Monday, March 28, 2016

What I've Been Cooking Lately

While I haven't had a ton of time to blog lately (the posts you've seen have been compiled over several weeks, pieced together here & there), I have still been cooking.  When I went back to work we quickly realized we needed to do some meal planning so we didn't starve to death or end up eating pizza every night.  Having a meal plan written down for the week helps us to figure out who's cooking what, which nights we won't need to cook anything and can just eat leftovers, and helps us to make sure we have enough leftovers for lunches.  

I've been ever-so-slowly working my way through my Recipes to Try on Pinterest. I try to keep a running list of what recipes I want to try next alongside my menu plan for the week, so I can cross things off as we use them and then add new recipes based on what's on sale or what we need to use up in the fridge. So, here's what I've tried recently, and my thoughts/tweaks to those recipes:

Easy Weeknight Chicken Parmesan - This was the recipe found inside a can of Progresso  Fire Roasted Tomato Recipe Starters in our pantry.  I've used a few of these Recipe Starters and have thus far been underwhelmed.  They all have a pretty "prepackaged" flavor.  I added a ton of garlic and basil to this sauce, which helped.  We used the excess sauce to make a pasta side dish.
"Chicken parm you taste so good..."  Thanks, Manning.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup:  This one was practically perfect as-is. I made it for my church small group and everyone requested that I send them the recipe. I did use more cumin (probably closer to 2-3 teaspoons) and used smoked salt instead of regular--what can I say, I like my Mexican dishes a little smoky!

Crockpot Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs:  This is possibly the easiest meal I've ever made, and it was really tasty.  You literally cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, plop the two halves into the crock, then pour in a jar of sauce and toss in some frozen meatballs, set to high for 3 hours, then go back to playing with your kid.  Perfect.

Crockpot Mashed Potatoes:  This one ended up being a flop for me, but I think I accidentally used too much milk--I also think it would have worked better with russets instead of red potatoes.  Reds have a tendency to not be as fluffy, and when I OD'd on milk the end result was a gluey mess.

Crock Pot Beef & Broccoli:  This one was also a flop.  The meat completely fell apart after having been cooked for 8 hours on low, so we essentially had shredded beef & broccoli over rice.  The sauce also didn't really ever thicken up, and was sweeter than I would have liked, so we added extra soy and sriracha. 

Baked Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges:  While not as crispy as I had hoped, these were still delicious.  Great as a side with burgers or brats.
All grilling best when completed by The Hubs with his young apprentice.

Hummus Crusted Chicken:  The hummus "crust" never really got crunchy, but it DID keep the chicken nice and moist and even my father-in-law, who doesn't like hummus, said this was a really tasty dish. I used Sundried Tomato Basil Sabra hummus, and seasoned both sides of the chicken with Cajun seasoning before adding the hummus.

Baked Garlic Paprika Chicken:  This was tasty. I recommend using smoked paprika.  Also--I was lazy and didn't heat the oil & spices together--I just tossed them in a gallon Ziploc and then added the chicken to the bag, tossing to coat.  Still a delicious result.

Biscuit Waffles 'n Gravy:  Technically only "pinspired" by Pinterest, and the trend of waffling everything these days.  We stuck some Grands biscuits in the waffle iron, and my Hubs made his famous sawmill gravy.  The biscuits were a little tough, but tasty--and no fork required, you could just pick them up & eat them.  Good schtuff.

Cajun Black Bean Soup:  My soup did not end up as creamy as I would have liked--I could never get the puree to be thin enough, so it just had some bean chunks in it. I did use Camellia brand black beans. However, flavor-wise this was delicious.  Also--before you start this recipe, note the long cook time.  I didn't and we ended up eating dinner at about 8pm that night. :)

Mushroom & Kale Ramen:  This was a nice spin on regular ramen.  I used baby portabellas instead of shiitake, but it was still a yummy bite. I also added a bit of fish sauce because...well, because it's in our fridge, and it makes me feel fancy.

Ravioli Lasagna:  We didn't really follow any recipe exactly, but the recipe under the link is close to what we made.  I used frozen cheese raviolis from Aldi, 1 lb of sliced smoked sausage links, 1 jar Italian sausage pasta sauce, and tons of mozzarella & Italian cheese blend.  Just layered the ingredients and baked for 40 minutes at 350F.

PF Chang's Style Lettuce Wraps:  These were super-tasty & really easy to throw together. I will definitely be making again.

Herbed Chicken & Pasta:  This dish had great flavor but ended up being WAY too salty for our taste. I think if you could find a low-sodium version of the soup mixes it might help, or just eliminate one of the mixes (either the garlic mix or the onion soup mix).

There's a few other things I've made recently but they were tinkered with enough (or are Cajun enough) to warrant their own post, so I'll save those for later.  You know...when I have time. :)

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