Today I want to brag about all the cooking I did last weekend. If you know me, you probably know I am not one of those people who cooks on a regular basis. Realistically, I think I average about one homemade meal every three months -- and I wish I was exaggerating. Now, that doesn't count stuff like heating up a Trader Joe's frozen meal or slapping together a turkey sandwich. I'm talking about actually cooking stuff on the stove or in the oven. Mixing ingredients. Following a recipe. I just haven't really incorporated cooking into my wifely routine.
Let me tell you, if every cooking experience was more like the ones I had last weekend, I would be cooking a LOT more often. I like it when I can get through a recipe without completely destroying my kitchen, and it's especially satisfying when the food tastes good, too. This, unfortunately, is not always my luck when I brave the kitchen for anything more complicated than peanut butter and jelly.
So anyway. Last Friday, I signed up to take dinner to my friend Danielle who had a baby a few weeks ago, and I knew I wanted to actually cook something versus getting something ready-made. I checked out tons of recipes I had saved on Pinterest and settled on chicken and zucchini. I'll link to the pins and tell you about each dish.
The original recipe called for a mayo-based spread over the chicken, but I'm pretty obsessed with Greek yogurt so of course I swapped the mayo for Fage.
I also made my own bread crumbs! I had a bag of Panko crumbs in my pantry that I couldn't remember buying (which meant they were easily a year old for all I knew), so I did a quick Googling and found that it's theoretically pretty simple to make your own bread crumbs. I had whole wheat English muffins in my fridge that were beginning to get stale, so I threw one in my Magic Bullet, pulsed it to bits, and then thought, "Hmm...how do I make these more crispy?" Turns out I should've toasted the bread in the oven first, but it didn't seem to hurt doing it the other way around; I spread out the crumbs on a cookie sheet, tossed on some herbs and garlic powder, and let it sit in the oven at 300 degrees for about ten minutes. Perfection!
Here's my slightly-adapted version of the chicken recipe:
Easy Greek Yogurt Parmesan Chicken
Preheat oven to 425 F
1 cup Fage 0% fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
~1 tbsp minced garlic
a few shakes of Mrs Dash or some other salt-free herb/spice blend
6 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets (about 2 lbs total)
~1/4 cup seasoned English muffin bread crumbs
- Mix yogurt, cheese, minced garlic and spices in a bowl until well combined.
- Lay chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet (or use parchment paper -- I had run out of it) and spread the yogurt mixture evenly over each piece.
- Sprinkle bread crumbs over each piece (and top with a little more cheese if you're a cheeseaholic like me).
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.
- I turned the broiler on high and left the chicken in for another 3-4 minutes to get it a little browner (this is optional).
- Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the chicken, and you're done!
For a side dish, I went with "Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake"
This one I followed pretty closely to the original from Kalyn's Kitchen, except I used minced garlic instead of garlic powder, and I couldn't find "pizza cheese" so I just used shredded mozzarella and parmesan. I also broiled it toward the end to get that nice browned cheese on top -- yum!
Unfortunately, I didn't really get to taste this! I had one piece of zucchini when I tested to make sure it was cooked through, but then the rest went to my friend because I didn't want to give her a dish with a big spoonful taken out of it. But have no fear! I made it a second time later in the weekend (without the fresh basil) and it was GOOD.
For dessert, I made Pumpkin Rice Krispies!
These were a little tricky, but I was forewarned by several comments on another similar recipe/post that said the treats turned out a little soggy from the pumpkin puree. I followed this post's instructions to squeeze out the moisture from the puree using a paper towel, but I think I didn't do it enough, because mine did turn out a little soggy. Anyway, the only thing I did differently from the recipe on Life Sprinkled with Glitter was I didn't form them into balls or top them with Tootsie Rolls; I just made regular bars.
Now, since I wasn't 100% happy with the pumpkin desserts, I decided to also make one more dessert as a back-up/bonus. While we were in Scotland, one of our B&B hosts made us a treat called Tiffin -- a chocolate bar sent straight from HEAVEN. Pauli and I made it a couple weeks ago for her birthday dinner, and it was so easy I decided to take a stab at it myself. The original recipe is here, but per the advice of Beth, or Scottish hostess, I made a few small changes. Here's my adapted recipe:
Scottish Chocolate Tiffin
4 oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup*
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
7 oz light Digestive biscuits*
1 handful of raisins (about 1/3 cup?)
~1/2 cup multi-colored mini marshmallows
~12 oz chocolate baking chips (half milk, half dark) -- I used Ghirardelli's
*These items were found at a local British store, but you can try substituting caramel or maple syrup instead of golden syrup, and graham crackers instead of Digestives.
- In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa. Add the biscuits and raisins and stir until well combined.
- Dump the mixture into a 9x11 Pyrex (I lined mine with parchment paper) and spread it out into a thin layer.
- Once the mixture is relatively cool, toss in some mini marshmallows and gently incorporate them into the mixture (or just leave them on top...no big deal).
- Melt the baking chips (I just heated them up in a small pot over low heat, but a double-boiler or microwave may be safer to avoid overcooking), then pour over the mixture in the Pyrex dish, spreading evenly.
- Stick it in the fridge and leave it for about an hour to harden. Cut it into bite size pieces and serve!
You thought I was done with all the cooking, didn't you? Well, that was just Friday. On Sunday, I cooked dinner for myself and Joe! I had bought ingredients for another dish I had in mind for Danielle if the chicken didn't work out, so I figured I'd give it a shot and also use up the rest of the zucchini and yellow squash (and get to taste that dish for myself!).
So, I made this:
Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce!
You guys, this was REALLY tasty, and SUPER easy. I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I used green onions instead of shallots because I had them and I don't really know the difference. I also didn't have fresh nutmeg because I'm not a fancy schmance-pants cook like that, so I used the ground stuff and it was delightful. What I'm saying is, YOU SHOULD MAKE THIS DISH. It's a perfect fall flavor, and it went really well with the cheesy zucchini bake. AND they both tasted great as a leftover meal the next night.
So, now the trick is to start cooking more and collecting recipes I know I can make successfully. I'll let you know how that goes....