Saffron Rotini

I have to admit, there is a lot of new ingredients for me in this recipe, but I wanted to be brave. In addition, someone gave me some saffron, which was nice, and I had some goat cheese left over from a different recipe that I wanted to use, so it worked out well. I am not normally a fan of cooked carrots (although I love them raw) but I have been trying to eat them occasionally. The original recipe is from Clean Eating.

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp arrowroot
1/4 tsp crushed saffron threads
1/2 Tlbs olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 oz whole wheat rotini
1 cup peas
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 Tlbs chopped flat-leaf parsley

Put the chicken broth, arrowroot and saffron together in a small bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Shake it up and let it sit until you are ready, but shake it up again before using it. In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and let it cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Shake, then add the chicken broth mixture and turn the pan up to high(ish). Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring often, and it will also thicken slightly. Take it off the burner, cover the pan and let the mixture sit for ten minutes or so. While you are letting the sauce rest, boil water and then add the noodles and the carrots. Add the peas with just a couple of minutes left to cook and when the noodles are done, drain everything. Toss the sauce and the goat cheese in with the pasta. Garnish with parsley before serving.

I like goat cheese but am still getting used to the stronger flavor. Also, this didn't look quite like the picture, the cheese in the picture remained crumbly, whereas when I mixed the cheese in tonight it melted. This was also good, but changed the texture. It was easy and came together quickly, which is always a positive.

Rating: 4/5
Why? goat cheese is a strong flavor and I am not sure how I feel about it yet.


Honey Mustard Chicken

It's been a long week so I am loving the easy, filling recipes. I love chicken, and this was really good. I made simple mashed potatoes and green beans to go along with it. The original recipe is from allrecipes.com

2 chicken breasts
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup dijon mustard
3 leaves chopped basil
1/8 tsp paprika
a pinch of parsley

Trim the chicken breasts and get them ready to bake. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small ziploc bag and put the chicken in as well. Squish out as much of the air as possible, then seal it and mush the bag with your hands until all the ingredients are mixed and the chicken is thoroughly covered. Let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Heat the oven to 350. Create a "pan" using a piece of tinfoil that is just big enough to lay the chicken flat in the bottom. Put the chicken in the pan and pour all the marinade over the top and bake for 30 minutes.

This is pretty good. I would make a couple of suggestions...go easy on the honey and heavy on the mustard. Use fresh basil and parsley if you can, and I think adding a bit of fresh ground pepper would make it even better.

Rating: 4/5
Why? It was just a little bit sweet, and I like my chicken to have a little more bite to it. I will add pepper next time, but will definitely be using this recipe again as it is very easy.


Beef Stroganoff

You may have noticed that I do not cook any proteins other than chicken and fish. I grew up eating beef more than any other meat, but in college mostly stopped eating beef, and other than the occasional hamburger, I haven't returned to the Land of Beef. However, this recipe in Clean Eating for beef stroganoff reminded me of some things I used to like about it, so I decided to give it a shot.

1.5 cups whole wheat egg noodles
4.5 tsp evoo (divided)
2 Tlbs whole wheat flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup Greek yogurt at room temp
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp low-sodium Tamari soy sauce
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp parsley
4 oz filet mignon, cut into chunks
1 shallot, chopped

I prepped everything ahead of time for this recipe because it comes together really fast. Cook noodles according to directions. While they are cooking, prepare the rest of the dish. In a pan, heat 3 tsp of oil over medium heat. When it is warm, stir in the flour, whisking constantly. After a minute or so, slowly pour in the broth, while continuing to whisk. Bring the broth/flour mixture to a simmer, then turn it down to low, still whisking until it thickens. Remove it from the heat, and stir in the Greek yogurt, mustard, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and parsley. Then cover it and set it aside. In a non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 1.5 tsp of oilve oil over medium heat. When it is hot, toss in the shallot,  and let it saute for a couple of minutes. Then toss in the beef and let it cook. When the beef is done, put it in the sauce, then pour it over the noodles.

The sauce is completely amazing. I love the sauce. However, the beef was extremely tough. I totally failed on that front. I did notice when I read the recipe again that I was supposed to cut it into strips instead of chunks, so maybe that would help. Also, I have no idea how to pick out beef, so that could have been the problem as well. Or possibly it would have helped to cook it low and slow. I honestly don't know. I will try this again because the sauce is delightful.

Other changes - the original recipe called for beef broth but they didn't have low-sodium beef broth at the grocery store so I used chicken instead. I also didn't include the mushrooms because I hate them, and I cut the salt in half.

Rating: 4/5
Why? The AMAZING sauce mostly made up for the tough beef, and I only have myself to blame for the beef, so I gave it a higher score. It is good enough to try again.


Asian Pasta Vegetable Salad

Alternative title: In Which I Learn My Lesson About Tight-Fitting Lids.

I love crunchy food, or food with lots of texture. I also love Asian food, bell peppers, and pasta, so basically this is the perfect recipe. I used this recipe from allrecipes.com as a place to start, but did make several changes based on the comments attached to the recipe. This is an excellent recipe to make and leave in the fridge for a super easy lunch.

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup low-sodium tamari soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp black sesame oil
3 Tlbs sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds

4 cups of whole wheat spirals
1-2 cooked and shredded chicken breasts
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 small green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 small carrot, julienned
3/4 cup green peas
2 Tlbs sliced green onions
1/4 cup cilantro

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a bowl with a TIGHT-FITTING LID. This is important. Very important. Then mix all the salad dressing ingredients together in a jar or something else with a tight-fitting lid. Again, quite important. Shake the salad dressing thoroughly until it is all mixed together very well, then pour the dressing over the salad. Seal the bowl and shake it well to coat the salad thorougly and mix all the ingredients. You can eat it warm, but it is pretty awesome cold.

In case you haven't gathered, it is very important to have a container with a tight-fitting lid. I know this, since mine was not, and when I shook the bowl, I decorated my kitchen with a large collection of spots. The oil-base of the dressing will get everywhere if you aren't careful. Other changes...the original recipe recommended using pasta bows, but I couldn't find a whole-wheat pasta version of this so I used spirals instead. You do need a pasta that will hold the dressing. One reviewer recommended adding water chestnuts, and I meant to do that, but forgot, so I would like to try that next time. Also, I seasoned the chicken slightly with paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper before I baked and shredded it.

Rating 4.5/5
Why? It is a little oily, I want to cut down on the dressing-pasta ratio next time. Also there are a LOT of sesame seeds in this. But it is super easy to make and quite delicious as a left-over.


Potato Pancakes

My cousin's wife and I have a standing date for Sunday night when Worst Cooks in America is on the Food Network. She lives in Portland and I live in Seattle, but we send about 50 texts throughout the show commenting on everything from shoes to contestant idiocy. Last week the contestants had to make potato pancakes and I immediately knew I was going to try and make them this weekend.

3 medium sized potatoes (I used russets)
1 egg
1/2 Tlbs Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour

crumbled turkey bacon
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Peel and chunk the potatoes and put them in a food processor. Pulse them just until roughly chopped. Add the egg and Greek yogurt, then pulse again until smoother, but there will still be small chunks of potatoes. It is really important not to puree the potatoes into mush. Add the flour, and pulse just until blended. The consistency should be similar to oatmeal. On a well-oiled hot griddle (I used a heated, oiled cast iron frying pan heated on medium because that's what I had but it would definitely work better on a griddle), drop small spoonfuls of potato blend. Mine were about 2 inches across. When they appear slightly dry on the edge, carefully flip them over. Mine were slightly inclined to stick, so I had to make sure they were completely loosened before trying to flip. When both sides are done, let them drain on a paper towel to get rid of some of the oil.

While you are making the pancakes, mix the Greek yogurt, basil and garlic powder in a bowl. Top the pancakes with a thin layer of the yogurt, then top with the crumbled bacon before eating.

These were quite exceedingly delicious. I forgot to put the salt and pepper in, so mine were just a touch bland, but the topping added some zest so I managed to eat more than my fair share. I also put too much oil in the pan so the first couple were a little greasy, but nonetheless, still delicious. I have some left over so I am going to try and freeze them, and I will be interested to see how these come out. In the Worst Cooks episode, they used these as a basis for hors d'oeuvres, so that is why I chose to top them with something salty rather than sweet, but they would also be good with a sweet topping.

Rating: 4.5/5
Why? Relatively easy to make, other than having to peel the potatoes.


Chinese Chicken Salad

I have been rather remiss and very lazy in the cooking arena lately, but I recently got my ducks in a row and figured out how to meal plan in a way that works for me, so hopefully the blogging will be less sporadic. One of the recipes I tried this week was this salad. I love loaded salads, but you have to be careful about the toppings. This salad has a lot of toppings, but they are all good for me, which is the best way to go! I based this off an allrecipes.com recipe but did change it a bit.

1.5 Tlbs hoisin sauce
1 Tlbs peanut butter
1 tsp loose brown sugar
1/2 tso hot chili paste
1/2 tsp ginger
1.5 Tlbs rice wine vinegar
1/2 Tlbs sesame oil

1/4 cup shredded chicken
2 wonton wrappers
2 cups shredded romaine
1/8 cup grated carrot
1/8 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped red bell peppers
2 Tlbs chopped cilantro

Heat the oven to 350 and spray a pan with olive oil. Lay the wonton wrappers on the sheet and use a pizza cutter or knife to cut them into narrow strips. Bake for 3-4 minutes, checking often to prevent burning. Take them out and let them cool. While they are baking, whisk together the dressing ingredients. On a plate, layer the salad to your liking, add the dressing, and toss the baked wonton wrappers on top. Alternatively (and this is what I do when I bring a salad to school), put all the ingredients except the wonton wrappers into a plastic ziploc bag or bowl with a tight fitting lid and toss to coat everything evenly.

Rating: 5/5
Why? Like I said, I love loaded salads and this one has lots to love. The dressing has a kick to it and is one of the first dressings I have made myself that I really like.