It is still January so I am within my goal to post about what we cooked and ate in January. I always want to post more often, and have a bunch of posts written in my head. But it takes more time than I anticipate (uploading and formatting pictures takes hours). I am still figuring out how to best balance blogging and a whole lot of everything else that’s going on. That’s going to be one of this year’s goals for me– I really enjoy posting here and documenting my milieu. I need to better organize all of the big and small never ending “to-do”s. I can do it.
I wouldn’t say January has been unproductive but I do wish I’d accomplished more. Maybe it’s the health issues, maybe getting old, I don’t know. It’s just harder to get going and stay motivated. Oh, it may be due to the unusually cold winter we are having. I don’t do cold well at all– I hibernate. That’s my natural body response from growing up in Siberia.
OK, the food. Cooking always puts me in a better mood. It’s comforting– not only the eating, but the process itself. I did manage to organize my meal planning to (almost) where I want it to be and it’s been very helpful. Stay tuned for a post on my system.
I tried a few new recipes in January and will link to them below, with the changes I’ve made. As usual, a lot of the meals were improvised based on what I have in the fridge and I’ll give general pointers but it’s all pretty basic. You can’t mess it up.
Salads and vegetables
Starting with the healthy stuff. We craved a lot of veggies and ate a lot of salads for lunch and dinner.
Roasted vegetables and chicken salad with goat cheese.
image source: Yelp
This is inspired by a La Madeleine salad pictured above. I wasn’t able to find an exact recipe but I know they use a combination of roasted vegetables and rotisserie chicken breast.
The veggies: I roasted onions, carrots, zucchini, and beets. Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Toss roughly chopped vegetables with canola oil (or whatever oil you use for cooking, do not use extra virgin). Add about 1/2 tsp salt and whatever seasoning you like. I usually use Italian blend or just oregano and thyme. Roast for 30 -40 min.
The chicken: I don’t buy rotisserie chicken much anymore because it’s easy to roast some bone-in skin-on chicken breasts at home and I don’t like the aftertaste that store bought chicken has. I roast a few breasts at a time, pull the meat off and store the bones in a zip lock bag in the freezer for broth or soup. To roast bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, drizzle them with canola oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices to taste (the same combination of spices as above works fine. Sometimes I use Herbs de Provence blend). Bake for 40-45 min (depending on the size) in a 375 F oven.
To assemble: mix chopped Romaine and/or a lettuce blend with the roasted vegetables and chopped chicken breast. Drizzle your favorite salad dressing. For the dressing I like to combine white or red vinegar with olive oil, salt, a bit of Dijon mustard and honey in a small jar and shake very well. Crumble some goat cheese over the top of the salad. If you are not a fan of goat cheese you can, of course, skip it. But in my opinion goat cheese makes this salad.
Roasted beets, corn and carrot salad with pickles
Roasted beets: wash 2-3 small or 1 large beet very well and wrap in a piece of aluminum foil. Make sure to seal well. No need to coat the beets with oil. I’ve seen people do it but it is not necessary, the beets won’t stick to the foil and it doesn’t add anything to the flavor. Roast for 1 hour for small beats and 1.5 hours for large at 400 F. Let cool in the foil. Carefully unwrap the foil to make sure the juices won’t spill all over the counter. With a paper towel, remove the skin– it will slip right off. You can store them unpeeled in the fridge for up to a week and peel when you plan to eat them.
Carrots: saute 2-3 carrots grated on a large whole of the grater in 1 tablespoon of canola oil for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Season with salt to taste. You can use pre-shredded carrot for this.
Other veggies: 1 cup of frozen corn prepared according to package directions, 1 pickle chopped, 2 green onions, sliced thin, 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill chopped or a sprinkling of dill weed.
To assemble: mix everything together and dress with olive oil. Unrefined sunflower oil would be my choice of oil here but I rarely have it. Taste and add salt if it needs it (rememebr the pickle is salty).
Roasted beets, blood orange and fennel salad with goat cheese
You may notice a lot of beets and goat cheese in my salads lately. I love both, and they pair very nicely in salads. For this salad you prepare the beets as above, thinly slice half of a fennel bulb, a blood orange (regular orange is fine), chop 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill (can use parsley instead). Layer your ingredients in a dish, drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the top and crumble goat cheese (I added goat cheese before drizzling with the vinegar and it instantly turned brown, that’s what you see in the picture. It looks like walnuts, which I think I’ll add next time). Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and pepper over the top. At serving time, mix everything gently together.
This was a part of the meal with BBQ ribs and corn. This slaw is so fresh and delicious, no mayo needed.
Ribs: no recipe — just sprinkled with celery salt and onion powder, slathered with bottled BBQ sauce and bake at 300 F for 3 hours, covered with foil. Then took off the foil, brushed on more BBQ sauce and broiled for a couple of minutes. Sometimes I make them in the crock pot for 8 hours on low and finish in the broiler.
Corn: used frozen since fresh isn’t in season, cooked per package directions.
Coleslaw: Thinly slice half a small head of cabbage, 3-4 radishes, half a cucumber (I always use English/hot house variety, it has thin skin and no seeds to scoop out), 1 scallion. Chop a few sprigs of fresh dill, parsley or cilantro. Mix all veggies in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil. Right before serving add salt to taste and stir again. Adding salt ahead of time will make the cabbage and cucumber release a lot of liquid, that’s why I salt right before serving.
I’ve roasted vegetables several times this month. They are so easy to make and are delicious. I could eat this every day, they are addictive! The method is the same as in the Roasted Vegetables and Chicken salad. I roast my veggies at 425 for 30-40 minutes. To make sure different types of veggies all cook in the same time, chop hardier types (carrots, potatoes, etc.) in smaller pieces, and softer varieties (squash, tomatoes, peppers) in larger chunks. frozen veggies can be roasted just fine. Season with salt and pepper or your favorite herb blend. Sliced garlic works well too.
Roasted cabbage slices
These were great as a low-carb alternative to noodles. We ate them with some leftover beef ragu that I had in the freezer. The same roasting method as above. I wish I had a better picture but photographing cabbage at night is challenging. I couldn’t stop eating those caramelized brown pieces, so good!
Soups and stews
Soups and stews are a must during the cold season. I ended up with several turkey carcasses left from Thanksgiving and Christmas, they make the best broth.
Turkey and barley soup
This is your traditional turkey soup except I used barley instead of noodles or rice. I just wanted something different this time. I keep a variety of types of grains on hand, usually the quick-cooking kind. Grains have lots of nutrients and are very versatile.
Turkey and green French lentils soup
For this soup I used green French lentils. We love lentil soup and normally make it with a ham bone or vegetarian. It came out good with turkey as well, you just can’t go wrong with lentils. To make this soup, you start with the usual combination of “soup vegetables”: chopped onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Add the broth and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add rinsed lentils (I used 1 cup per about 6 cups of broth), some oregano and a bay leaf, bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 45 minutes.
Pork chili verde
I used this recipe. The recipe calls for fresh tomatillos and making your own verde sauce. It was pretty easy to do– brown the meat, blend all the “green” veggies (tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro) in the food processor and add to the meat along with potatoes. I added hominy as well. The recipe makes enough for two meals so I have a container of this stew in the freezer for later.
Meat and Seafood
Flounder in a roasted pepper sauce
Loved this recipe. The original recipe calls for tilapia but I had some organic flounder, it worked beautifully in this dish. My changes: I doubled the roasted peppers and pureed all of them, instead of chopping half. I also chopped one tomato and added it to the sauce along with the peppers. I think any kind of mild white fish will be great. Roasted peppers can be found where they sell canned and jarred vegetables.
Pork with sauerkraut
This was another winner. Phoebe particularly liked the “chicken”. You need a bone-in cut of pork, it is a lot more flavorful and works perfect with the acidity of the sauerkraut.
This needs to simmer for about an hour for the flavors to blend. Brown 1- 1.5 lb of pork (or more if you like things meatier. This is not an exact science!), remove it to a plate. Then saute one chopped onion, 2-3 carrots and 3-4 potatoes potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces for about 10 minutes. Add the pork back, add the kraut (I used two 14 once cans), dill weed and a bay leaf, season with black pepper. I rinse and drain the sauerkraut first. Let it simmer on low heat for an hour or so, covered. Stir it a few times in the process. Check if it needs salt.
It is a hearty and rustic Russian style dish. I don’t have a picture of the finished product– we ate before I had a chance to photograph but it looks like this:
If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen these pictures when I made the chicken piccata. It was inspired by an unfinished bottle of white sparkling wine leftover from celebrating the New Year. I also happened to have capers in the pantry and parsley in the fridge (here is how I keep fresh herbs). You’ll also need lemons.
The piccata doesn’t take much time to make. It’s not like with chicken parm where you need to triple dredge your chicken. Here you give the chicken a light coating of flour, then saute in butter and make a quick finishing sauce with wine, lemon and capers.
Step-by-step instructions are here.
Salmon teriyaki with roasted broccoli
The salmon: Preheat the oven to 400 F, line a baking sheet with foil and spray with a non-stick oil spray. Mix this simple teriyaki sauce: 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger, 2 cloves garlic minced, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar. Place the salmon in a bowl or a plastic container and pour the sauce over it. Let marinade for about 30 minutes. Transfer the salmon to the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. When done, finish with some sesame seeds and sliced scallions on top.
The broccoli: I roasted it at the same time as the salmon. It takes longer to roast than fish so just leave it in the oven for 10-15 minutes longer after you take the fish out.
We served this with brown rice. We usually fill our plate with the protein and veggies and add just a small amount of a carb, if any.
This recipe uses ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder, not a chili powder mix which I normally use. I wanted to try this new (to me) version. We liked it, but next time I will reduce the amount of chipotle powder by half. It was a little too spicy for us. I also halved the amount of liquid specified in the recipe, we don’t like our chili soupy. Step-by-step instructions are here.
No, I didn’t do a sugar-free or Whole 30 diet during January, and I don’t plan to. I baked and I made pizza. The baked goodies and dessert were a very small portion of what we ate in January– we did cut down on that sort of food after the holidays. And that’s the way we pretty much carry on eating throughout the rest of the year, with a little baked treat here and there. It’s about common sense and balance.
Bourbon roasted pears
We limit dessert to weekends only, and I want it to be special. These roasted pears qualified! Sorry, no finished product picture. They were gone before I had a chance. I guess I’ll have to make them again!
Roasted bourbon pears: Bosc pears work really well in this recipe. They should be ripe but not overly soft. Peel and cut two pears in half. Use a spoon to remove the cores, they come out easily if the pears are ripe. Arrange in a baking dish. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter with 4 tablespoons of brown sugar in a skillet over medium heat, then add 1/4 cup bourbon and a tiny splash of vanilla, mix well. Pour a quarter of the syrup onto each half and roast for about 30 minutes (the time will depend on how ripe your pears are and how soft you want them). Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Buffalo chicken pizza
Prosciutto and apple pizza with goat cheese
I used my bread machine to mix the dough. I absolutely love my bread machine and use it for so many things. I will have to write a separate post on how I make pizza. But you can try using your favorite recipe. I bake my pizza at 500 F and always partially bake the crust for 5-7 minutes before adding the toppings, this ensures the crust stays crispy.
Buffalo chicken pizza: Mix 1/4 cup your favorite buffalo sauce with 1 thinly sliced chicken breast (see oven roasted chicken breast recipe above). Sprinkle 2 cups shredded mozzarella over the pre-baked crust, distribute the chicken mixture over the top, sprinkle with about 1/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles and one rib of celery, thinly sliced. Bake for additional 7-10 minutes.
Prosciutto-apple pizza: Sprinkle shredded Swiss cheese over the pre-baked crust. Top with thinly sliced 1/4 red onion, 1 apple (a pear would be great too), a few slices of prosciutto torn into pieces, and crumble some goat cheese over the top. Bake for additional 7-10 minutes. Out of the oven, drizzle with a little bit of honey and sprinkle a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary leaves (if you have it).
Biscuits are reserved for weekends, and if I am going to eat one biscuit a week, I want a good homemade one. They are easy to do, and I wrote about how I make them before. This recipe used cream and is even easier to make. They came out super fluffy. I may prefer the texture of my buttermilk biscuits though, but you can’t beat the ease of cream biscuits. The recipe I used is here.
On the site it says: “These fluffy biscuits are so easy to prepare and bake, you’ll wonder why you don’t make biscuits more often. “. Well, no real mystery why I don’t make biscuits more often. I want to fit into my pants and I don’t want to do a sugar-free diet. So one easy fluffy home-made biscuit a week will do me fine.
Applesauce oat muffins
I used my homemade applesauce that was expiring in the fridge for these muffins. I eyeballed the ingredients and loved the result (so did the kids). These are good snacking muffins– not too sweet, not too fluffy, not to oily. There is just enough sugar and oil in them to make them tasty without turning them into dessert. I will post the recipe in a future post, stay tuned.
Wow, that was easily the longest post I’ve written so far. Apparently I cooked a lot this month! I wanted to catch up and finally document the recipes I’ve cooked. I use this blog for reference, so it’s handy to record our favorite meals.
I hope you had a nice transition into the new year. If you are not subscribed to my blog, you can do so by entering your email address at the top or in the side bar. This way you’ll be getting posts in your email inbox (and no spam). You can also follow me on Facebook, if you like. I’d love to connect with you!