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Life after Whole 30

Whole 30 is dead, but we’re alive and we still have to eat. And because planning is a big part of my bliss, I wrote out a 30 day menu for this adventure and damnit, I was excited about making some of those dishes. So, while for lunch we may be enjoying bagels on the veranda with a glass of blush…

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Dinners have still been largely whole 30 compliant. Except for the BBQ pork mac and cheese I ate last weekend. At a restaurant. With my big girl clothes on. That day ruled. This day was okay too — I made a chicken thigh dish with sun-dried tom-toms, green beans and olives, recipe available here. 

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It was aight. Heavily seasoned with rosemary, which I discovered was growing abundantly in our garden. What an adventure it shall be to watch what else blooms! As has been usual, Jared who looooooves chicken, has been happy with all the meals. I have felt they were all fine and could be made better with the addition of cheese. This process has taught me that I will happily eat half the meat if I can eat twice the cheese, but I’m not sure that’s how it works…

 

 

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Cauliflower is better than rice

Hear me out. Rice is dumb. It takes a long time to cook, has to be heavily seasoned to taste like anything and can easily turn into mush.* I also think of it as a “nothing” food similar to pasta — it’s taking up a lot of space in my belly without bringing a lot of flavor or nutrients. I mean, I’m not best friends with cauliflower or anything, it also doesn’t have a lot of natural flavor (it’s no beet if you know what I mean) but it only took 5 minutes to cook and served the same purpose as rice underneath this sugar and soy-free beef and broccoli dish we had last night.

I’d make cauliflower like this again. The beef? Maybe. Fur sure once I can add brown sugar and soy to it. It was fine. I think I cut it the wrong way and cooked it a little too long, and everyone knows cooking beef past medium rare is letting the terrorists win.

I loosely followed this recipe. Maybe if I’d had less hubris and followed it more closely, the meat would have been more tender? Flavors were there, don’t get me wrong — I know how to make food taste good. Once again, it’s salt, people — the answer is salt.

Cauliflower is just finely chopped, sautéed in a pan with olive oil, garlic and ginger and spct (salt, peppie, cumin, turmeric — my classic four) cook over medium 5-8m. Looking forward to trying this caulirice with curry next week. Stay tuned.

*Real talk — I’m just bad at cooking rice.

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Day 2: Attempting Positivity

After reading my first two Whole 30 entries, Jared furrowed his brow and mused, “You’re going to be like this all month then?”

I can’t imagine to what he could have been referring; I’m an extremely sunny individual. With that said, I’ve decided all on my own to approach Day 2 from a more proactive stance. In pursuit of that goal, I decided to make a proper lunch for myself rather than graze on garbage snacks all day.

Since my go-to treats, cheese plate and trail mix, are verboten, I have employed the most powerful tool available to me: vinegar. If it stands still, I will be pickling it — this week it’s cucumbers, onion and beets. Next week — the world!

Not sure if it’s my new attitude or my heavy hand with the seasoning but this salad was tasty. I’d say I didn’t even miss the bleu cheese, but no one would believe me because it would be total bullshit — I always miss the bleu cheese. It could be ice cream and I’d miss the bleu cheese. Still, a solidly delicious lunch. I’m amazing. But vinegar is the real star here.

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Whole 30 – Day 1

Turkey and mushroom stuffed bell peppers.

They were fine.

Recipe:

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Cook the following on the stove in a skillet with olive oil:

1/2lb Ground Turkey

1/2 cup mushrooms; chopped

1 shallot; chopped

4 cloves of garlic; chopped

1/2 onion; chopped

1 jalapeño; chopped

Then stuff into the following:

2 Bell Peppers; halved

Finally cook in oven for 10-15min. Top with guacamole and salsa or not, it couldn’t possibly matter less. It will still be fine. Salad optional, but you should eat it.

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Mac and Cheese Steak

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

My person has been going on for weeks about how incredible a cheesesteak made with mac and cheese instead of cheese sauce would be. This week, I gave in…

First, I marinated the steak in olive oil, balsamic, a little soy sauce, garlic, and SPCC (salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, otherwise known as the names of my future children). I used skirt steak and there is some debate about how long to let this particular cut of meat marinate for. If you have an opinion on this, please share in the comments!

Then, while the steak was a-marinating, I started the cheese sauce. I will be honest, this turned out a little strange, so if anyone has a better method, I’d be thrilled to hear of it. I started by sautéing some garlic, onions and jalapeños.

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Then I added equal parts butter and flour until I got a ‘lil rue going. Finally, once the rue turned brown, I started adding the milk and the cheese. I used a mixture of cheddar, fontina and gruyere cheeses — again, if anyone has better cheeses for mac and cheese, I am enthusiastically accepting suggestions 🙂

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The sauce was creamy and it tasted good, but the consistency was a little thin, that’s all. Perhaps I should have simply used less milk, but I managed by just adding more cheese. In the end, I had way too much cheese sauce, but who’s complaining?
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After I added my whole wheat elbows, which I recognize is a little like adding lettuce to a double cheese burger, but we all carry our little delusions. So, after I made this a healthy meal through the addition of whole wheat pasta, it was time to get that skillet hot and ready for the steak. mac and cheese steak, recipe, skirt steak recipe, mac and cheese recipe, homemade mac and cheese, comfort food

Since skirt steak is not a thick cut of meat, a searing-hot pan is paramount. Once that baby’s practically smoking, slam that steak down and hear that devilishly good hiss. …. Do you hear it? If not, next time the pan needs to be hotter. I only cooked this for two minutes on each side and then I let it rest for 10 minutes. Then I sliced it as thin as my knife would slice and it looked like this:
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If you like your meat cooked more than that, leave it on another minute or two. Then, after toasting the hero, I assembled this heart attack of a sammie: mac and cheese steak, recipe, skirt steak recipe, mac and cheese recipe, homemade mac and cheese, comfort foodAnd I saw that it was good.

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Veggie Chili & Jalapeño Cornbread

A few weeks ago, it was still winter in NYC so I wanted to make a warm-me-up meal and what does that better than chili? I decided to make a vegetarian 3 bean with black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. For a little something extra, I decided to try my hand at some home made jalapeno corn bread. But first, the chili:
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This is a lot of chopping, but I’m into that sort of thing. Here’s what’s in this skillet:

1 red bell pepper, 1 poblano pepper, 1 long hot pepper, 1 jalapeno, 1 purple onion, 5 cloves garlic, the aforementioned beans, cilantro, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and the holy quadrinity: salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne.

I used to tell myself that I would cook more if only I had the proper cooking equipment. As you can see, by virtue of the fact that I gleefully make my chili in a skillet on the stove, that I have thrown that nonsense to the wind. It doesn’t take fancy equipment to cook great meals, it just takes a little creativity. For example, I had run out of foil on this particular day and, since it was freezing out, instead of getting more, I did this:

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And guess what? It flippin’ worked just fine. I let the chili simmer, covered, for 6 hours. It’s pretty good after 4 hours, but the longer, the better so since I had the time I decided to keep it on until it looked like this:

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This recipe was created in my brain thanks to a few other recipes. I started with 2 cups yellow corn meal, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 egg and 1 stick of butter. Here’s where it gets controversial: there are at least two schools of thought on corn bread. One is sugar, one is no sugar. I heard Emeril Lagasse makes his with no sugar, so since I’m a sheep, I made this with no sugar. But yes salt, add some salt!veggie chili, chili, cornbread, jalapeno cornbread, vegetarian, vegan, recipe

This batter stays a little clumpy, so don’t over mix it, just do a medium-mixing job and pour it into a greased pan. I sprinkled the jalapenos on top here so that the didn’t all sink to the bottom of the pan during baking:

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Pop that bad boy into a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until it can pass a toothpick test, whichever comes first. I’m not going to lie, but I am going to brag: this cornbread was pretty good for a first timer (I guess I need to work on my bragging skills). veggie chili, chili, cornbread, jalapeno cornbread, vegetarian, vegan, recipe

I have to admit, however, that I think it would have been better with some sugar. Sorry, Emeril.  veggie chili, chili, cornbread, jalapeno cornbread, vegetarian, vegan, recipeTop that shiz with some fresh onions, cheese and avocado and that’s what I call a warm-me-up meal. POP POP.

 

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Roasted Veggie Gratin Recipe

This has been a week of celebrations for those in the Judeo-Christian faiths and a big part of those celebrations is the food! Easter dinner for me growing up in Texas was almost an identical repeat of Thanksgiving. We would gather, eat turkey, ham, stuffing, green bean casserole and we would watch the Texas Longhorns play.

A few weeks ago I was looking to make a fun side dish to accompany an otherwise unremarkable dinner at home when I stumbled upon a recipe for a Veggie Tian (whatever that means). It was a mixture of veggies and potatoes baked with parmesan so I took a few ideas, created my own version and called it a roasted veggie gratin. Last week, I had the pleasure of joining my person at a Seder for the first night of Passover and I decided to bring this as a side dish.

As most great dishes do, this one began with garlic and onions.

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First I sautéed garlic and onions in some olive oil.

I greased a square baking dish and spread the garlic and onion mixture along the bottom of it.

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Then I cut tomatoes, potatoes and zucchinis.

I cut the vegetables about a quarter of an inch thick and pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees.

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Arrange in a spiral fashion and sprinkle with salt, pepper, etc.

The “etc” here can be whatever you’re into. I’m a cumin-cayenne kinda gal so I added those. I think the original recipe called for thyme and rosemary, so whatever taste you’re going for ought to do just fine. Bake for 35 minutes.

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After 35 minutes add parmesan cheese and pop that baby back in!

Let it bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the cheese has browned.

https://leacraftspencer.com/2012/04/10/a-passover-seder/

Serve immediately and enjoy 🙂

I hope everyone had a wonderful Passover and Easter!!

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Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

So here’s how it went down:

Last week I was dying for something cheesy and delicious so I suggested we hit up our local favorite, Queens Comfort, a magical place that boasts the most fabulous macaroni and cheese. The only problem was mi amor. He too wanted some delicious mac and cheese, but alas Queens Comfort serves theirs with bacon and my boy is of the tribe, so bacon is a deal breaker.

So I suggested instead that I would make a delicious baked mac and cheese at home that was nutritionally appropriate for both of us. Then, while at the market, a non-kosher lightbulb went off, and we decided to kick it up a notch and add some buffalo chicken. BAM. And we’re off!

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Melt butter with garlic & onions.

The first (and most complex) step was the sauce, which began with 3 tbsp butter. To this I added garlic onions and some jalapeño (cause I’m spicy). After this began to simmer, I whisked in 3 tbsp flour, effectively creating a roux.

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Whisk in the flour.

Once the mixture turns a lovely shade of brown, add in 3 cups of milk. Then start slowly adding whatever cheese you fancy. We used cheddar here:

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Add milk and cheese.

Then once it’s all melty and delicious, lower the heat, but stir occasionally whilst getting the rest of the dish together.

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Marinade chicken in buffalo sauce.

I had my chicken marinating in buffalo sauce for about a half an hour, then into a buttery pan until it looks good enough to eat. I then moved the chicken to a cutting board to cool before I sliced it into bite-sized pieces. Then everything into the pan!

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Add broccoli and pasta to pan.

Return the chicken the skillet, followed by whatever kind of pasta you enjoy. We used whole-wheat elbows to convince ourselves this dish was healthy. See also: use of broccoli in this dish.

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Close up of the magic.

Because I’m naive enough to think you can just send a man to the grocery store and expect him to know what you mean when you say “foil baking pan,” I got to coin the soon-to-be-world-famous “mac and cheese pie” with these babies:

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Top with bleu cheese, breadcrumbs and butter.

I scooped it all into two of these pans, then covered them with a little more cheddar, a few bleu cheese crumbles and some breadcrumbs. Then pour on another 1/2 cup of butter and into the oven at 400!

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Cook at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

And in approximately 25-30 minutes, this is what you’ll have. Yeah. Mmm.

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And enjoy!!

Take THAT, Queens Comfort!

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Home Made Egg Rolls

We were lucky enough to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai while on vacation in Thailand this fall where we learned to make the elusive Pad Thai my  man craves so much. <– Stay tuned for that recipe. Today we’re going to make a version of the spring rolls we learned to make during that class. I say “version,” because I couldn’t find any “spring roll” wrappers, only “egg roll,” so the filling will be the same, but the outside a little crunchier. Who cares?! I get to use my new deep fryer and that’s really what this is all about, so off we go!

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Garlic, Carrots, Scallions, Bean Sprouts, Tofu, Chicken, Glass Noodles.

Put the water on for the rice noodles to boil then get to chopping! Obviously one would do fine stuffing an egg roll with anything (I’m even thinking a banana-nutella egg roll might hit the spot), but in this case we were really trying to channel those authentic Thai flavors, so I followed the recipe. First heat the oil, then throw in the garlic for a minute, followed by the chicken and tofu for another minute or two. Then throw in the noodles (followed immediately by a tablespoon or two of water), then toss in the other veggies, give it a stir and BAM: easy as that.

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Add fresh cabbage.

Next heap a portion of the mixture into whatever wrapper you are able to find at the market and get to rolling. I added some fresh cabbage to mine for the pretty color 🙂

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Roll it up, paste with egg.

Wrapping these things takes a bit of finesse; I think it’s easiest to roll from the corners, then over roll a bit, tuck in the edges, paste with egg, then roll it on up and paste a little more. The package of wrappers said to use water to make it stick, so if anyone has done that and thinks that’s easier than egg, please let me know! And now for the fun part!

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And fry-eems up!

This Christmas, I requested a deep fryer and was thrilled to receive this amazing and super easy to use compact fryer that fits perfectly in my apartment. Gracias Fajah. I used plain veggie oil to fry as I’ve been told olive oil has too much of its own flavor to properly cook Thai food. I don’t want to brag, but these were pretty delicious:

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Am I right?

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Chicken Corn Chowder

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Or at least it’s cold enough to warrant making something as decadently creamy and delicious as chowdah! Since we maintain a fairly seafood-free household, the first thing that popped into my head was chicken corn chowder, which I thought would pair perfectly with the wet and chilly weather we’ve been having.

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Thyme, rosemary, carrots, celery, onion

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Let the chicken simmer 20-30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve only used chicken stock in one recipe before and I really didn’t enjoy the outcome so I thought I’d just poach the chicken in water with some herbs and veggies along with a chicken bouillon cube. Little fun fact: I once dated a guy who convinced me chicken bouillon (which I had never seen before) was in fact chicken excrement. I was young and he was a jerk-a-saurus rex, but I digress…

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Mise-en-place de chowdah.

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In the pan with some buttah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cut 3 stalks celery, 4 ears corn, 2 potatoes, 1 jalapeño and 4 cloves garlic (because I’m afraid of vampires). All of this goes into a pan or pot on medium heat until the onions are cooked through.

Meanwhile, the chicken should be finished cooking by now, so remove it from the pot and set it aside until it’s cool enough to shred. While it’s cooling, strain the poaching liquid and add it to the potatoes, corn and veggies. Let the potatoes cook in the broth until they are fork tender before adding the cream and chicken:

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Let it simmer a few minutes and serve!

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It’s like a hug from the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The amount of liquid to use depends on how thick and creamy you’d like your chowder to be. I used a 2:1-ish ratio of broth to cream, but I think it’s all personal preference. One woman’s “recipe-gone-wrong” is another woman’s “recipe-gone-even-better-than-expected.” It’s all perspective. 🙂

What’s your favorite kind of chowder?

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