Thursday, October 11, 2012

On a Cooking Frenzy!

I'm interrupting my Scotland recaps for a bit because...well, because I can! And I have other things in life to talk about besides my trip to Scotland, believe it or not. But I'll resume really soon, promise!


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.

Why? Well, mostly because I'm lazy. But also because cooking tends to stress me out and leave me feeling disappointed with the results.

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.

"OMG Chicken!"

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, " 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

  1. Mix yogurt, cheese, minced garlic and spices in a bowl until well combined.
  2. 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.
  3. Sprinkle bread crumbs over each piece (and top with a little more cheese if you're a cheeseaholic like me).
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.
  5. 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).
  6. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the chicken, and you're done!
I totally spaced out and didn't get pictures of anything I made that day. But trust me, it looked decadent.

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.
  1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa. Add the biscuits and raisins and stir until well combined.
  2. Dump the mixture into a 9x11 Pyrex (I lined mine with parchment paper) and spread it out into a thin layer.
  3. Once the mixture is relatively cool, toss in some mini marshmallows and gently incorporate them into the mixture (or just leave them on big deal).
  4. 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.
  5. Stick it in the fridge and leave it for about an hour to harden. Cut it into bite size pieces and serve!
The original recipe calls for only 8 ounces of melted chocolate on top, but I wanted more. What can I say? I really love chocolate. I also didn't have a 9x11 Pyrex dish, so I used an 8x8 and layered half the biscuit/raisin/marshmallow mixture, poured on a little melted chocolate, then added the rest of the mixture and more chocolate on top. Basically, this one is pretty tough to mess up.

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....

1 comment:

  1. These recipes all sound great. You made my mouth water! Proud of you!


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