Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Table Talk: Multi-grain Pizza Dough

This is the last post for Table Talk!  It's flown by.  There would be one more post this year but it happens to fall on Christmas and let's face it, a healthy dinner option won't be my priority Christmas morning, or probably even Christmas Eve.  And I expect it won't be yours either so this is it!  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Table Talk: Stir-Fried Chicken and Green Beans with Spicy Orange Sauce

The sun goes down here now at like 4:30.  Yeah, 4-stupid-30.  I hate it more than words can say.  It seems like it's midnight because it's been dark for hours when really, it's only 8 o'clock.  It's a crazy world.  And when you're trying to take photos for your blog, you have to have dinner ready at an insane time that can only be construed as Linner or Dunch, it gets in the way.  Where's the light???  Anyway, long story short, please excuse the above photo.  It's Mother Nature's fault.  Or the people who decide on Daylight Savings.  Or Tyler's for messing with my plans to be earlier with dinner.  Or the kids' for having to run them around everywhere last night.  Good thing I love them.  Well, Tyler and the kids.  Mother Nature and the Daylight Savings people?  Eh, not so much love there.  

Speaking of not so much love, that's how I felt about this stir fry.  As I've mentioned, last night didn't run as smoothly as one would hope so maybe my opinion is skewed.  While everything else was hectic, this dish did come together pretty easily.  The chicken ended up marinating for more than the hour in the recipe because my plan went awry so maybe that also had something to do with it.

What I liked:  I loved the chicken to vegetable ratio, there seemed to be quite a few green beans and I like the idea of that since I've been trying to be more conscious about the size of vegetable portion we are eating.  I liked how fast it came together and how easy it was.  Now the dislike:  There was a little something 'off' with the orange sauce.  Or maybe it was the orange sauce and the marinade together?  Like a weird kind of after taste?  It seemed a little too vinegary so I added some extra sugar to try and counteract that.  It did help, but I still wasn't wowed.  Or even pleased enough to make this version again.

I've been doing a lot of soul searching where this blog is concerned and I've decided (tentatively) on a few things.  One of them is that I want to make sure I'm only posting LOVED recipes.  Recipes I would make again and do make again regularly.  Since I didn't really feel this way about this one, I'm just going to give you a link to the recipe so you can try it for yourself if you'd like.  Just because we didn't love it doesn't mean you won't!  I'm not saying I'd never make this again.  I might make it again with some tweaks, and if I do that and love it, I will update or re-post with what worked for me.  Until then, this is going in the 'to tweak' pile. :)

Get the recipe HERE.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Table Talk: Pad Thai with Shrimp

I have some confessions to make.  I'm not really sure what this is supposed to taste like.  I don't know that I've ever been to a Thai restaurant.  The only Pad Thai I've tasted is from a kit at the grocery store.  So I probably am not the best judge of what Pad Thai should be.  So, just keep that in mind when you read my opinion of how it came together!  Mmmkay?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

Our garden was weird this year.  I guess I shouldn't say that.  I've never gardened in Southern California (kinda) before so maybe it was normal, but I thought it was weird.  The cherry tomatoes were supposed to be the first to ripen!  It said so on the package of seeds.  For some reason, they ripened AFTER some of our other tomato varieties that were supposed to take twice as long.  While I was a little confused as to why these sleeper tomatoes did that, I wasn't upset that we actually got some produce from our plants.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Table Talk: Spice-Rubbed Flank Steak with Toasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa

 I know, I know....How many recipes with corn and black beans can one cooking blog have?  There's never too many, I tell ya.  This recipe was so appealing to me on so many levels.  Not only did it have a plethora of ingredients that I love, it was also labeled 'fast'.  And I do love fast.  Every single weeknight we have something on the schedule and all things seem to fall right when dinner is supposed to be being prepared or eaten.  I like having recipes that are a little flexible, easy to prepare and healthy.  I feel like I get in a rut and cook the same thing over and over to satisfy my need for speed.  I think this will make it into the rut-rotation.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Table Talk: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I don't even think I have to explain why I picked this recipe.  Why would I not pick this recipe??!!  That's the question.  The only thing that surprised me when I checked the ingredient list and instructions was that there wasn't a dipping sauce.  Um, what?   For some people that would probably be something they could live with but for someone like me, it's all about the sauce.  

I subbed Calrose rice for the brown rice simply because it was faster and I wanted to be done cooking in half an hour.  I know what you're thinking---isn't brown rice healthier?  Yes, my friend, it is.  Have I mentioned I'm lazy?

We really liked this and I would make it again-with the dipping sauce, of course.  In my opinion it needed it-but like I said, I'm a sauce kind of girl.

The recipe called for ground chicken but I couldn't find ground chicken at my grocery store.  Not even the 99% fat free version (ground chicken breast) the recipe warned against.  I could have tried a different grocery store, but I grabbed some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and got outta there.

And then I threw half a pound of the thighs and half a pound of chicken tenderloins in my food processor.
Whallah!  Ground chicken. (pulse until chicken is mostly ground up and then alternate between pulsing and running until it's the right consistency)
And it worked really well in the recipe.  Yay!

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1.5 cups calrose rice
3 cups water
1 lb ground chicken
2 tsp canola oil
1 jalapeno
2 tsp grated lime zest and
3 T fresh lime juice from 2 limes
3 T fish sauce
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch
2 T chopped fresh basil
3 scallions, sliced thin (I only used 2 because they were on the large side)
12 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves (about 1 head) --I couldn't find either of these so I used plain ol' iceberg lettuce.
For the dipping sauce:
2 T soy sauce
2 T water
4 T brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic

I used my rice cooker for the rice but you can follow the package directions, adjusting the water to what your package says.  While that's cooking, combine lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and corn starch in a small bowl and set aside.  

Combine ingredients for dipping sauce (soy sauce, water, brown sugar and garlic) in either a small sauce pan or a med size bowl.  Cook on stove top or microwave until sugar is dissolved.  (On stove top, bring to boil and boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  In microwave, microwave 45 seconds, stir and then 45 seconds more if needed to dissolve sugar.  Just make sure bowl is not too small or sauce will boil over.)

Heat oil in a skillet over med-high heat, (I skipped the oil and used a non-stick pan) add chicken, jalapeno and lime zest, breaking meat into smaller pieces while cooking.  Cook until chicken is browned and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Whisk lime juice mixture again and add to skillet.  Cook stirring constantly until sauce has thickened, about 45 seconds.  Off the heat stir in basil and scallions.

Serve the chicken filling with rice, lettuce leaves and dipping sauce.
Serves 4

Source:  Lettuce wraps adapted from:  The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
dipping sauce: girlplusfood original

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Table Talk: Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup

I've been crazy about tomato soup and cheese sandwiches lately.  I've always liked the combo, but I've just gotten back into it.  I picked this recipe because I wanted to try it and use some of the tomatoes from my garden.  To make it creamy without cream, bread is thrown into the mix.  I thought that was interesting when I read the recipe but it seemed to work.  Although, I'm not sure why I am leaving out the cream only to load the soup with cheese?  Less cream equals more cheese, I guess.  Yeah, that's how I roll.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Table Talk: Healthier Zucchini Bread

 It's our last official week of Table Talk as a group.  I'm going to finish out the year posting recipes every two weeks from the The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook but it will be more of a series now than a group.  

This zucchini bread was pretty good.  Was it the best zucchini bread I've ever had?  No, but I'm sure the best zucchini bread is also quite a bit less healthy. :)  I haven't fooled myself into thinking that this bread is entirely healthy, but if you are trying to change some small things and make healthier choices when it comes to sweets, this bread would be a great choice.  Some of the fat in the bread is replaced with low-fat yogurt (or sour cream in my case) and some of the white flour is replaced with whole wheat.  Anytime I make small changes like that, I feel just a little bit better about eating it.  Then, I can have 2 slices instead of 1. ;)
Of course, my kids liked it too even though they refuse to eat zucchini by itself.  I'm going to start covering all vegetables in sugar to get them to eat them I guess. ;)

If you'd like the recipe, you can get it at the blog of our host this week, Valerie.  She picked the recipe and chose a good one, thanks Valerie.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tomatoes, Squash and Fresh Mozzarella with Creamy Polenta (Or without, whatevs)

I don't want to sound like a loser or anything but I've never had polenta before.  I've never cooked it before and I've never even seen it at the grocery store before.  I was wondering if I would even be able to find it but Bob's Red Mill came through for me.

If I'm being honest, I would have to tell you that I almost didn't even make the polenta.  I almost decided that it wasn't worth buying something I knew I wasn't going to like.  Then, I realized that I'm not a five year old and that this is the reason for the cooking group to begin with.  To learn new things.  To try new things that I wouldn't normally try.  To cook new things.  To eat new things.  To not be a 5 year old.  

After a pep talk in the mirror, I tried the polenta by itself and was less than impressed and wondered if maybe I was a 5 year old after all.  Determined to try everything together before I wrote off polenta forever, I dished everything up and took a bite.  And was pleasantly surprised.  All the flavor combinations really worked together.  The juices from the vegetables mixed with the polenta and it was really good.   It's almost like America's Test Kitchen knows what it's doing.  Weird.  And the texture of the polenta was completely lost in the vegetables and flavors.  I actually really liked it and would maybe make it again.  
 If you leave the polenta uncovered, it turns into a rubbery brick of cornmeal so make sure to serve it right away. 

And this is how the rest of the family ate their vegetables. Okay, fine.  This is how Tyler ate his and the kids pretty much had noodles with parmesan cheese.  (I forgot to add the mozzarella to his plate before the picture. oops)
I know what you're thinking, I should have just made them eat the polenta.  If they get hungry enough they'll eat it right?  Well, let's just say that all of my ideas about eating from my younger years have been blown out the window.  Like with a hand grenade.  I usually make them taste it and if they don't like it, they don't have to eat it.  When an autistic kid can't handle the texture of something, I don't make him eat it.  Or he will throw up.  Yeah.  And Tyler's decided he's pretty much autistic too so he got noodles.  And I can't punish Hadlee for being the only 'typical' one around here so she got to have noodles too.  (I learned that's what you call your normal kids when you have an autistic one, 'typical'.)  Maybe now that I'm more of a polenta eater, I will convert them in the future.  Like when all their taste buds have grown up a bit. :)  And Tyler did actually try a bite of the polenta with veggies and said it was pretty good.  He liked his noodles better though. :)

If you'd like to try the recipe you can get it at Janet's blog.  She was our host for the week and chose the recipe.  Thanks for making me try something new, Janet!

Here's what I did differently this week:
Not much.  I didn't have cherry tomatoes, but we have a lot of tomatoes in our garden so I used about 4 medium tomatoes, sliced them and roasted them in the oven.  Then, cut the slices into 4 quarters each and added them to the recipe like they were cherry tomatoes.  I didn't have fresh thyme so I used 1/4 tsp dried.  Other than those things, I followed the recipe pretty closely this week!  It's almost a record for me!

P.S.  I think I said 'polenta' 3000 times in this post.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy National Cheesecake Day!

Usually when I hear about these holidays, I'm like, 'Really?  Should we really be calling that a holiday?'  With cheesecake, I'm totally on board.  It's National Cheesecake Day!  And if you live near a Cheesecake Factory, you can get a slice of cheesecake for half price.  If you don't, or only believe in homemade, here's a couple ideas for you.  These are some of my favorite cheesecakes.  I like most of these more than any cheesecake I've ever eaten, restaurants included.  Hurry and make one today! :)

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake- Oreo cookie crust, vanilla cheesecake with Oreo chunks.  Topped with crushed Oreos and white chocolate drizzle/ganache.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake- Graham cracker crust with vanilla cheesecake, covered with cinnamon apples, caramel, pecans and melted marshmallow.  (And I think toasted coconut would be good here.  Like it on an apple?  Throw it on your cheesecake.)

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake- Spiced graham cracker crust with pumpkin cheesecake covered with caramel and toffee bits.  Maybe it's just for fall.  Maybe not.

Turtle Cheesecake-  Vanilla wafer crust with a chocolate cheesecake base, pecans, caramel and white and dark chocolate.

Have a great Cheesecake Day!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Table Talk: Southwestern Black Bean Salad

 It's my week to host and when I chose this recipe, I wanted to pick something easy.  I haven't really been feeling like spending a ton of time in the kitchen lately.  I think it's because I'm pregnant (with someone else's baby) and nothing really sounds that great.  Then, late last week, we got some devastating news.  My little baby nephew had passed away in his sleep.  It was the most heart-breaking experience but at the same time, there was such an out-pouring of love for my brother and his family, it was lovely to see.  Our weekend was spent crying and driving and then more crying and driving and I don't know that we'll recover anytime soon.  This recipe ended up being about all a person can handle after something like that.  I knew it would be easy and once I got in the kitchen to make it, I found my kitchen to be what it always is-therapeutic.  I know some people won't understand but sometimes I think cooking keeps me sane.  Once I got in there I decided to bake some bread because fresh baked bread makes everything seem a little better.  And also because I knew Calvin wouldn't be too savvy on the dinner plans but he always likes bread. :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Table Talk: Pasta Salad plus Sun-Dried Tomatoes minus Arugula

 Last time I made something with Arugula in it, my family wasn't impressed.  I decided to leave it out of our pasta salad since I didn't want to watch everyone pick it out and waste it.  I'm wondering though if I should have given it a go.  I'm thinking that the vinegar in the dressing might have been enough to tame the overwhelming flavor that arugula can have.  Next time, I'll have to throw it in and see how it goes.  I threw in some olives and I had deli sliced provolone that I cut it into strips.  The recipe called for whole wheat penne but whole grain works too, right?  I didn't have parsley so I substituted basil.  Next time I would add quite a bit more than 1 T.

My husband and I liked this dish.  It was easy to make and worked perfectly for last night because I made it and then put it in the fridge for an hour while I took Hadlee to swimming and it was ready to eat when we got home, starving.  Calvin didn't love it but his palate is pretty sensitive and things with vinegar usually aren't his cup of tea.  He took a couple bites and then poured himself a bowl of Life cereal.  
I think this would also be great with some cucumbers for crunch and anything else you like with vinegar-like dressing.

If you'd like the recipe you can buy the book or get it at Jen O's blog.  She was our host for the week and chose the recipe.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Berry Cheesecake Salad (Red, White and Blue)

Are you still deciding on your 4th of July menu?  I, personally, like to wait until the last possible minute.  I'm one of those people.  Decisions are hard for me.  Especially really big ones, like menu finalization.  I have to think about it for a few days and weigh all options before committing.  Some people might say it's smart planning to look at every angle.  Others might say I should just make up my mind already and quit being such a procrastinator.  (I tend to fall in with the latter crowd, I don't know what my problem is.)  Well, if you're anything like me and you're still looking for ideas for what to take to a barbecue or what to make for guests, this 'salad' is super easy and a complete crowd pleaser.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Table Talk: Buffalo Chicken (Sticky Finger) Salad

I'm not a huge buffalo wing fan.  Mainly because I'm the biggest sissy ever when it comes to spicy food.  Ever.  There might be something wrong with my taste buds, I don't know.  I knew right off the bat that I wouldn't be making this full-spicy, since I have issues.  When I read through the recipe, and it said to use specifically-'Frank's Hot Sauce'- it reminded me of THIS recipe for Winger's Sticky Fingers that I've been wanting to try.  I thought it might be a nice compromise for my sticky situation.  (See what I did there?  Yeah, I'm also a dork.)

It was perfect for my family and me.  Tyler normally likes buffalo wings but the kids weren't going to eat something too hot and this seemed to be a perfect balance to please everyone.  It had a little bit of heat and just enough for me.  The dressing and the veggies toned it down a bit in the salad and made it perfect.

Here's what I did:
I used chicken tenderloins and cut them in half lengthwise. 
 Michelle mentioned in her post that the cornmeal mixture kind of fell off the chicken after cooking so I decided to experiment and see if I left the chicken in the cornmeal for a while, if it would stay on the chicken better.  I prepared the chicken first and left it coated in the bag for probably 20 minutes, while I got everything else ready for the salad.
 For the sauce- 1/3 cup Frank's Wing Sauce, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup brown sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups but I didn't think the extra half cup was needed and I was right-it does happen sometimes.)  Mix all together in a sauce pan and bring to boil.  Boil 1 minute and then remove from heat and set aside.  {Next time I would half this mixture, I had quite a bit left over but I've heard it's good mixed with Ranch.  If I do leave these proportions, I would reserve half to mix with Ranch and dump half over the chicken}

Once everything else was ready, and the chicken had become one with the coating, I tested my theory and cooked the chicken.  I used a bit more oil than the recipe stated, maybe 2 T altogether, but probably because I had more coated surface with my smaller pieces of chicken.
 Once the chicken is browned and cooked almost through, add the sauce and stir and turn to coat the chicken.
 I would have liked blue cheese dressing but I know my family would have not appreciated it (mainly Tyler) so I whipped up a simple, light Ranch dressing to go with it. {1/2 cup light sour cream, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, juice 1/2 lime, 3 T cilantro-combine in food processor or blender, add water to thin to desired consistency}  More kid friendly, ya know.  To make myself feel more adult-ish, I added some goat cheese to my salad.  It was a good call.
 I'm happy to report that the coating stayed on the chicken.  I decided I really liked this method of cooking the chicken and pouring the sauce over it.  I will be doing that everyday in the future.
If you'd like to try the recipe, you can visit Michelle's blog for the recipe, she was our host for the week.  Thanks for picking such a fun recipe Michelle!

Sauce:  Adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff
Dressing:  Girlplusfood Original

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Table Talk: Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies

Valerie was missing Bake 52 so she decided to pick a dessert this week.  I'm always on board with those kinds of ideas.  But then I remembered that this would be a healthier version of a dessert.  I'm fine with having fruit for dessert or something light but I'm not always a fan of turning a classic dessert into a healthier version.  I figure if you're going to eat a chocolate chip cookie, then just eat a chocolate chip cookie, don't be a pansy about it.  I expected to open the cookbook and find some weird substitutions in the recipe.  At least some applesauce or pureed prunes for the fat in the cookies.  Nope.  What I found was a pretty normal cookie recipe.  It left me wondering if these were in fact healthier?  At some point I'm going to have to do a comparison with my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe and see what the real difference is.  The book does a comparison but I'm not really sure what they were comparing this recipe to.

According to the book, the reduced the amount of butter and made up for it with the addition of some brown butter.  I don't have any pans that aren't non-stick so I just used my microwave and a glass bowl.  This was after I added the regular butter to stir it in.
 It seemed like my dough was a little less stiff than the dough in the photos.  I used my scale to measure the flour in hopes that it would be spot on but ?
 As a result of the looser dough, my cookies were a little more flat than the picture in the book.  They were still pretty good.  
They had a slight crunch on the edges while the center was softer and moist.  The next day, the cookie texture was slightly different, more of a chewy/soft combo but they were still really good. I didn't expect them to dethrone my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and they didn't, but no one was complaining.  We all really liked them.  And you can never have too many good cookie recipes.

If you'd like to try the recipe, you can visit the blog of our hostess for the week, Valerie.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Table Talk: Vegetable Lo Mein

I was so on board with this week's recipe choice!  I happen to think lo mein is one of the greatest things on earth.  I've made quite a few versions of it and most of those include me going into the kitchen and throwing a bunch of stuff together.  

We all really liked this recipe and I would make it again tomorrow.  I loved how fast it was-after everything was chopped and ready to go-and I loved that there wasn't an insane amount of dishes.

   The only thing is, I didn't realize until I was cooking that I was missing a few ingredients   I really thought I had oyster sauce, but nope.  I didn't have corn starch, which I was supposed to buy at the store and I forgot.  I used a few vegetables that weren't in the recipe-zucchini, yellow squash, and broccoli.  And I just used regular mushrooms instead of shiitake. I also used a lb of pasta instead of 12 oz so I increased the sauce amount to 1 cup chicken broth, 1/3 cup soy sauce (and I would have added 1/3 cup oyster sauce but didn't have it) so I went with 2 T brown sugar, 2 T rice vinegar and about 1 T of sweet red chili sauce and 1 T of flour to make up for my lacking corn starch.  I didn't have sriracha so I just added a few red pepper flakes.

Oh, and I also used linguine.  Have I told you guys about my weird aversion to regular spaghetti noddles?  Yeah, it's weird.  When I can, I always sub either angel hair or linguine.  Thin spaghetti is only marginally better and I'll only use that as a second to last resort.  Don't ask me to explain it either.  I'm a weirdo.  I've tried to tell you guys.

That seems like a lot of changes now that I've typed them all out......

Anyway, here's a picture of all the veggies right before I added the sauce.
 And here's a picture right before I ate it.
This was a great recipe.  Everyone should make it.  If you hate meat-less meals, a few of my cooking friends added chicken and it looks delicious.  You can buy the book, or get the recipe at Talesha's blog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TWD: Savory Brioche Pockets

After looking at the recipe, I felt like I should stuff some chicken and other things inside these 'pockets' but decided I better just stick to the recipe.  And after making them and eating them, I'm thinking maybe I should have listened to my heart.  Dramatic, I know.  I forgot to add the chives to the potato and goat cheese mixture, oops.  I ended up sprinkling them on top to try to make up for my misfortune but these just didn't wow me enough to make them again.  

It was a 2 day process for the brioche and then several different pans are needed to 'steam' the potatoes and cook the asparagus and caramelize the onions.  And honestly after all that time and all those dirty dishes, I was expecting to have my socks knocked off.  Sadly, they weren't.  My socks are still in tact.

I enjoyed mixing the dough, but we've made brioche before so I knew what to expect.  And I have to admit, I think she's so pretty.
 Calvin helped me fill up the pockets and I caught him eating asparagus!  I just about died because he usually and forcefully refuses asparagus.  So there's that.
 The pockets before the rise.
 After the rise and ready to bake.
 Baked.  The edges didn't really want to stay nicely pressed like they were in the book, but I figured the fillings were solid enough, I didn't worry too much about it.
I KNOW the brioche recipe is a winner because these Pecan Sticky Buns blew my mind and used the same brioche recipe.  I think it's just a matter of what you shove inside these things and your preferences.  If you'd like to try the recipe or a variation of it, you can visit the blog of our host for the week:  Loaves and Stitches.

I'm sure the amazing TWD bakers have come up with some mouth-watering renditions.  To see their links go HERE.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Table Talk: Breakfast Strata

The book we are using { The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook} is all about making everyday meals healthier.  I don't recall that I've ever eaten strata before, so I can't really compare it to the full-fat and calorie version but I thought this was pretty good.

My only complaint, again, is the amount of dishes this recipe created.  If I made it again, I would definitely try to streamline that.  I would also probably half the spinach and throw in some other vegetables.  I did add some mushrooms, but not nearly enough.  Also, I didn't have enough feta cheese so, after mixing the feta in with the strata, I just threw some monterey jack on top instead of more feta.

My pie weights came in handy to weigh the strata down for an hour before baking.  Fine!  I'm not fancy enough to have pie weights.  They are just beans.  Happy?!
After the weight was lifted.
After baking.
We had this for dinner but if I were going to make it for breakfast, I would put everything together the night before and refrigerate it over night.  The recipe says you can refrigerate for up to 24 hrs.

If you'd like the recipe you can buy the bookor you can visit the blog of our hostess for the week, Janet.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover