!

Just a short while later we plated up the final product, paired with brown rice, brussels sprouts and bacon and a piece of naan. Delish!

This is a quick meal that has now become a staple in our house and is being added to our recipe rotation! 🙂

What are your favorite quick and easy meals?

“Adventures in the Kitchen” – Brussels Sprouts Mania!

5 Jan

You know how when you are a kid, it’s like brussels sprouts are the enemy??

Well, my family never had brussels sprouts, so I never really had that all encompassing fear of them. Well, maybe I did vicariously through what I saw in TV and movies…

So, my first experience with brussels sprouts came when a friend took me to Pasta Pomodoro and ordered them there. She absolutely loved their buttery goodness and said I HAD to try them. I did and I was hooked!

But, being the novice chef that I am, I had never cooked them at home before. The Hubs isn’t a big veggie fan and they aren’t exactly the most welcoming looking vegetable to cook (have you seen them actually on the stalk??).

A chance encounter with a precleaned bag of brussels sprouts at Trader Joes and the HUGE amount of recipes  that all of a sudden popped up in my Google Reader and just knew that I HAD to try preparing a dish with them!

So far, I’ve tried three recipes and I’m going to rate them here. Note this is based on my rating, since The Hubs wasn’t a fan (obviously…).

In 3rd place:

Caramalized Brussels Sprouts from Jenna at Eat, Live, Run

Source: eatliverun.com via Jen on Pinterest

This recipe was tasty with the perfect amount of sweetness, but it took MUCH longer than anticipated to chop up the sprout into little slivers. Next time, I think I would try to make the recipe in a similar way except I would quarter the sprouts for ease of cooking.

In 2nd place:

Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts from Emily at Daily Garnish

Source: dailygarnish.com via Jen on Pinterest

I love Emily’s blog, so when I saw this recipe come up, I knew I had to try it. It was delicious! It was the perfect amount of sweetness from the honey and sourness from the cider vinegar. Best part is that it is so healthy! Again, like the previous recipe, I would quarter the sprouts instead of keep them whole so that the flavor can coat every surface! YUM!

And my FAVORITE way (so far) to prepare brussels sprouts:

Brussels and Bacon from my friend Brenna

When I had this dish at my friend Brenna’s house, I was HOOKED! Even The Hubs ate it! Now obviously it is not as healthy as the other two, but boy is it good and SO simple to make.

All I had to do was chop up some garlic and fennel (uh first time I’ve EVER cooked with fennel!), quarter the brussels sprouts and cut the bacon into little pieces.

I cooked up the bacon first till it was just slightly crispy and removed from the pan.

Then I sautéed the garlic and fennel in some olive oil for a few minutes, added the quartered sprouts and cooked them until they were a bright green color and fragrant. Then I added the bacon and cooked everything together for a few additional minutes.

Delicious!

Next up in my continued adventures with brussels sprouts is to try to boil them first to make them a bit softer before roasting them. The Hubs likes his veggies cooked WELL so hopefully doing this will entice him to try them more often!

Do you love brussels sprouts as much as I do?
What are your favorite ways of preparing them?

Improvisational Mexican Cornbread

5 Dec

I’m always looking for quick and tasty recipes (although I’m not sure that I can actually call this a recipe…) to prepare for weekday meals with things we have on hand.

Lucky for me, my friend Bret, came up with this Mexican Cornbread that you can basically make however you want! It’s AWESOME!

First, you start with your base… some Trader Joe’s Cornbread. In a large bowl mix together the ingredients on the box.

Then the improvisation comes into play. You basically just throw whatever you want into the cornbread mix. We threw some Rosis’s Organic Precooked Chicken (an awesome buy from Costco that makes meals go SO much faster), diced green chiles, and drained/rinsed black beans. You can also add canned corn (although there already is some corn  kernals in the cornbread), cheese, and really anything else you can think of that goes good with the ingredients you have already added.
Then you grease a Pyrex dish, pour the mixture in and bake per the instruction on the cornbread box. 
And voila!!

A sweet and savory improvisational meal in 35 minutes!

Do you have any quick and easy meals that you make on a weeknight? If so, please share!

Adventures in the Kitchen – Spiced Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

28 Oct

So it has been awhile since I’ve graced you all with an “Adventures in the Kitchen” post. The Hubs and I just have been that adventurous lately. We’ve also been lazy. and out of sync when it comes to planning.

The Hubs doesn’t like to plan ahead, he likes to wing it. I, on the other hand, like to pick recipes, make a list, grocery shop and cook. Last week, after a bit of heated discussion about what to do for dinners for the week, we decided to go to the store with the cookbook and randomly pick two recipes based on what we saw. Although this method induced some anxiety in me, it ended up working out and we picked two recipes that we both liked fairly well. I was also impressed that neither one had any carbs in them, which is something for this bread loving girl. Our Paleo friend would be proud!! 🙂

The first recipe we tried was Spiced Pork Chops with Apple Chutney. The recipe came from Cooking Light Way to Cook, a great recipe book with step by step instructions for the novice cook (like me!) and LOTS of pictures for those who don’t like to read (like The Hubs!).

Image Source: Amazon

 Ingredients

Chutney

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 5 cups (1/4 inch) cubed peeled apple (about 3 apples) ** This was a TON of apples. Probably could have done with 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount.**
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger  ** I substituted 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and it worked fine. **
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Pork

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper **Since we didn’t have exactly this, I had The Hubs ground up red pepper flakes as a substitute. **’
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 (4-ounce) bonless center-cut pork loin chops, trimmed
  • Cooking Spray

First up was to prepare the Chutney. I was so excited to use my new Le Creuset Dutch Oven that I used it to do my Chutney preparation. It worked great and after using it for the last few things we’ve made, I’m in love!

Combine all of the spices and put aside in a separate container.

Then, melt the butter in a nonstick pan of your choosing over medium-high heat. Add apples and saute for 4 minutes until lightly browned.

 Add cranberries, spices and cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Note this will be a small boil since there isn’t a whole lot of liquid going on.

Reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally.

For the pork, clean and pat dry the chops.

Combine all of the spices in a separate container and the sprinkle over the pork.

Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and add pork to pan.

The recipe says to cook for 4 minutes on each side or until done. We did some research and found out that we were supposed to cook to 150-155°C and then letting it sit for 5-10 minute to let it reach the USDA recommended 160°C. Well, it ended up being more than 4 minutes on each side and since we are conservative, we probably cooked it longer than we had to, but we were having trouble getting it to the right temperature.

I also made string beans as a side (since it was suggested with the recipe). For these, I cooked the string beans in olive oil for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Then I stirred in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves. I continued cook for 5 minutes until the garlic was lightly browned.

Finally, everything was plated and a beautiful, healthy (and yummy!) meal was created!

This ended up being The Hubs’s favorite dish of the two we made last week. The pork was nicely spiced and had a good contrasting flavor with the slightly sweet and tangy apple chutney. I also really like the flavor of the string beans. It was nice to veer from the traditionally steamed beans we usually eat! It really felt like a gourmet meal, especially since pork is not something we normally cook.

You all will have to let me know how you like this recipe if you do try it out (and if you substituted anything that made it even better!)!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti with a Squash Medley

9 Oct

The Hubs and I love squash and zucchini. They are staple veggies at our house that we cut up and saute because it is quick, easy and tasty.

So of course, when I first learned about spaghetti squash (which I have to admit, wasn’t that long ago…), I knew I wanted to try to it out. I picked up a squash last week at TJ’s and decided today would be the day to try it out.

I had cut out a small article in Better Homes and Garden about how to cook spaghetti squash and decided to use that as the method of cooking.

I washed the squash and then began to attempt (keyword is attempt) to cut the squash in half like the instructions said. Holy moly was this thing hard to cut! I ended up having to call in the reserves (aka The Hubs) to help! (I found out later from Katie at She Likes Ruffles, He Likes Truffles on Twitter that I could have just put the whole thing in the oven and it would have been much easier. She also recommended a great recipe she’s made).

After a slight struggle, The Hubs was able to cut it. Then I removed the seeds from the inside of both halves.

And placed the cut sides down in roasting pan. I added 1/2 a cup of water to the pan, covered with foil, and baked at 350°F for 1 hour

For a side, I decided to make a squash medley recipe that I found in the August issue of Family Circle. The only ingredients needed I had on hand.

I cut up the squash and zucchini into 1/4 inch coins and the red bell pepper into chunks. Everything went on a cookie sheet where I tossed with EVOO.

At this point, the spaghetti squash was ready to come out to cool, so out came the spaghetti squash and in went the squash medley. The squash medley had to cook at 350°F for 15 minutes.

Once I was able to handle the spaghetti squash, I used a fork to spaghettify (a technical term) the squash.

And because I am a master chef (NOT!), I timed things such that once I was done spaghetifying, the squash medley was ready to come out. And voila!

I really enjoyed the meal and have a ton of leftovers that I can hopefully finish this week. I love that the entire meal had pretty much zero carbs (except for whatever was in the sauce). So healthy! The Hubs wasn’t as enthralled with the meal, but it figures since he avoids any foods that are healthy (no matter how hard I try!)

Anyone else have any yummy spaghetti squash recipes I can try this week?
Do you have a spouse that avoids healthy foods? Any tips on turning their tastes??

"Adventures in the Kitchen" – Avocado Stuffed Chicken

6 Apr

I love me some avocado! It is seriously one of my favorite foods.

So the other day I had some chicken thawing on the counter and thought to myself… “Is it possible to make a meal with chicken and avocado that ISN’T a sandwich?”

Lo and behold, this recipe for Avocado Stuffed Chicken over at About.com came up. The site even had a video on how to make the dish which is great for the beginner cook. I was a bit intimidated to make it at first since I’ve never stuffed anything before, but it was surprisingly easy.

Since there is already a video showing exactly what to do, I didn’t take the time to document every step in the cooking process.

I was however very proud of the work I created so here is our dinner in all its Avocado Stuffed Chicken, Quinoa and Aparagus glory.

And a couple of shots to show you how well the chicken stayed stuffed.

The Hubs and I both really like the dish! It had a lot of flavor and felt really gourmet to eat even though it was super easy to make.

Here’s the full recipe as transcribed from About . com

Avocado-Stuffed Chicken Ingredients

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • 2 avocados
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh, minced basil leaves
  • 1 large diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • pepper mill

Slice the Avocados

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the avocados lengthwise all the way around. Twist the halves and using your knife, strike and remove the pit.

With a large spoon, scoop the avocado out of its peel. Then, with a small paring knife, slice the avocado lengthwise.

Make the Stuffing Mixture

Place the slices in a mixing bowl. Add the lime juice, the pepper, the garlic powder, the minced basil, the diced tomato, and the chopped onion. Mix this all together.

Stuff the Chicken Breasts

Next, lightly oil a baking dish with cooking spray. Now, lay a piece of chicken out on a flat surface.

Scoop out a spoonful of the mixture and lay it onto a chicken breast. Roll the meat over the mixture and tuck in the ends.

Place the stuffed chicken in the dish. Do this with all of the chicken; aim to use just about half of your avocado mixture. Then sprinkle the top of the chicken with the cracked peppercorns.

Bake the Avocado Stuffed Chicken

Place them in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. I like to serve this chicken with brown rice. Lay a piece of chicken against the rice and then spoon the more of the avocado mixture all around the chicken.

"Adventures in the Kitchen – Dessert Edition" – Chocolate Cabernet Molten Lava Cakes

25 Jan

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an “Adventures in the Kitchen” post and I actually have 3 lined up in my drafts with meals I’ve made weeks ago! However, I couldn’t wait any longer though to share this latest recipe I tried…

Now I know this dessert is not the healthiest and definitely not Weight Watcher friendly (which I have been loosely following…and I do mean loosely…I really need to get back on the wagon…), but I have been wanting to make individual molten lava cakes at home for over a year.  The Hubs and I ate at least one lava cake a night while we were on our Honeymoon cruise to Mexico and they were the most delicious things ever – cakey on the outside, gooey chocolaty goodness on the inside.

For the past year, not having the right size ramekins has always prevented me from attempting to make these, but since my mother-in-law gifted me with 12 perfectly sized 4 oz ramekins for Christmas, I now have no excuses.

So when one of my best friends who moved to London last year was in the US for a visit, I figured what better time to try whipping these up.

Here’s the recipe which I got from McCormick (yes…that’s the spice brand and no, I didn’t use their spices!):

Molten Spiced Chocolate Cabernet Cakes

Ingredients

4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate or 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon or other red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional) 

Since I didn’t have any baking chocolate on hand, I found a conversion online where I could substitute 3/4 cup of chocolate chips instead. (Sidenote: I was really proud of my improvisational skills here!)

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH for 1 minute or until butter is melted. I ended up softening the butter first, so it was already a little melted when I put it in the microwave.

Use a whisk and stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Then add the vanilla extract, red wine (We used a Rutherford Cab. Rutherford is our favorite winery!), and confectioners sugar.

Once combined, stir in 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk.

Finally, add the flour and spices.

Butter the ramekins and then evenly divide batter into them.

I then put the filled ramekins in the fridge. I took them out 30 minutes before I planned on baking them. I then  baked at 425°F for 13-15 minutes. The cakes were done when a toothpick came out clean near the edges, but it was loose and jiggly (a technical term of course).

Let the cakes sit for 1 minute and then use a knife to loosen the edges.

I placed a plate on top of the ramekin, then quickly flipped it over to remove the lava cakes. I sifted a little powdered sugar on top for presentation and then served immediately with ice cream.

Cooked just perfectly!! Doesn’t it look delicious!!!

I must say that these lava cakes are WAY easier to make than I thought. A gourmet looking (and tasting) dessert in under 30 minutes! However, if I were to make these over again, I think I would omit the cinnamon, ginger, and clove spices. Being a chocolate lover, these spices totally overpowered the chocolate and Cabernet flavors.

I will definitely be making Lava Cakes again soon!