Caramelized Brussels, Take Two

On a brighter note, I made the brussels sprouts from my first post again tonight, this time cutting the recipe in half (7 brussels sprouts is plenty for 1 person) but only using a fourth of the brown sugar. They were perfect!  Not too sweet, but nicely browned, and the salt and brown sugar makes for a great combo. Oh, and I love the crunch the pecans provide. Hooray for good, guilt-free food!

Recipe Fail

Last night, I cooked my first total failure of my self-imposed recipe challenge. I decided to try chicken pozole, a recipe I found here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chicken_pozole/  I thought with the cold weather, it would be nice to have some warm soup. I like hominy, and I like the idea of making a soup that can be enhanced with all sorts of different toppings.

What I don’t like, apparently, is an excess of oregano. I should have paid more attention to the fact that the recipe called for 1 OR 2 TBSP of oregano – somehow, I just read two. I thought to myself that 2 T sounded like a lot, but it was a big pot of soup… Next time, I will a) trust my instincts, and b) read the recipe more closely. The soup tastes almost soapy. Bleh.

Luckily the chicken is kept out of the broth until ready to serve, so most of the chicken didn’t end up in the soup, and I can make chicken salad and/or quesadillas this week with some of it. But unfortunately, after several HOURS of cooking, I am the only one that had a bowl of the soup – after which, I suggested that my husband skip it altogether.  Oh well – this experiment is bound to result in some failures along the way!

Butterscotch Spice Cookies

My mom made these butterscotch spice cookies for us to eat while we were at her house after Christmas. If you, like me, feel that butterscotch chips are a sadly underused ingredient, you will love these cookies!  I made them tonight and they were just as delicious as I remembered. My kiddo, who really isn’t a big sweets fan (though he’ll eat anything salty anytime), just begged his way into his third cookie – and they aren’t even fully cooled. The recipe says to cool the dough for at least an hour, but I didn’t give it that much time in the fridge, and they still turned out great. Mine don’t look like the picture on Sweet Pea’s website – mine came out looking much more like chocolate chip cookies.  Maybe if I’d chilled the dough longer, I would have gotten a thicker cookie. But as far as I’m concerned, they’re perfect!

Asian Non-Take Out

We have yet to find an Asian restaurant in Alexandria that we really love as much as we loved our go-tos in the city. And I have yet to learn to make Asian food that tastes like it comes from a restaurant. But I try, try, and try again. I can’t tell you how many fried rice recipes I’ve tried that are okay, even good – but not great.

Tonight I decided to go a different direction, noodles. I found a recipe for Thai Peanut Noodles on Our Best Bites.

Yum. The sauce is delicious, as I would have expected. It’s made of garlic, ginger, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, sriracha (one of my new favorite ingredients), and chicken broth. You know what is great about those ingredients?  With the exception of fresh ginger, I ALWAYS have all of them in house. So when I get a craving for Thai Peanut Noodles, I’ll need to pick up ginger, udon noodles, green onions, cilantro and limes (which I often have as well). Only 5 ingredients – can’t beat that!

It’s snowy and really cold here, but the sriracha in this recipe definitely warmed me up. And this was quick and easy to prepare. Grating ginger was the only labor-intensive part, if you can call it that. The Udon only needed to cook for 4 minutes – I barely got the sauce finished before it was time to drain and serve. Anything that can go from start to finish in less than 15 minutes is a hit in my book!

So here’s the rub – Charlie apparently ate two lunches today, and is not eating dinner, save a few orange slices, healthy boy. Since I made the noodles spicier than I intended, it’s not a terrible thing – but I would have liked him to taste them. He may not be game, but it’s worth a try. AND my husband is stuck at work later than usual, and also has yet to try this dish. If he gives them the thumbs down, they may not become part of our regular rotation. But at the moment, I have high hopes!

Make again?  Yes, even if only just for me.

Recipe variation? I forgot until I’d already made the sauce that I had no cilantro in the house. So this version was not as green and pretty as the picture on the Our Best Bites site. Next time, I’ll make sure to include a handful of cilantro, which I love – and I know I’ll enjoy it even more.

UPDATE:

Husband is also a fan!  Thai Peanut Noodles are a success!  I cooked him some fresh noodles so he wouldn’t have to eat the leftover ones that had gotten cold – and he ate those and then asked for the cold noodles as well. Hooray for the addition of a new easy, interesting meal we both enjoy!

A little more on the vegan recipes…

So the wheat berry salad was delicious!  It’s sweet, but not overly so, and the textures are great. I will be making it again very soon – I think it would be great to take to work for lunch.

The butternut squash soup was very good too. I think I would try it again with different spice combinations or more curry – I would have liked it to have a little kick or a bit of crunch or something.

Vegan Visitors

My newlywed nephew and niece are coming tonight to stay with us for a few days. I knew they were vegetarians, but I have a few vegetarian dishes in my repertoire, so I wasn’t too worried… until my husband called to tell me they’d texted to share that they no longer eat dairy either. Crap. Other than your standard garden salad, I basically have no recipes that have no meat OR cheese and/or butter. I’d planned on a pasta with butternut squash sauce recipe (ours with chicken sausage, theirs without) but it had butter as well as parmesan cheese. PARMESAN CHEESE! Who can give up parmesan cheese?  But I digress…

Anyway, thank goodness for the internet!  With a quick trip to the market, butternut squash pasta turned into butternut squash soup with coconut milk and curry.  I found the recipe here:

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/12/butternut-bliss.html

And I had some wheat berries in the pantry and some slivered almonds and apricots in the cupboard, so we’re also going to be enjoying (hopefully) Apricot and Toasted Almond Wheat Berry Salad.

They’ll be here soon, and I’ll update sometime over the next day or two with the verdict. Wish me luck!

Slow Cooker Chicken Black Bean Tacos

We tried another Skinny Taste recipe last night, this time the Slow Cooker Chicken Black Bean Tacos.  We didn’t make the cabbage slaw because the grocery store I went to on Sunday didn’t have red cabbage, but I’m definitely going to make that next time.  This was pretty good – the chicken, black beans, and tomatoes went into a quesadilla for Charlie and crisp corn shells for George and me.  Charlie initially complained about beans in his quesadilla, but then commenced to eating it, so that’s a success. George and I both thought the chicken was a little dry – next time instead of separating the chicken out and draining the beans, I think I’d drain a little of the liquid and then mix the rest in with the chicken.  It had a good amount of flavor/spice and would probably make a great filling for burritos and enchiladas.

Pros:

  • Everyone ate it!
  • This is only in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high, and requires minimal prep work, so it’s feasible that I could make it for a weeknight meal. 
  • It’s nice to have the beans and chicken cook at the same time in the same dish – less clean up.

Cons: The chicken was a little dry.

Make again?   Yes – maybe as chicken black bean burritos next time.

Recipe variation?  Don’t drain the beans completely.

Beef Barley Soup

Somehow, none of us managed to eat breakfast this morning (including Charlie, who never asked for it), so on our way to run errands, we stopped off at Los Tios, one of Charlie’s all-time favorite restaurants. He goes there with Pamela and nanny friends and their charges, so the wait staff know him. It’s funny when you show up to a restaurant with your kid and the staff welcome him like a friend.

Anyway, Mexican food makes for a heavy lunch, so I wanted something light for dinner – and that I could portion out for lunches during the week as well. After spending a cool, damp afternoon at the park, soup seemed like the obvious choice.

Thanks to my friend Susie, I discovered a great food blog called Skinny Taste. The author posted a recipe for Beef Barley Soup that I’ve wanted to try, so that was on the menu tonight.

Beef Barley Soup from Skinny Taste:

Pros:

  • This soup is reminiscent of beef stew – carrots, celery, onion, stew beef, bay leaves – which I love, but it is much lighter, since the beef is just browned in a small amount of oil rather than dredged in flour and the broth is just water. You could use beef broth instead, I’m sure, but I didn’t think the soup needed it.
  • Barley is an ingredient I don’t use very often, but I really like. I only had Quaker Quick Pearled Barley, though – next time, I’d try a different brand. The Quaker is a little thin, more like oats than what I think of as barley.

Cons: Neither of the boys in my house wanted to eat this. I was really making this one for me as well, so that I’d have some from-home lunches this week, but I’m still hoping to get Charlie to try it. (The husband isn’t much of a beef eater, especially stew meat, so I knew he would pass.)

Make again?  Yep, for sure. It’s quicker, easier, and lighter than beef stew.

Recipe variation? I didn’t have a white or yellow onion in the house like I’d thought, and I didn’t want to use red.  Luckily we had several shallots, so I used them instead – and I think the slightly milder flavor of the shallots was a plus in this soup. I’m planning to swap onion for shallot the next time around too.

So far, so good – for me, at least!  Hopefully the next recipe will be a family hit!

Starting fresh

One of my goals for 2013 is to try at least one new recipe a week. As a full-time working mom with an almost 5-year-old who prefers chicken nuggets to all other foods and a husband who has discerning tastes (I didn’t say picky!), I have fallen into a rut of cooking the same stuff week after week. Putting something new on the table only to have it panned or totally avoided (Charlie) is a bit discouraging, but I’m ready to start fresh and force the issue – at least once a week!

I’ve also been struggling to find a way to save the recipes I like.  I tried one of those pinning websites for about 5 minutes, but the social networking aspect was overly distracting. I just need a way to log what I’ve tried, whether it’s worth making again, and any changes I’d make.  A recipe blog seems like a good way to log my successes and failures, so here goes!

Recipe #1 – Caramelized Brussels Sprouts from Eat, Live, Run: http://www.eatliverun.com/caramelized-brussels-sprouts/

Last night, George was out and Charlie wanted leftover pasta – so I could try something just for me. I’m trying to up my vegetable intake and eat a little less meat, and this recipe seemed hearty enough that I could skip the main course.  A dinner of sides works for me!

Pros:

  • Chopped sprouts!  I realized I far prefer brussels sprouts chopped.  Sometimes the whole or halved ones can be a little mushy in the middle, even when roasted – but these were fresh, green and crisp.
  • They were hearty – they’d make a very filling side course, and were great on their own. The pecans added good protein and a nice crunch.

Cons: They were far too sweet for my taste.

Make again?  Yes, definitely.

Recipe variation?  Next time I will be cutting the sugar in half – and I expect to love the result.