Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day #332 - Spaghetti & Meatballs

Mmmm...Spaghetti & meatballs! 

I admit, nothing was homemade.   Unless you count the broccoli, which I steamed.
The whole grain spaghetti came from a box, the Italian-style meatballs came from the refrigerated section of Target, and the sauce was jarred Roasted Garlic pasta sauce by Giada DeLaurentis (also found at Target).  It was delicious!     I topped my spaghetti & meatballs with a little shredded Mozzarella cheese, since I was out of Parmesan.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day #331 - Blue Turkey Salad with Quinoa

Tonight I wasn't in the mood to cook a big heavy meal.   So I threw together this delicious salad using some of the leftovers from my fridge -  baby spinach, romaine lettuce, leftover cooked quinoa, diced pear, leftover Thanksgiving turkey, blue cheese, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and a vinaigrette dressing made from red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and extra virgin olive oil.  It hit the spot tonight.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day #330 - Sweet & Spicy Ginger Chicken

Looks good, doesn't it?  I wish I could say that it was a dish I created on my own, but nope.  It's one of those Lean Cuisine Fresh Steamer microwave meals.   I saw it in the frozen foods aisle at Target tonight, and it grabbed my attention.   In just a few quick minutes I had a delicious dinner ready for me - udon noodles, chicken, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, and water chestnuts, in a sweet/tangy ginger sauce.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day #329 - Grilled Turkey & Cheese, plus Soup

Brrrrr!   Jack Frost is blowing into the area today!   It was cold and windy on my way home from taiko class, and hot soup was the only thing on my mind.   I found a can of Campbell's Healthy Request Savory Chicken with Brown Rice soup in my pantry, and heated up a bowl in the microwave.   I also took some leftover turkey breast and cranapple sauce from Thanksgiving, a slice of swiss cheese, and a small smear of Dijon mustard and made a grilled cheese sandwich to go with the soup.   A nice, warming dinner.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day #328 - Denny's Holiday Slam

I went out to dinner tonight with my parents.  We went to Denny's.  They are currently celebrating the "Taste of the Holidays" and the menu looked too good to refuse.

I created my own Holiday Slam with the following:
  • Hash Browns
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Brown Sugar Ham Steak
  • Bread Pudding French Toast with a Sweet Cream Glaze

The scrambled eggs and hash browns were just average...but the ham & french toast were delicious!!   The ham steak was thick and had a wonderful brown sugar glaze.   And that french toast was thick and dense and rich and totally worth the splurge in calories   :-)

Happy Holidays!

Defending Misunderstood Vegetables: The Brussels Sprout

We interrupt this daily dinner blog to bring you this important bulletin...

Poor Brussels Sprouts!  So misunderstood!!

Earlier this evening, I went out to dinner with my parents.  They asked about my Thanksgiving dinner, so I pulled out my cell phone to show them the picture of my feast.  My mom's first reaction was something along the lines of "Ew. Brussels Sprouts?"   I defended my choice in vegetables and then the conversation moved on to other topics.  But tonight while I was washing dishes, I started thinking about Brussels Sprouts some more.

Why do people hate Brussels Sprouts?

 If you had asked me as a child what my least favorite vegetable was, I probably would have responded "Brussels Sprouts."   Which is funny because there weren't many foods I did not like growing up.  And I can't recall ever actually eating a Brussels Sprouts in my life.  But that just seemed to be the answer that all children were supposed to give.  It rolled off my tongue as naturally as my name or the ABCs.

On a recent Thanksgiving episode of Rachael Ray (her daytime talk show), guest chef Tom Colicchio (head judge on Top Chef) was preparing Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.   This sparked a conversation among Rachael, Tom, Giada De Laurentiis and Emeril Lagasse, about this vegetable, particularly how it got such a "bad rap" among parents and children. 

The answer lies in the preparation.    It seems that most adults grew up eating Brussels Sprouts during their own childhoods that had simply been boiled, which would likely enhance their resemblance to mini-cabbages.   Even boiled cabbage isn't all that exciting.   And once these adults have children on their own, they pass down the knowledge that "Brussels sprouts are like mini cabbages and they taste yucky."

If Brussels Sprouts truly were the most disgusting vegetable in the world, farmers wouldn't continue to grow them and grocers wouldn't continue to sell them.   So there must be something more to this little vegetable than meets the eye (or the tastebuds).

Brussels Sprouts are rather healthy little foods!   They are a good source of vitamin antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and A (in the form of beta-carotene).  They can help lower cholesterol and offer cancer-preventive components.   Powerful little guys!

Throughout the past few months, I have been seeing Brussels Sprouts pop up in all sorts of recipes in various preparations.  Roasted, pan-cooked, and even raw (in salads).  

My first interaction with Brussels Sprouts was back in September (Day #264), when I roasted them along with some broccoli.   I enjoyed them!     And then, I prepared them again for Thanksgiving.

Had I stuck with my childhood notion that Brussels Sprouts = yucky,  I never would have tried them again.  But palettes change, our tastes & preferences change, and foods change based on how they are prepared.    So I encourage you to try Brussels Sprouts again.  Give them another chance!!

The end.   We now return to your regularly scheduled food blogging...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day #326 - Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Today I opted to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner by myself.   Yes, I had some other offers for dinner.  I could have gone to my Aunt Sue's house along with grandma and my great-aunts.  My cousin Matt even offered to drive up to St. Louis, pick me up, and take me to dinner at his parents down in Cape Girardeau.  My aunt Carol in California invited me out there for dinner with them and my brother.  And several of my Scrap Girls friends invited me to dinner at their homes around the country.     But since my parents were out of town, and none of my cousins would be IN town, I decided to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing Thanksgiving at my apartment.

Even though I was having dinner by myself, I still spent hours cooking dinner for myself.  I enjoyed it! 

I started the meal with a small salad of romaine lettuce, diced Bosc pear, Feta cheese, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, and an Apple-Dijon vinaigrette (recipe linked below):

My main meal consisted of the following:

And I had a glass of a delicious South African Chenin Blanc (white) wine on the side.

I filled up on all this yummy goodness, I didn't even save room for dessert!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day #325 - Corn Chowder

This is one of my go-to soup recipes.   It's quick, easy, and hearty.   It's a corn chowder soup recipe that I learned from a scrapbooking acquaintance, Ro Paxman.

In a soup pot, I sauteed 1 package of diced ham and a bunch of sliced green onions.  I added a can of golden corn kernels (drained), 1 can of creamed corn, 1 sweet potato (steamed & mashed), and 1 cup of milk.  Seasoned with salt & pepper, and let simmer together until fully heated.

And that's all it takes to make a delicious bowl of corn chowder!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day #322 - HuHot Mongolian Grill

Tonight I met up with some friends from college for dinner.   We met at HuHot Mongolian Grill in Creve Coeur.   It was a new restaurant for me, and I really enjoyed it!

Basically, HuHot is an all-you-can-eat, create-your-own Asian stir fry grill.   The dinner price includes your choice of soup or salad to start.  I went with the Asian salad - spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, sliced red onion, toasted noodles, and an Asian vinaigrette.

Then you help yourself to the stir-fry bar.   It was LOADED with every possible noodle, protein, vegetable, and sauce that you could want.  It was a little overwhelming at first.   At each table were bundles of recipe cards that you could follow, or you could just go freeform.

My first pass through the line went like this:  yakisoba noodles, beef, spicy sausage, green bell pepper, sliced zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, yellow squash, and peas.   For the sauces, I mixed several mild-to-medium sauces together, plus a little extra splash of lime juice and sesame oil.   

Then you hand your bowl of ingredients to the grillmasters, and they cook it on the flat top grill.   I topped mine with sesame seeds and sunflower seeds after it was cooked.

It was delicious!

I did go back for a second plate (had to get my money's worth), which I made with chicken, crab, and brown rice, plus similar veggies and sauces as the first time.

I highly recommend visiting HuHot if there is one located near you.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day #317 - Tomato Mozzarella Salad

Tonight I tossed together a Caprese-inspired salad:  halved cherry tomatoes, mixed field greens, diced onion, mini mozzarella balls, and diced chicken, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and seasoned with black pepper and dried basil.   I love this combination of ingredients!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day #316 - Salsa Pork

Tonight I took the last leftover pork chop from my fridge, cut it off the bone, reheated it in the microwave, and  topped with some Roasted Tomato & Green Chile salsa.    I served it with some steamed broccoli on the side.

It was good to finally finish up some leftovers....

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day #315 - Autumn Salad

I think I've mentioned this before... I'm taking a taiko drumming class on Sunday afternoons.   By the time I get home from class, I am usually worn out but hungry.    Salads seem like the perfect quick, easy, healthy, filling solution to this problem.

Tonight I took a large bed of romaine lettuce and mixed field greens, and topped it with diced chicken breast, diced apple, diced onion, sliced almonds, gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day #314 - Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts

I'm cooking fancy tonight!  

I started by poaching 3 large chicken breasts.  For the poaching liquid, I started with a base of tap water and added a couple splashes of white wine, 2 garlic cloves (halved), 1 rib of celery (chopped), and a few dashes of black pepper and dried herbs.

Two of the poached chicken breasts were put in the refrigerator for use in future meals.   I took the third breast and sliced it horizontally through the middle (without cutting completely through) forming a pocket in the middle.   

In a small bowl, I mixed togther crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and thinly sliced rainbow chard leaves.   This mixture was stuffed inside the chicken breast, and then I wrapped the chicken with two slices of thick-cut bacon, using toothpicks to hold them in place.

I took broccoli florets and thinly sliced sweet potatoes, tossed them in a little olive oil, and seasoned them with salt & black pepper.

The vegetables and chicken were placed in a stoneware baking dish, and baked in a 385-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables were tender and the bacon was cooked.   After removing the chicken from the baking dish, I used a spatula to scoot the vegetables through some of the bacon grease drippings.   Yum!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day #313 - BBQ Chicken Quesadilla

The downside of living alone and doing so much cooking is I quickly accumulate leftovers in my fridge and they seem to last forever.   Such as the BBQ pulled chicken I made a week ago.   I've eaten some of the chicken for two meals already, but there is still some remaining in the tupperware.  Rather than make another sandwich, I twisted things up a little and made a BBQ Chicken Quesadilla.   I reheated the chicken and stuffed it inside a whole grain tortilla shell with some crumbed Gorgonzola cheese.   A few celery sticks on the side acted as both my vegetable serving for the meal, and a scoop for all the chicken and cheese that fell out of the quesadilla.   It was a messy meal to eat, but it was a nice change from a sandwich bun or sliced bread.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day #312 - Spaghetti with Tomato, Zucchini, and Rainbow Chard

I discovered fun new foodie website called Knapkins.   Knapkins is designed to make discovering new recipes more fun and social through games.   Right now they have two games - Food Duel (where you vote which one of two recipes looks "yummier" to you) and Recipe Guessing Game (where you have to guess 5 of the ingredients based on a recipe's photo).    I was playing around on Knapkins last night, and came across a recipe for Pasta with Tomato, Eggplant & Zucchini.  I immediately printed the recipe and used it as inspiration for tonight's dinner.

Here is the recipe I followed tonight (which is the above-linked recipe with my alterations):

Spaghetti with Tomato, Zucchini, and Rainbow Chard (serves 2)
Whole grain pasta, 2 servings worth according to package
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (or pressed)
1 zucchini, sliced into thin slices
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch rainbow chard
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

1) Bring a big pot of water to a boil, cook the pasta according to the package directions.

2) Saute onion and garlic in a large skillet with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes. Then add the zucchini to the skillet, and saute for another 2-3 minutes.

3) Remove the chard leaves from their stems and set aside, then sut stems into thin slices.  Add the chard stems and tomatoes to the skillet and saute for another 3-4 minutes.  Roughly chop the chard leaves, and add to the skillet. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until the leaves begin to wilt.

4)  Drain and add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce.  Mix and let cook for about 2 minutes.
Top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese just before serving.

P.S. Be sure to visit the original site of this recipe and check it out.   The original recipe included some additional cooking time (for oven-roasted tomatoes and eggplant bacon), but I wanted a dinner that was a little quicker to prepare. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day #311 - Orange Pork Wrap

It's slim pickings in my refrigerator.  I'm due for a trip to the grocery store.  So I needed to pull something together from the few items on hand.   I took a whole grain tortilla, added a few slices of leftover pork chop. swiss cheese, and a little orange marmalade.  Microwaved it for about 45 minutes until the cheese was melted.
 It actually wasn't too bad - the marmalade's sweet/bitter flavor worked well with the pork and the graininess of the tortilla.  Not the greatest offering for dinner, but I made do with what I had.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day #310 - Mexi-Mac

When I cooked the macaroni pasta on Sunday night, I over-estimated my amount and ended up with lots of leftover cooked pasta.   While trying to figure out the best use of the leftover macaroni, I recalled a recipe that I tried earlier this year for a baked Mexican Mac & Cheese.   Rather than search for the exact recipe, I just used my memory as inspiration for tonight's dish.

I started by browning about 1/2 pound ground beef in my skillet.  After draining off the fat, I added a 1/2 cup each of diced bell pepper (green and yellow) and yellow onion, and continued cooking until tender.  I then tossed in the precooked macaroni, added some tomato paste and salsa, and continued cooking until warmed fully.   Topped it all off with some shredded cheddar cheese.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day #309 - Autumn Pork Dinner

Tonight's meal ranks pretty high on the list of Autumn comfort foods - pork chops with applesauce and mashed sweet potatoes.

I cooked some thinly sliced yellow onion in my large skillet with a little olive oil until translucent, then pushed them to the edges of the skillet.  I seasoned the pork chops with a little black pepper and Jamaican Jerk Rub (for a little kick), then then browned them in the center of the skillet.   Once browned on both sides, I added a mixture of 1/4 applesauce thinned with 3/4 cup water to my skillet, covered the skillet, and let simmer over low heat until the pork was fully cooked.

On the side, I peeled a medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch chunks, and cooked in my microwave steamer until fork tender.  I added about a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese, and mashed until mostly smooth. 

Once the pork was ready, I dished up the mashed sweet potatoes, pork chop (with some of the onions on top), and a small dish of applesauce.    All of the wonderful flavors of autumn  on one plate!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day #308 - BCT Macaroni

Tonight I cooked up a skillet of BCT Macaroni Pasta.   What is "BCT," you ask?   It's like BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato), only with Chicken instead of Lettuce.  Abbreviations are so much quicker to type.

In a medium pot, I brought water up to a boil and started cooking my macaroni.

In a large skillet, I cooked some chopped thick-cut bacon.  Once browned and crispy, I used a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, and drained the majority of the grease.   I took yesterday's leftover breaded chicken filet, chopped it into small chunks, and reheated it in the skillet for about 3-4 minutes.  I then added a handful of quartered cherry tomatoes, seasoned them with a little salt & black pepper, and let those cook for another 3-4 minutes until soft.   I added the bacon back to the pan, stirred in about a tablespoon of tomato paste, and let rest over low heat until my macaroni was ready. 

I served up a helping of macaroni, piled up a generous portion of the BCT mixture, and topped with a little grated parmesean cheese.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day #307 - Chicken Biscuit-wiches

During a recent excursion through my freezer, I found a long-forgotten bag of frozen mini homestyle biscuits.  There were only two biscuits left in the bag, so I decided to go ahead and eat them before they got too frost-bitten.  I also cooked up a couple breaded chicken breast filets at the same time.   I used one of the filets for my sandwiches, and put the other in the fridge to be used for another meal.

My biscuit-wiches consisted of the 1/2 chicken filet on each biscuit, topped with cheddar cheese, dill pickle slices, and a little spread of ketchup.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day #306 - Sesame Chicken Stir Fry

Trying to use up the last cooked chicken breast from Monday night, and stir fry seemed like the best option.  I heated a little oil and crushed garlic in my large skillet, then added some chopped chicken breast and broccoli florets.  I stir-fried them together until they started to brown, then I added a couple handfuls of shelled edamame (I par-cooked them in the microwave for a couple minutes first).  In a small bowl, I whisked together some toasted sesame oil and soy sauce, then added it to my skillet and stirred to coat all the chicken and vegetables.

I served this stir-fry with some cooked orzo pasta (in place of rice), and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day #305 - National Sandwich Day

Happy National Sandwich Day

To commemorate this holiday, I built a deluxe sandwich for dinner.  I started by taking two slices of whole grain bread.  I spread a little Thousand Island dressing on both slices.  On one piece of bread, I layered a little deli ham and swiss cheese; on the other, roast beef and cheddar cheese.  I put both halves in the toaster oven to let the bread toast and the cheese melt.   In the middle, I added a slice of romaine lettuce and a few dill pickle slices.  

This was an easy holiday to celebrate :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day #304 - BBQ Pullled Chicken Sandwich

For dinner tonight, I took one of the leftover chicken breasts from Monday night and shredded/chopped the meat.  I combined the chicken and some BBQ sauce into a small saucepan, and cooked over medium heat until nice and hot.

I served my BBQ chicken on a toasted whole grain sandwich round with a slice of swiss cheese.  For my sides, I reheated a little succotash in the microwave, and also had a small serving of applesauce.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day #303 - Nothing

Tonight I have nothing to post.  That's right... I didn't have dinner.  My stomach was feeling a little queasy today, so I didn't have much appetite.    I ate a few saltine crackers and a small serving of applesauce, but they didn't seem photo-worthy.