WHAT ARE YOU EATING? NOT BORING HEALTHY RECIPES

leaf stars

Courtesy; Fancypants

As the sands of time pass through the hourglass of life, I find myself trying harder to eat better.

I don’t diet because I have the rebellious tendency to defy them when they get hard or start to annoy me or when I just want a damned cookie. Plus, I don’t have food allergies, really and food and diet shame is a real pet peeve of mine. So I try to eat a sensible mix of things I want and things that I should eat prepared in ways that make me want to eat them.

It doesn’t seem so hard, but I get bored after a while. Bored, bored and so I have tools for when I start to get angry at the soup I’ve been eating all week and demoralized by salad.

It happens to the best of us. Food should not do this to us. Let’s not let food get us down!

Cooking Life Lesson the First: I shop Pinterest for not-boring healthy recipes when I am not bored. That way, when I am bored, I can find inspiration.

Second, I keep it lazy. Generally, when I have gotten bored, it’s because I have been preparing fancy meals at the end of long days and weeks and I am too tired to go on in this breakneck, fast-paced, dangerous way.

Third, leftovers. I want all the possible bang for my buck. This means at least a couple of lunches and perhaps something that can be incorporated into a new meal. Roasted veggies, simple proteins. CHIMICHURRI.

Here are some of my absolute favorite Not-Boring Healthy Recipes:


1. Super-duper Easy Broiled Pork Chops with Roasted Veggies and Chimichurri. (I tend to not take pictures of broiled pork chops, because I can’t make them look delectable, not even on Instagram)

I don’t remember where I got this technique and I know for sure it’s not something I thought of all by myself, but I am unable to find reference to it after some intense Googling and muttering to myself about pork chops in my cubicle.

Anyhoo, charming back story: My mother could not cook pork to save her life. It always, ALWAYS turned out tough and after years of trying, she gave it up. After my run-in with the most insanely easy technique ever (and alas, no one to credit), she still doesn’t make them. But I single handedly reversed years of terrible pork chop ju-ju and never got them wrong again:

  • Put pork chops (this recipe is for a medium-sized cut) in one layer on a baking sheet. I like to make a bunch at once.
  • Salt both sides heavily
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let sit while you prepare the rest of your meal (30 minutes to an hour).
  • Rinse salt off, pat dry, DO NOT season with salt. Pepper, maybe but no salt. Are you crazy or somethin’ ?
  • Depending on the thickness, broil for 8 minutes on one side and 12 on the other.
  • Let sit, covered with foil for 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy leftovers whole or chopped in salads, scrambles, sandwich wraps, stir-frys…I mean, really.

I know.

A recipe with built-in prep time is a beautiful thing. So meanwhile, we chop up some broccoli and cauliflower, beets, zucchini, whatever, but definitely roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is widely known and accepted to be the very best thing known to man.

  • Chop uniformily
  • Cover in salt/ pepper/ olive oil
  • Roast for 40 or so minutes at 350
  • Enjoy leftovers in salads, scrambles, sandwich wraps, stir-frys…And with that roasted garlic, you are only limited by your imagination. I can’t think of a time when it would be a bad thing to have around.

This last part only involves a blender. It’s chimichurri. Say it a couple of times, it’s really fun and it sounds remarkably like “chupacabra.”  Here is a precise recipe for you, but basically you:

  • Dump parsley, garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil in a blender and you blend.
  • Enjoy leftovers in soups and salads, over meats and veggies
  • If you’re not into chimichurri, try this fabulous Sweet Pea Spread as an alternative. I put it on the famous Crack Toast, but on pork chops, it is dee-voine! Similarly amazing is Karam’s Garlic Sauce if you are that lazy. Which I am. We don’t have a dishwasher.
Courtesy; Amazon.

It looks like this. Recognize. Courtesy; Amazon.

2. Smoothies. I basically eat the same thing for breakfast every day and you know how that can weigh on a person, so these are perfect for those times when you wake up and you are hungry but willing to go without breakfast because you can’t bring yourself to turn on the stove. DON’T GO WITHOUT BREAKFAST, DUMMY!

For dinner, I try to keep the sugar down because I have a hard enough time sleeping, but I get home too late and am absolutely not cooking, enter smoothies.

Courtesy; Thug Kitchen

Courtesy; Thug Kitchen

  • THUG KITCHEN is my spirit animal of recipe writing. Spinach Cooler.
  • 3 3-ingredient smoothies including one of my favorite breaky smoothies, the Banana/ Peanut butter/ cacao powder. I like to add spinach because I’m weird.

3. Brazilian Shrimp Stew. It’s wintertime and while this girl loves her some soup, I get bored and this stuff makes for awesome leftovers and soups are easy, so everybody wins. I like to add some plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Courtesy; I Breath...I'm HUngry

Courtesy; I Breathe…I’m Hungry

4. Hash. It’s hearty, it’s easy and it’s as healthy as you want it to be. I love I Breathe…I’m Hungry’s recipe for Chorizo, Kale and Sweet Potato. She has also re-ignited my love for chorizo, so for that I am forever in debt.

Courtesy; I Breathe...I'm Hungry

Courtesy; I Breathe…I’m Hungry

POTLUCK FINEST; EASY PEASY CLEMENTINE SQUEAZY

WHO ENJOYS LAZINESS, SAY AYE!

Lazy Holiday preparedness?

Good. Welcome.

Event season is upon us, dearest darlings. I have many invitations on my desk, most all requesting that I “bring something to share!”

I get it; We don’t want to do all of the work, we want to hang out with our friends and squish babies and we will have our hands full with that and in the other hand, a cocktail so…bring snackies!

The trade off, of course, is that we are fussing around, trying to keep things warm, keeping them looking appetizing, wondering if people are liking it, making picky kids eat it…Aaaaand not really making Merry at all.

So this year, I decided to find the easiest, laziest dead-ringer that I could. The sign up sheet went out, it was time to declare our intentions. With brazen confidence, I typed “Kalua Pork Sliders.”

Gauntlet thrown.

It was the best possible scenario; pick up rolls, pick up cole slaw (and doctor it up a bit with cilantro, salt and pepper) and a croc pot. It was bliss AND it disappeared. I left there with nothing but pride. ALL THE PRIDE.

I will mention that the other part of this particular invite was to enter a drink into the Drink Competition (which I won, ya’ll) and I made the pork and the drink side-by-side and they cross-pollinated in the best way:


Courtesy Perpetually Hungry Blog who suggests fried onions on top...What is there to disagree with?

Courtesy Perpetually Hungry Blog who suggests fried onions on top…Genius. Also check out the cole slaw recipe, which looks excellent.

Kalua Pork a la Fancy Pants:

  • A good, large amount of Pork Shoulder. Like maybe 4 pounds.
  • Hoisin Sauce. Hoisin make everything tasty. Use lots of globs on top-like half of the bottle. Using this, I cut the amount of Hawaiian salt that is added in half.
  • Clementines-3 minimum sliced into rounds and plopped on top.
  • 1 Tbsp Hawaiian salt
  • Garlic. I would start at 6 cloves or so because I am no wussie.

-Dump ingredients into croc pot, leave on low for 6-8 hours until meat is unable to be picked up because it is so tender, it falls defiantly out of your hands and shreds itself.

-Remove meat from croc pot, remove liquid and chill for a bit until the fat separates, remove fat. mix shredded pork and liquid. Keep on low until served. Watch friend and loved ones become ensnared by it’s hearty-yet-light goodness.

Can you believe how easy that is? Any event the weekend after Thanksgiving and I am making this automatically. The hoisin/ citrus combo is one that I fell in love with after trying the best chicken wing recipe in the world: Her domestic majesty (you needn’t bother correcting me,) Martha Stewart’s Spicy Sweet Chicken Wings. If you are looking for a backup recipe that people will adore, I would recommend this one, even though you need to be less lazy to prepare them.

spicy sweet chicken wings

That caramelized color is where it’s at. Courtesy; Martha Stewart Living

Now, I will be honest; I knew I had the cocktail contest in my pocket because this is my signature wintertime drink and no one in their right mind can deny it’s magic. Not even my mother-who doesn’t drink liquor. The same Aunt mentioned above was kind enough to share her recipe for Honey Preserved Clementines a few years back because they are stunning and I had to have them all to myself. You can put them in everything (other alcoholic drinks, non-alchy drinks,  an upside down cake or an icing…) and they will win hearts.

No. They will STEAL hearts.

They don’t stand a chance.

I call it the Tummy Warmer and it goes a lil something like this:

  • Ice in a lowball glass-crushed
  • A shot of bourbon. I used Burnside.
  • A tablespoon of Honey Preserved Clementines-Include a slice of clementine in the glass (even the rinds are edible. My favorite part!)
  • Ginger Ale to the top.
  • If you want to get fancy, add a smooshed Amarena Cherry.

The Clementines are the absolute easiest thing in the world; you cook them for 10 minutes on the stove, leave them overnight then transfer them to a jar.

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

*Pro Tip; If you really want to be the darling of the crowd, you could even bring a few of the smallest mason jars and let people take a few slices with syrup home.

*Pro Tip the Second; fiddle with the spices. Don’t be afraid. It’s the holidays, so you’ll have plenty extra. I love cardamom, so I go nuts with that.

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU EATING? THE THANKSGIVING EDITION

I feel like when the question is asked “does your family have a weird recipe that always shows up on the Thanksgiving Day spread?” that there are two camps; the “No! What a weird question. How weird can these recipes be? What kinds of bizarre things are showing up at other celebrations?”

And then there is the “Ooooooh, the weirdness” camp.

I would be apart of the second camp because of the Aspic. The tomato aspic.

Like this, only more ugly.

Like this, only more uglier.

As you can see, it’s like a Jell-o but with more “Ooooooooh” and then followed by shudders.

You know in that movie Julie and Julia where Amy Adams is making gelatin out of a calf’s foot and you are sitting there wondering why anyone would ever do such a thing? I wonder that, too. This is what aspics were originally made of. My mom thankfully uses lemon flavored Jell-o.

Sigh. I can’t believe that’s the trade-off here.

-Aaaah, Doughmesstic. You say it so well; Aspic. There’s a Reason No One Makes it Anymore.

No one ever believes that a) it exists until they Google it or b) that such an antiquated recipe would ever make it’s way to the King of Feasts. Surely something so ridiculous is filtered out in the (very) early planning phase?

If only there was a planning phase; Our day is a free-for-all; Folks show up all willie-nillie and plop down their Costco offerings buffet-style, sit…Somewhere and make awkward conversation, usually inspired by the aspic. It’s tradition.

So, no. No planning phase to speak of.

Anyhoo, my mother is a lovely and well-intended woman and yet she horrifies us all with this Aspic and it’s accompanying garlic cream sauce every year because “it’s tradition.” Her mother made it for the sisters and now she makes it for us while we tease her relentlessly and poke at it’s wiggly bits.

She adds tons of olives and doesn’t use a mold so it ends up looking like this:

moms aspic

Courtesy; Fancy Pants

And I end up looking like this very confused and skeptical man:

aspicman

COURTESY MID CENTURY MENU

So I’m dying to know what freaky stuff is on your Turkey Day plate!

WHAT ARE YOU EATING? CHILLY. CHILI.

So this Polar Vortex thing…Crazy, right?

I for one am glad we got a little taste so early on. It has pushed me, full-on, with both hands, into soup and chili season. There is nothing more soothing than a soup pot full of stock bubbling on the stove while I hunker down, Baby Boom playing in the background, a glass of wine, warm footwear and maybe some warm blankets in the laundry. MMMmmmm…

This recipe is so easy that it’s a little shameful, but after weeks of braising and babysitting, it is nice to have chili make itself.

Sure, it’s a lot of beans. It’s a lot of cans. It’s not the most from scratch version ever, but it is Hubb’s favorite so no one cares. We are not about food shame here.

Chili is all about personal preference. Sometimes, I omit a certain bean and add another can of something else depending on what I have on hand. I never add salt; between the chorizo and the canned stuff, it is just not necessary. This recipe started out vegetarian, but friends, dearest loves, honeybabylambs…Just do it, k? Eat the chorizo. I know what I’m talking about.

ALL THE BEANS Crock Pot Chorizo Chili:

  • 1 14oz can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 14oz can piquinto beans NOT rinsed
  • 1 14oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14oz can chili beans IN chili sauce
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can green chiles of desired spiciness
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • Several garlic cloves, minced (I use 4-6). You can trust me, I am definitely not a vampire…
  • 1 lb Mexican Chorizo- I usually do pork.
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Plug in crock pot. Set on low. Dump in above ingredients. Let cook overnight or High about 4 hours-as long as chorizo is cooked.

I know that sounds like a lot, but you can handle it, trust me.

We haven’t even discussed the best part; Toppings. I do:

  • Cilantro and/or shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Tortilla chips– ¡VIVA NACHOS!

This week though, I am trying a new recipe; White Bean Chicken Chili by Giada.

Courtesy; Food Network

Courtesy; Food Network

Anything that you can make into nachos, right?? Plus, it has swiss chard in it, so technically, it’s a salad. AmIright?

WHAT ARE YOU EATING? THE CRACK TOAST EDITION

I am super excited about this week’s entry. There have been many firsts and I am anxious to share them with you. We will get to the Crack Toast in just a moment.

First, the Grande Dame herself, Boeuf Bourguignon! It’s Ina’s and it was delish! The perfect thing to make on a chilly Fall day. Some wine for you, some a lot of wine for the boeuf, some music and your house will smell fantastic. Hubbs wanted beef stew, which I don’t really care for (too many crock pot versions, I think), so I decided on this as the compromise. He has promised never to ask for beef stew again. Glorious over toasted crusty bread. In fact, I must insist that you only eat it over toasted crusty bread, which makes this an entire post about things to eat on crusty bread.

Objections?

I didn’t think so.

Courtesy: Food Netowrk

Courtesy: Food Netowrk

Next we have the new star of breakfast. Hubbs has always made “breakfast toast,” Toast with cream cheese, avocado, some garlic powder and Sriracha and eggs. But this, friends? This takes breakfast toast and elevates it into Crack Toast. Obviously, I do not mean that literally though you may consider some drastic measures to get your hands on more. Friends will definitely look at you like you have been holding out on them.

Let us first make the Sweet Pea Spread. It’s so easy and I had everything on hand already. Just look at how pretty this one turned out:

Courtesy: Tim van Poucke

Courtesy: Tim van Poucke

But then, we take us over the top. Smitten Kitchen took us over the top. I swear, her blog is the blog of my people only with better writing and commentary… Anyhoo, if you don’t already know, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the Crispy Egg! Brace yourselves, my loves. This is a game changer.

Courtesy Deb Perelman

Courtesy Deb Perelman

So for the Crack Toast, You will just spread some cream cheese on your toasted crusty bread, then the Pea Spread and then, dearests, the Crispy Egg.

Go forth and eat, my beautiful babies!

WHAT ARE YOU EATING? TOMATOS

It’s Fall and I am finally ready to turn the oven back on. Like putting on close-toed shoes or pants for the first time in months, it’s taking some getting used to.

Earlier this year, around August 12th specifically, I decided that there will be no more cooking in the Summertime ever again.

One less thing. I have my reasons.

Since then, I have been hoarding cold-weather cravings and recipes (I can’t wait for chili!) but in the name of ease of execution and prep time, I have started out pretty basic. Getting myself back into chopping tons of onions and garlic (since they are the basis for everything worth eating in the Fall and Winter) and just getting back into the kitchen. The results have made me so happy.

I mean, roasted cauliflower and goat cheese. That’s really all you need to know about life. It’s the very, very end of tomato season, so you might as well pair it with goat cheese (isn’t it funny how many ingredients you can say that about?) Everyone can have their pumpkin what-have-yous, I am still holding onto tomato until it’s really gone.

And then I will switch to pumpkin.

This recipe indicates that this casserole is a lovely “side dish,” which I fully dismiss and double it, so there is plenty for work lunches. You won’t be sorry.

Shakshuka courtesy Deb Perelman-aka Smitten Kitchen.

Shakshuka courtesy Deb Perelman-aka Smitten Kitchen.

Shakshuka is not a new dish in my catalog, but it was a quick favorite and so easy. Also, fun to say. No one knows for sure how to pronounce it, everyone loves to eat it, spicy and healthy and warming. I double the garlic, sorta my thing. I come from a family of shameless vampires.*

This is the ultimate breakfast. The ultimate meal. Hubbs enjoys it over rice, I think it’s best served over a lightly toasted crusty bread.

We agree to disagree.

There are few people we can trust in this world with spot on recipe ideas and Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is one of them. Cook’s Country is the other. Everyone else is highly suspect.

Happy Fall! Get this computer out of your face and go roast something! Put on a sweater, too!

*Pro-tip; Request extra garlic with your thai food. They will look at you like you are insane, your friends may keep their distance, but I promise, you will never be the same.

And by that, I mean because your taste buds’ minds will be blown.

SPICE CAKE VICTORY

Super professional.

Super professional.

After receiving a request for a birthday spice cake, this diligent baker took to the internet and discovered that there are ten bajillon different kinds of spice cake; Apple, pumpkin, pumpkin apple, cinnamon, buttermilk and so on. Having never made one, I trusted Emeril’s Buttermilk Spice Cake (5 stars on the Food Network website.)

Once I got to the grocery, I noticed that the spices required for this recipe were expensive. In a moment of pure, unadulterated laziness, I picked up a boxed cake.

I was not particularly proud of myself and as if to drive home the bad decision, the cake caved in the middle while it was cooling. Disaster. Serendipitously, plans to celebrate Grandpa’s birthday were put off.

Over the weekend, on another trip to the grocery, this here kitchen warrior found herself in the bulk spice aisle and you know something? I bought only what I needed and it was a MUCH better deal (what madman uses a whole tin of ground allspice before it goes rancid, anyway?)

This writer took a stab at the Emeril spice cake and friends, friends, friends; there is a reason for every last one of those stars.

After reading the comments, I decided to try another frosting recipe; Joy the Baker’s cream cheese brown sugar frosting, but it turned out too sweet (even after using less powdered sugar than it called for) and grainy and as an amateur cake decorator, I can tell you; it was difficult to work with.  So don’t judge.

Do you have a favorite Spice Cake recipe?