Citrus Salmon with Asian Cucumber and Carrot Salad

I love salmon. I probably make it at least once a week, as it’s an easy, healthy meal that doesn’t involve too much prep work. And, I know some of you will make fun of me for my Costco obsession, but you can get a ton of wild caught Alaskan salmon for such a great price there, so I always have a frozen filet in the freezer. Yay Costco and don’t hate people. Its not worth it. My love for Costco will never die.

The main problem is, I’m pretty limited when it comes to cooking the salmon. I usually season it with some salt and pepper or maybe some specialized fish seasoning if I’m getting crazy, but that’s it. I am not creative. I do not open my kitchen cabinets and think, “oh, I’ll add a smidge of that and a dash of that” and then voila, I have a beautiful meal. It’s just not how I roll. Maybe one day, but not today.

Anyway, last night I decided I needed to break free from my salmon rut, so I did a little research, and came up with a modified version of a citrus salmon I found online. To go with that, I decided to do a cold Asian-inspired cucumber and carrot salad. Once I had it all on the plate I realized that the meal was a bit, I dunno, ORANGE. But you know, it was pretty delish. It reminded me that spring is on it’s way, and soon enough we’ll be tons of bright citrus and fresh greens and I CANNOT WAIT!

So, without further ado, my citrus salmon and Asian Cucumber and Carrot Salad, both adapted from MyRecipes.com. Try them.

salmon

salad

Citrus Salmon:

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

The juice from 1-2 oranges

1/4 cup light soy sauce

2 Tablespoons rice vineagar

1 garlic clove, chopped.

Mix all ingredients together and marinate salmon for at least 60 minutes. Cook on 500 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until fish flakes.

Asian Cucumber and Carrot Salad

1/4 cup lite soy sauce

1/4 rice vinegar (plus a dash more if you like it vinegar-y like I do)

1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

2 teaspoons sugar

2 cloves minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 chopped seeded cucumbers

8 0z. matchstick carrots (I bought these pre-chopped = lazy)

Whisk the first six ingredients together. Toss in cucumber and carrots. Top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Homemade Yogurt

Yeah, you read that right. I’m getting seriously crunchy and making my own yogurt. And it is AWESOME.

It all started in Mexico, when my cousin Emily and I started talking about our love of yogurt. I know, riveting conversation right? Well I am 30 now, so I guess this is what it’s come to. She was telling me about how she makes her own yogurt, and I was fascinated. I mean, I already grow my own vegetables (well I try at least) and I compost, so I had visions of myself taking my bongo drums down to the farmer’s market and selling my homemade yogurt. I mean, it’s the logical next step right? I could even stop shaving my legs!

ANYWAY.

The only problem was, you need this little machine to do it, otherwise you have to keep your oven heated at 110 degrees all day and that’s not really feasible for me. I couldn’t really see myself buying this machine, because it’s what John refers to as a “uni-tasker,” meaning it’s only useful for doing one thing. And John is not a fan of the uni-tasker. And of course I would never go against my husband’s wishes, right? ;)

BUT, when it showed up on my doorstep as a 30th birthday gift from Emily and her husband, I could hardly contain my excitement. I mean, who was I to defy the universe? The stars had aligned and I was destined to make yogurt. So make yogurt I did.

Check it out. So easy.

yogurtmaker

Assemble all the ingredients. Some yogurt for the starter (you have to get all those bacteria from somewhere), the milk, and the yogurt maker. That’s it!

ingredients

First, take your milk (2 cups) and heat on medium low until the edges are bubbling and steam rises from the top. Then, you take it off of the heat and let it cool until it reaches the “add starter” point on the nifty thermometer they’ve included with the kit.

add starter

Next, mix some of the milk with a heaping tablespoon or two of store-bought yogurt. This is where the bacteria are introduced. Next time, you can use the yogurt you’ve already made. Once you’ve mixed everything together, fill the little yogurt jars evenly.

fillerup

Now all you have to do is plug her in and wait, in this case I went with the standard ten hours. Next time, I’ll probably go a little longer for a thicker yogurt.

timing

Now I did this on a Saturday and we went out on Saturday night. But of course I had to be home by 10:30 to take care of my yogurt because if you leave it sitting too long after the timer goes off without moving to the frig, the whey will separate and the yogurt will be ruined. As you’d expect, I did get some grief from my friends for going home early to attend to my precious yogurt. But I’ll be getting the last laugh when I’m known as the yogurt queen round the world.

After the time’s up, refrigerate.

refrigerate

I may need to work on pouring these more evenly. Next time.

In the morning, enjoy with some frozen blueberries and granola. Delicious.

final

breakfast

Taking Some Down Time

I am watching Paula Deen doing a “Fried Christmas” meal right now.

Seriously. Fried Christmas.

Oh Paula. If I was her husband I’d be sneaking spinach salads every day. She’s pretty much trying to kill everyone she loves. This meal includes a full-on fried ham, loaded mashed-potatoes, fried asparagus with cream sauce, and red velvet bread pudding.

Holy Lord.

courtestypauladeen

This in-between-holidays period is kind of a dead time for cooking for me. John has been/will be out of town for two weeks in December, and when he’s gone, I stick to easy meals like opening up a can of soup. In fact, I’m probably keeping Amy’s black bean chili on the shelves. I love that stuff.

I guess I’m just resting my culinary muscles for the big things, the pies, the casseroles, etc. Oh and for those of you wondering, the chocolate hazelnut pie for Thanksgiving was a huge hit. Will be my new pie for sure. Anyway, yeah. Just resting the culinary muscles. Gotta be well-rested if I’m going to attempt to another pie this month. Two pies in the span of two months. Wow. Makes my stirring arm hurt just thinking about it.

It’s not that I even have that much cooking to do for the holidays, because mostly the older generations in my family still own those duties. I think it’s just the idea of the holidays that exhaust me. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but the decorating, the list-making, the cooking, the dressing up, the parties, the mad dash to the mall, it’s all just sort of exhausting. It’s like every meal, every night and weekend, are scheduled down to the last minute. And for a girl who hates making plans in advance, it can really put a cramp in my down-time.

So tonight, because I can, I guess you’ll find my curled up on the couch, watching Paula Deen fry a ham, and eating a cup of black bean chili. This is what the holidays are all about people.

Branching Out

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to cooking dinner, I tend to get in a rut. I stick to the same salad, or turkey burgers, or salmon, or chili that I know and love, and I don’t often get out of my comfort zone. I do like having a repertoire of dishes that I can come back to day after day and week after week. I know I can trust these dishes, that they won’t let me down. They’re easy to make, they’re healthy and best of all, they taste great. Well, they do the trick, and that’s what counts.

Sometimes though, it’s just time to try something new. Time to throw the pasta out with the bath pasta water and move on. So yesterday, while shopping at Whole Foods all hopped up on a cappuccino and an exploratory spirit, I decided to really throw caution to the wind. Screw those boring tacos I had planned for dinner. I was going to branch out. I was going to attempt something wildly new, something so different, something truly phenomenal. No, I wasn’t going to attempt to Master the Art of French Cooking.

I was going to try to make a curry.

An Indian curry to be exact, using a spice packet that had really already done all of the work for me. The thing is, I like Indian food, but actually cooking it myself has always seemed completely out of my range. All of those spices and sauces and exotic ingredients have the ability to intimidate a relatively boring cook such as myself. But when I saw the Kitchens of India Chicken Curry paste I thought what the hell, it was worth a try.

courtestykitchensofindia

It turned out to be a piece of cake. Cut up some chicken breasts, mix the spice packet with a cup of water, and simmer for 25 minutes. Serve with whole wheat naan and some sauteed spinach (makeshift saag I guess) for a healthy, delicious dinner. John and I both loved it so I think we’ll definitely be trying this one again. And now that I know Indian food doesn’t always have to be so difficult, maybe one day I’ll even move out of pre-packaged spice range. For now now though, this little cook is stretching herself, and that in and of itself is a good thing.

Dinner tonight? The options are endless… Thai, Brazilian, Nepali? Or maybe I’ll just stick to an omelet. Even Julia Child loved those

My Pie

So it’s November, and Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. Like many of you, I will be attending two Thanksgiving dinners, one at my in-law’s house and one at my mom’s house. Both of these meals will be fabulous I’m sure, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to my mom’s house a little more.

It’s not that I don’t like the meal my in-laws typically create, it’s just that it’s different from the Thanksgiving traditions I’ve become accustomed to, those that I grew up with. Different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just, well… different. Many of the elements are the same. The turkey, the dressing, the sides of sweet potatoes or yams, the pies, they’re all there. But they’re wearing different clothes, and sometimes it’s hard for me to recognize them. My marriage is young, so I’m sure over time I’ll become used to these strangely dressed items, the broccoli casserole made with bread crumbs instead of rice (not my favorite), the spicy green beans (which I love). My husband and I will surely combine our traditions as our grandparents and parents age, and hopefully one day our meal, our table and our home will create new and different Thanksgiving Day memories for our families.

So even though we won’t be having a Thanksgiving meal in our home this year, and in fact we’ll be attending two separate celebrations, I’ve decided to start some of my own traditions that I can carry out regardless of my location. I’ve talked to my mom and this year I’ll be bringing a healthy butternut squash side dish in lieu of the sickly sweet yam goo that I’ve avoided for long, and my sister and I will also be attempting a new pie. That’s where you, dear reader, come in.

In terms of pie, my mom is going to stick to the basics this year, pecan and pumpkin, although we’ve been known to have all kinds of different pies in my family, from oreo to rhubarb and pretty much everything in between. For my pie this year, my very first pie, I’d like to have something new, something different, and of course something delicious.

In that vein I’ve been scouring the web looking for new recipes to try. My plan is to try the pie this week, and if it’s a complete disaster, which could very well happen, I’ll try another pie (or however many it takes) next week. Hopefully by the time Thanksgiving rolls around in two weeks, I’ll have perfected something. Or at least I’ll have something edible.

I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of different options, but now I’d love to hear your input. If you already had a pumpkin and pecan option at your house, what else would you get excited about? Keep in mind I’m going for different, exciting and new, but I’m also hoping to start a tradition out of this pie. This is going to be MY PIE.

Option 1:

Roasted Grape and Mascarpone Cheese Pie from Health.com

I like the idea of this pie because I think the grapes and cheese would pair nicely with a glass of wine after a big meal, and I don’t think it would be quite as sickly sweet as some of the other fruit pies out there. My main concern with this pie is that I’m typically not a fan of warm fruit, so I don’t know whether or not the roasted grapes will appeal to my pallet. And it’s obviously all about me.

Option 2:

Chocolate Hazelnut Pie from Health.com

To me, this looks like the ultimate indulgence. Intense chocolate and hazelnut flavors, and a nice departure from fruit. Would be delicious with coffee of course.

Option 3:

Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie from CookingLight.com

This is another cold pie, which I know can be off-putting to some people. I love banana and chocolate together though, and for some reason banana cream pie just seems like a great Thanksgiving topper. John always says drinking apple juice reminds him of his childhood, and I think eating some banana cream pie might do the same for me.

Option 4:

Chuck the pie idea and go with cookies, a cake, bars or these sweet potato balls, which sound kind of crazy and yummy (even though I was just talking smack about sweet potato goo).

What do you guys think? Do you have any new suggestions I haven’t though of? Where oh where is my pie?

Candied Walnuts

These candied walnuts are perfect for a nice fall salad, crushed on top of oatmeal, or even just as a simple afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

You’ll need:

1 cup of walnuts (almonds and cashews are also nice)

3TB sugar

1.5 TB water

Salt and Pepper to taste

ingredients

First, mix the water and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil.

watersugar

boil

Then, stir in the walnuts and coat with the mixture. Stir continually.

coat

Once the mixture has mostly been absorbed (probably 3-4 minutes) remove walnuts from pan and lay on foil to cool.

final

Yum! We had these tonight with a spinach salad with roasted chicken, butternut squash, and apples. It was delish.

salad

Corn Muffins with Jalapenos and Lime Butter

I love chili. Probably not the TRADITIONAL kind, whatever that means, but I love it. I love turkey chili and veggie chili and even chicken chili. If you go easy on the cheese and sour cream, it can be a wonderfully hearty, healthy meal. It’s perfect for a fall or winter day, even a summer day if you feel like it. You can make a big batch and eat it for lunch all week. It’s chock full o veggies, has tons of fiber if you add beans (which I invariably do) and it satisfies my undying need for a little spice in life. In short, it’s the perfect food.

For me, a bowl of chili is just fine on it’s own, but sometimes its nice to add a little accompaniment. An accoutrement if you will. So last time I made chili, I also tried these Corn Muffins with Jalapenos and Lime Butter.

I started, as I always do, by assembling all of the ingredients.

ingredients

Next, chop the onion, and sautee it with garlic, adding the canned corn and jalapenos after about two minutes. The recipe called for butter, but I used olive oil to sautee. Once the onions are soft, remove from heat and toss with two tablespoons of butter (you could probably omit this step if you are looking to cut fat/calories).

sautee

Next, mix the dry ingredients together. Corn meal, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and chili powder (I would probably double the chili powder and use a full teaspoon next time, but I like things spicy).

dry

Next, combine buttermilk, eggs and egg whites in a large bowl. Once you’ve combined them, add the onion mixture. Finally, combine onion mixture to dry mixture.

buttermilk

buttermilk onion

all

Spoon batter into well-greased muffin cups and bake at 400 for 15 minutes. While baking, combine lime juice and honey with softened butter.

Enjoy!

final

Flourless Brownies

It’s that time again! Housewife-y Cooking 2.0 is back with flourless brownies from our favorite health food store, Whole Foods. I’ve heard about people using the secret ingredient before to make brownies, but I’ve always been skeptical. Well color me convinced because these turned out beautifully!

What’s the secret ingredient, you might be wondering?

Beans! Black beans to be exact.

I started out by assembling the ingredients:

ingredients

Black beans, cocoa powder, agave nectar (I substituted some of this instead of using all sugar), sugar, salt, chocolate chips, walnuts, butter, and eggs. Sorry about that half eaten banana sitting there. Guess that’s not too appetizing.

Moving on. The first step was to blend the beans, cocoa powder, agave, sugar, salt, butter and eggs in a food processor. Well crap. First obstacle. I don’t even have a food processor. When we got married three years ago we registered for one, and actually received three as gifts. Well I ended up returning all three of them, getting the cash and buying a vacuum. (Sorry if you were one of the food processor givers. If it helps I truly love my vacuum.)

So no food processor, so I used the blender instead. All of the ingredients together looked a little disgusting, I must say.

unblended

But they mixed up nicely.

blended

See, who needs a food processor? Once the blending was finished, I used the amazing chopper to chop up the walnuts.

walnuts

Once the walnuts are chopped, fold them into the batter, along with the chocolate chips.

chocchips

Mix all together and pour into an 8 inch pan.

batter

Bake at 350 for 30-35 min (I ended up doing 32:30 just for fun).

out of the ovenAnd plate!

gooey

closeup

Guess I still need to work on my plating technique, but I think you can tell how gooey and dense they are. And they actually really really good. I cut this pan into 20 small pieces. They are small brownie bites, but I think they’re a perfect size because the flavor is so intense. Each piece is about 100 calories, so these flourless brownies make for a nice little treat. I’ll definitely be making these again!

Butterscotch Bars

Part of being a shut-in means I get to do all those things you working folks wish you could do. Like try out new recipes or new and exciting ways to destroy my kitchen. Now I’m not a terrible cook, but I’m not amazing either. I’m kind your run-of-the-mill, everyday chick just trying to make sure we don’t live on Chipotle (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I mostly cook basic, easy dinners, and I try to stick to the healthier options, but hey, once in a while you need dessert. What can I say. You won’t find me making any fancy wedding cakes or anything though. I’ll leave that to my friend Martha.

Anyway, now it’s time for a little segment I like to call, cooking with Jeni, or Housewife-y Cooking 2.0. In today’s segment I’ll be making these Butterscotch Bars from CookingLight.com.

Why did I choose them? I dunno, they got four stars on the site, and I was bored. Typical housewife pores through her recipe books to find Grandma’s prized recipe. I on the other hand, just google that shit until I find something good.

Usually I choose a recipe based on the ingredients. Do I have them? Yes, okay then I’ll give it a shot. No? Screw it.

On this day though, I decided to branch out, even though I did NOT have all the ingredients I needed. Which meant a bike ride to the grocery store. Does anyone really keep condensed milk anymore? I don’t.

Once home I assembled all of the ingredients for easy access:

ingredients

Let’s see, starting in the back we have whole wheat flour (I ended up using all whole wheat instead of white, which may have caused a problem, but more on that later), regular flour, salt, baking soda, oats, and the butterscotch chips, and then in the front is the vanilla, walnuts, brown sugar, one egg, butter, and of course our condensed milk.

Next up, bring the laptop in the kitchen for easy access to the recipe. No cute little cards for me. Although I do have those and I’m not against them.

The first step was to mix the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg together. It turned out like this:

buttersugar

Then, we combine all of the dry ingredients: oats, flour, salt, baking soda

oatsetc.

Looks like a nice little bowl of oatmeal doesn’t it?

Next up, mix the two together. Not so hard so far right? I should be on Top Chef.

mix

As you can see, it turned out to be this dry, crumbly sort of mix. I thought that was fine because that’s what the recipe called for, but I think the use of the whole wheat flour made it a little dryer than it would have been otherwise. Next time, I would definitely use more butter. As Paula Dean says, “WE NEED MORE BUTTER!”

The next step is to press most of the mixture into the bottom of a well-greased 9×13 pan, as it will form the base of the bars. After that, we’ll add the butterscotch goo, which is a mix of the butterscotch chips and the condensed milk. Oh and the chopped walnuts, which I of course forgot to toast. Oh well it was too late at this point and we were going for broke.

butterscotch goo

Now that looks appetizing doesn’t it?

After the layer of butterscotch goo goes into the pan, it’s time to add the rest of the oat mixture, “gently” pressing it down into place. It looks like this before it goes in the oven:

preoven

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, and it looks pretty much exactly the same coming out:

postoven

Sorry I didn’t plate them or anything. I guess that would have looked a little nicer. Maybe next time.

These turned out – okay – I guess. Not great. I’d give them 3 out of 5 stars, but that may very well be my fault since I used all whole wheat flour. According to the recipe, this pan makes 36 servings at 138 calories per bar. Well that is one tiny bar, so I’d say our servings have been more like 300 calories per bar. That said, they are relatively healthy due to the oats and of course the minimal amount of butter and sugar used.

WE NEED MORE BUTTER.

John likes them, and I guess that’s all that matters because he’s the one who has to eat them. Or gets to eat them I should say.

I think the main reason I don’t like them all that much is because they don’t have any chocolate. And what’s a dessert without chocolate?

If you do decide to try these out, make sure you click on the link above and follow the actual CookingLight recipe and not mine. They have a lot of additional instructions (like pre-heat the oven) that you’ll want to be sure and take note of.

Until next time…