Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ Frozen Salmon with Garden Pesto Review

First of all, anyone who follows this blog regularly will realize that this is one of only about two seafood posts here. It’s no secret I’m not a big fish eater, so when Bumble Bee® offered to send me samples of their new Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ frozen seafood line, I was hesitant. But I took it on, because one, I love to try new things and I’m trying to branch out into the world of (so insanely good-for-you) fish, and two, because it was another review opportunity, and a chance to mix up my blog content.

Anyway, Bumble Bee® makes six different types of seafood recipes for their new line: Tilapia with Lemon, Pepper and Herbs; Tilapia with Garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Spicy Shrimp Romesco; Lemon Shrimp with Garlic and Herbs; Salmon with Garlicky Black Pepper and Extra Virgin Olive Oil; and, the one I sampled, Salmon with Garden Pesto. I’m a sucker for pesto, this is not news, so I had to give this one a shot. I’ve never been a salmon fan, though, unless it’s smoked. (What? I’m a Jersey Jew, lox is in my blood.)

Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden Pesto package

My favorite thing about this line is the ingredient list. Each product contains only a handful of ingredients and absolutely zero preservatives or sketchy chemicals. The ingredients read like recipes you’d make in your own kitchen, frozen into handy packets for your convenience. Thanks to that, the nutrition stats are pretty solid. The ingredient list on the Garden Pesto Salmon, for instance, is: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, basil, Parmesan cheese, almonds, parsley, fresh garlic, black pepper. Each filet (there are two per package) has 230 calories, 11g of fat, 40 mg of cholesterol, 170 mg of sodium and 26g of protein. It also has 0g of sugar, 0g of trans fat and is gluten-free. Convenient, quick and full of natural ingredients…can’t beat that, really.

Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden Pesto - prepping

And these really take very little time to prepare. The salmon takes 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. The shrimp only takes about 6 minutes on the stove. That’s about as quick and convenient as you can get. And the tilapia and salmon come with their own parchment packets, so there’s virtually no clean up. You just open the sealed packet with the filets, pop each one in its individual parchment, place on a baking sheet and bake. The shrimp has to cook in a pan on the stove, but you’re still only left with a pan and maybe a utensil or two to clean when all is said and done. They come with their own butter and seasoning medallions, so you just cook the shrimp in the pan, add the included seasoning and stir to coat.

Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden Pesto - cooking

So, obviously, the big question now is, “How was it?” Well, to be perfectly honest…I still don’t like salmon. But that doesn’t mean this product was no good. The two filets cooked up perfectly in 20 minutes in the parchment and came out soft, flaky and steaming. The pesto seasoning was absolutely delicious (almost as good as my own, dare I say–and they even use parsley and almonds in their pesto like I do!). I only picked at it because clearly I’m not going to be embracing salmon anytime soon, but Kevin really enjoyed it and nearly finished his. He only stopped because he was full. I served it over red quinoa, but this would be wonderful with rice, greens or tossed into a salad. The texture, color and consistency of the fish seemed dead-on and it didn’t taste frozen or dried out, which is what I so often worry about with frozen entrees. This tasted like someone prepared it in their own kitchen, flash-froze it and shipped it to my door.

Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden Pesto in parchmentBumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden PestoI’ll admit, I’ve actually already worked through two of the Bumble Bee SuperFresh™samples I received–I also cooked up the Lemon Shrimp with Garlic and Herbs. While I’m not a big seafood eater, I am a shrimp fan, and these were oh-my-goodness delicious! I ate them on their own because I made them late on a weekend night and Kevin and I split them as more of a small meal/big snack than a full dinner, but these would be amazing tossed in some angel hair or linguini pasta. I’m actually going to be on the lookout for this one in stores so I can buy it again and try that–like a super-quick shrimp scampi. Seriously, though, between the two of us, the dozen or so shrimp were gone in under 10 minutes. I can’t wait to try the Spicy Shrimp Romesco!

Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Lemon Shrimp With Garlic & HerbsOverall, I think Bumble Bee® has a really great product here. It’s a great way to introduce people like me, who don’t know much about preparing or serving seafood, to the world of seafood with completely seasoned and prepared recipes. It’s also great for anyone who needs convenience in their life (don’t we all) but who doesn’t want to sacrifice health or flavor. I’d gladly serve these to others in a heartbeat without feeling embarrassed about serving frozen food at a dinner party. I’m willing to bet that if I served these to someone and didn’t tell them they were pre-made and frozen, they’d never know.

Eating Bumblebee SuperFresh™ Salmon with Garden PestoMy first bite of salmon

The Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ web site has a “Where to Buy” link (http://bumblebeesuperfresh.com/buy) where you can enter your zip code and find out what stores in your area carry the Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ line. Bumble Bee SuperFresh™ is available throughout the northeast. In my area, all the local Wegmans, ShopRites and Stop n Shops carry them. They retail for between $8.99 and $9.99. Definitely not bad for a seafood dinner for two! I’d definitely buy these again, especially the shrimp, and I’d recommend them to my friends and family who are looking for a quick, non-hassle way to prepare fresh-tasting, flavorful, nutritious seafood dishes.

*Note: This is a sponsored review BumbleBee SuperFresh™ I was provided with samples of the product to try at home and was paid to blog about my experience. However, all opinions, photos and text are my own.

Healthy, mayo-less chicken salad

So, remember that whirlwind month I mentioned jumping into the last time I stopped by? Well, it was even MORE of a whirlwind than I could have anticipated. Not only was I rehearsing nearly seven days a week for a production of Spamalot (which went great, by the way!), I was also apartment-hunting, which in and of itself could be a full-time job. The good news? Kevin and I found an apartment (part of a house, really) and we’ve been renting since the first of the month, and we’ve been officially(ish) moved in for a week! (I say “ish” because we’re still missing some basics like a microwave, dishes and a kitchen table. All in due time.)

We did manage to buy a beautiful set of nonstick, oven-safe Cuisinart pots and pans, though. I love them. (I may or may not have hugged the box in Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or not.) My grandmother also gifted me her old Cuisinart food processor. It’s older than I am but in nearly perfect condition, and that means that I FINALLY have a food processor! Homemade hummus, I’m looking at you! And my first kitchen purchase? A slow-cooker. Yup. Finally. Ah, all the glorious things I can make in there…

Yet somehow, amidst all the madness, I managed to finally perfect something I’ve been contemplating for ages–a delicious, but healthy, mayonnaise-free chicken salad.

chx salad 1

Wait…did you just say mayo-less chicken salad? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Well, no. And it’s just as delicious as the mayo-y kind!

My substitute? A combo of creamy, thick Greek yogurt and guacamole. Yup. I didn’t want to use all yogurt for fear of the chicken salad tasting too tangy and yogurt-y. I didn’t want to use all guac, either, for fear of it being too thin and the flavor too overpowering. But together, they create magic.

Now, I took a lot of shortcuts here, but you can obviously start from scratch. I used Wholly Guacamole’s Salsa Guac, but of course you can make your own guacamole to start. I also used a store-bought roasted chicken and frozen pre-grilled chicken strips, but of course you can use any fresh or leftover chicken you have on hand.

I chopped up apples and celery into my chicken salad and added a heaping handful of broccoli slaw, as well. But play with it! I used what I had on hand, but other great additions are: raisins, Craisins or any dried berry; chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans; chopped pickles; chopped cucumber, carrots, broccoli or any crunch veggie; avocado; grapes…really, the additions are endless–go to town!

Making the chicken salad is as simple as could be, and this is, quite literally, a totally guilt-free chicken salad. None of that gloppy mayo mess you’re used to.

Mix chopped chicken with one part Greek yogurt and one part guacamole, add whatever your heart desires, mix and serve alone, on lettuce, or on 100% whole-grain bread topped with mustard, lettuce, pickles, tomato, cheese…whatever you like. Enjoy! (And have seconds…harm here!)

Chicken salad sandwich 3

Mayo-less Chicken Salad (serves 1-2)

1-2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1-2 tbsp prepared guacamole (Wholly Guacamole’s a great ready-made brand, or make your own)
1-2 c chopped chicken, skinless and boneless (leftover, freshly grilled, boiled, baked, roasted, etc.)
Optional add-ins: veggies, fruit, nuts, etc.
Salt, black pepper, dill to taste

1. Mix yogurt and guacamole together in a bowl to form a dressing. Add chicken and spices, stir to coat (there should be more dressing than necessary.) Taste, and add more herbs and spices if needed.

2. Add in any desired accompaniments (chopped nuts, veggies, apples, grapes, etc.) and stir to coat in the dressing and incorporate into the chicken. Taste and season again, if necessary.

3. Serve alone or atop a salad, or pile onto 100% whole-grain bread with mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. (Or eat it plain!)

Chicken salad sandwich 2

31-recipe challenge Day 22 (the final day!): Beef Pho and Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshake

This is it, the LAST day of my 31-recipe challenge! It officially took me 22 days to cook 31 30 recipes. And I’m exhausted. Later this week I’ll put together a recap post that looks over everything I made last month and what I took away from it, much like I did at the halfway point.

And, to go out with a bang (well, a shake), I FINALLY nailed a dessert!

It seems as long as a stove isn’t involved, I can make a dessert. (Ironic, really, since I can cook but can’t really bake…Cookies! I can make cookies.)

But I want to go out on a high note, so I’m going to save the shake for last and start with my last-night-of-the-challenge dinner: Beef Pho from Zen Can Cook. The broth was easy enough to make, if not pricey–star anise, cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds don’t come cheap, and I couldn’t even find a black cardamom pod–but they impart a really exotic, interesting flavor. It did make my place smell preeetty weird the first night, though.

beef pho

The only slightly “off” thing about this dish was the beef itself–I used a top round to make the broth, and despite the fact that it literally sat in liquid all night, it was pretty dry when I took it out and sliced it up. It came back to life a bit once the slices were re-added to the heated broth, but it wasn’t the tender, juicy meat I was expecting. It was actually the low point of the dish.

Otherwise, though, the pho was quite tasty–lots of fresh herbs, peppers and rice noodles in the warm, beefy broth. Much like the soba, this was a total comfort food. I wish I had this around when I was sick.

I had to make a couple of slight substitutions based on what was available. I couldn’t find any Thai basil, so I subbed in regular basil even though there’s a flavor difference. It was better than nothing. I also used a regular green long hot (seeds scraped out) in place of a Thai bird chili, which my local grocery store also didn’t sell.

Nonetheless, the flavor was still bright and vibrant, and I highly recommend this. It seems so much more complicated than it really is. Once the broth’s made, it’s really just cooking the noodles and slicing up some veggies, herbs and beef. Done and done. My only recommendation? I used only one cut of meat in my broth, because it was available and exactly the amount I needed. I would recommend mixing it up, and next time, I’d use oxtail. I almost went with it this time but opted not to. I think it would add even more depth and meatiness to the broth.

But now, for what we’ve all been waiting for…dessert!

Let’s just put this out there: Chocolate chip cookie Bailey’s milkshakes. You can screw this up nine ways to Sunday, and it would still taste fantastic. Because you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, Bailey’s and coffee ice cream.

milkshake

And, it’s a cinch! Add ice cream, Bailey’s, cookies and ice to a blender, blend, drink. If you actually do screw that up nine ways to Sunday, I might worry.

But in all seriousness, this tastes as fantastic (and fantastically bad for you!) as it sounds. (It was hard to even get a decent picture…Kevin was way too excited and impatient to drink this to wait for a photo.)

Now, I could’ve gone ahead and really pulled out all the stops and baked my own cookies to put in the milkshake (and that had been my original plan), but time became an issue, so I bought a few chewy, yummy cookies from the Wegman’s bakery department. And, frankly, they were probably more delicious than whatever I would have baked. So win-win.

And there you have it. Thirty recipes in 22 days, all capped off with the ultimate of nightcaps. It was a whirlwind month, and now, because I’m me, I’m jumping into another whirlwind month, but this time because of rehearsals. (What can I say? I thrive when I’m busy.)

Hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll regain the strength to lift a pot or light a stove. Until then, I’m reveling in the beauty that is takeout (sushi!) and leftovers.

31-recipe challenge Day 21: Chicken and dumplings

Well, folks, we’re in the home stretch as far as posts about the recipe challenge go, now. This was my second-to-last day of cooking and third-to-last dish. (Yes, I promise, I’m all done now, I’m just still two days behind on blogging about it. I’m so looking forward to take-out tonight! No dishes!)

*********

I’m really glad I didn’t make this one the same week as the chicken pot pie.

Why?

Well, chicken and dumplings is, essentially, a deconstructed chicken pot pie. Personally, based on the way each dish turned out, I’d rather have the pot pie.

I’m not saying this one was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the pot pie. Again, I’m not really sure who (or what) is to blame here, but since I’m not in the business of bad-mouthing other hardworking food bloggers, I’ll take the fall on this one. Besides, this recipe came from Diane at Stylish Cuisine and her finished product looked all sorts of warm, happy and saucy.

I halved this recipe, but I halved everything, including the stew/sauce. I assumed that was the right way to do it, but were I to make this again, I would probably keep the full amount of sauce and halve just the actual chicken and dumplings.

chicken and dumplings

Why’s that? Well, when all was said and done, there was a serious lack of sauce/stew in the dish, making it more dumpling than liquid. And that stew base is supposed to be the best part (to me it is, anyway.) The dumplings didn’t really have anywhere to go in the scant amount of stew base, so they sort of blew up into one super-dumpling. (Any artists out there willing to create a rendition of the delicious and nutritious superhero “Super Dumpling” would be my new best friend.)

Somehow, despite cooking in liquid, my chicken also came out a bit tough and seemingly overdone, although I’m alone in this consensus. No one else that ate it seemed to agree; maybe it’s just my oversensitive, wisdom-toothless mouth talking.

Regardless, this wasn’t bad–I ate it for lunch the next day–but it wasn’t the comfy-cozy comfort food greatness it could have been. And yes, I am comparing it to the pot pie, which probably isn’t fair. It should stand on its own merit. But I can’t help it, they’re practically the same dish. I even “healthified” the dumplings a bit by making them with half whole-wheat and half all purpose flour, like the pot pie crust. I’m sorry (but not really) for turning chicken and dumplings into the shadow-cast little sister of chicken pot pie.

One day I’ll be a good cook and be able to write posts about how great and tasty my dish was rather than grasp at straws to find their virtues…I swear…

For some reason, this was just a tough week. But don’t worry, I went out on a high note! (You’ll see…)

 

31-recipe challenge Day 20: Butterscotch pudding and Liebster Blog Award

Before we get started, I’d like to note that it is February 28, and it is the final day of my 31-recipe challenge, and my final day of cooking. I have a few more posts to get out to be all caught up, but this is it. I want it on record that I HAVE made all 31 (well, 30) recipes in the 28 days of February. In the words of Top Chef, at the end of today it’s “knives down, hands up.” Done-zo.

But until then…

I was so excited to make this pudding. Butterscotch pudding…are there any two more beautifully paired words in the English language?

Butterscotch pudding, when done right, is one of those things you find yourself daydreaming about, craving at any hour. Basically, it’s heaven in a bowl…

…until I lay my hands on it. I had such high hopes for this one, and it came out, well, a flop. Now, the recipe from Jennifer at Foodess is not to blame; her pudding looked DIVINE. My ineptitude with anything remotely dessert-y is to blame here. It’s a vicious curse, really…a woman with a sweet tooth as voracious as mine can’t make dessert. That’s irony. (I’m 0 for 2 on puddings here; they are clearly not my forte. Remember the bread pudding?)

To be honest, I have no idea where this began going downhill. I followed the recipe exactly (I didn’t even halve it!), and when I put the finished pudding in the fridge, it seemed fine.  But when I went to taste-test hours later, the texture was totally off-putting. It was gritty, grainy and curdled (ugh!).The one good thing, at least, was the flavor. (Thank you very much, Johnnie Walker Black Label. Good scotch=good butterscotch.)

butterscotch puddingIt still looked nice. I can pretend, can’t I?

Sure, I had encountered some curdling through the cooking process, but I didn’t freak…Jenn said that may happen, and if so, just our through a strainer before storing in the fridge. I guess mine wasn’t fine-meshed enough, or the curdling continued during refrigeration. I’m not sure. As for the grittiness…I got nothing. The caramel/butterscotch base (i.e., the molten sugar) was smooth and creamy, not grainy and sugary, so that’s not to blame. I’m out.

My one true disaster actually occurred early on. My successful caramel was actually my second attempt–my first attempt burnt to a crisp and filled my apartment with smoke. My eyes were burning, my dog was whimpering, I was running around half-blinded to open all the windows in the vicinity. At one point, I thought turning on the ceiling fan in the kitchen would help, but instead it just blew the burnt-sugar smoke into the living room, the foyer, the hallway. The dog and I took refuge in the bathroom (the only safe place) until we could breathe and see again. That was tragic, and nearly ruined the saucepan. (Two days of soaking, scrubbing and boiling water later, it’s like new!)

Needless to say, I watched round two like a hawk–at exactly that five-minute mark, off the heat. And it was lovely.

Anyway, let’s move on from this disaster that was (not) butterscotch pudding.

On Tuesday, I received the Liebster Blog Award from Sherry at Cafe Vita! I’m so excited! My little blog finally got noticed, and this is my first-EVER blogging award! The Liebster Blog Award is given to new bloggers that only have about 200 followers. “Liebster” is German for dearest, loveliest or favorite.

liebster-blog-2

There are some rules to accepting this award:
1. Each awarded blogger will post 11 random facts about themselves
2. 11 questions provided by the sender have to be answered
3. 11 new bloggers have to be chosen to which the award will be passed on
Go to their pages, tell them about the award and pass on the link to your post!
So it is kind of a blogger chain mail. This is a nice way to hep promote new blogs and to  get to know the owners.

So here it goes: 11 random facts about me:
1. I graduated Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies and a minor in Spanish.
2. While there, I also seriously considered minoring in dance (and auditioned to).
3. I currently live with my mother and my English Pointer named Nikki, and occasionally my younger sister. Four months ago, we moved out of the house we lived in for 21 years.
4. But, within the next two months, I will be living with my boyfriend Kevin and his/our yellow lab, Mackenzie.
5. I hate mushrooms.
6. I’ve lived in five different towns in New Jersey and one city in Spain (Valencia).
7. I am absolutely terrified of needles and crickets.
8. I’m very short. I’m just barely 5’1″ with shoes on.
9. By day, I work as a writer and web site administrator for a national political and  public opinion polling company.
10. I’ve been a dancer since I was three years old.
11. I dye my hair. I’m a natural brunette, but dye it red.

So now is the time to pass this award along!
I looked through Facebook, Twitter and WordPress to find up-and-coming blogs I enjoy and who’s work I want to promote. I noticed these blogs and would like to pass the award on to them.  This is a vehicle to help you connect with other new bloggers and to mutually encourage one another.  Have fun! (Confession: I may or may not be fudging a bit, since I’m not entirely sure how many followers some of these blogs have.)

Treats and Trinkets (so many sweets! I’ll leave the desserts to her! And she’s a Jersey girl!)
Our Dinner Table (another Jersey girl! You know I love it!)
Down-Home South Jersey (THREE Jersey girls! Clearly NJ is the place for awesome food bloggers!)
Heike Herrling …but it tasted good (such beautiful, creative dishes!)
Crostini and Chianti (is that a blog title or an invitation? Because, yes please!)

These were the 11 questions asked by Sherry at Cafe Vita:
1.  Where do you live NOW? 15 minutes away from my old house, right on the Jersey Shore
2.  What made you decide to blog? I was unhappy with where my life was 13 months ago, and I wanted to do something for me. I had toyed with the idea for a few weeks, so I just decided to jump in and do it.
3.  What was the number one tool that helped you get started? I’m not really sure how to answer that…Wordpress?
4.  Share a blog address that INSPIRED you. The Lean Green Bean. She’s an inspirational health, fitness, food and nutrition blogger. She gets me off my couch! http://www.theleangreenbean.com/
5.   What are your goals for your blog? I hope to reach out to people who share my passion for food, cooking and nutrition and I hope to expand my readership beyond my parents and my really bored friends.
6.  How do you take your photos? Badly! Haha…on an iPhone (I knoooow). I try to set up some good lighting and staging, usually on my well-lit end table in my living room. Then I edit in PicStitch.
7.  How much time do you spend per day/week on your blog or Facebook interactions? That really varies. This month, about an hour a day. Other times, much less.
8.  What do you like most in a blog post from others? Humor, relatability, honesty, personal anecdotes and pretty photos.
9.  What are other hobbies that you have besides blogging? Theater and dance, nutrition, yoga
10. Favorite blog? Peas and Crayons…she nails the factors I mentioned in #8, and sometimes I believe we’re kindred spirits.
11. Favorite ingredient? That’s such a tough call…fresh basil or cilantro or ginger. And red wine. And black pepper. And peas. OK, that was more than one…

Congratulations to all the recipients, it was well deserved! Now, here are my 11 questions for YOU!

1. What’s the best advice you would like to receive from an established blogger?
2. What’s the best advice you would give to a new blogger?
3. What is your favorite cocktail/beverage?
4. Favorite guilty pleasure food?
5. Favorite television show?
6. Why did you start blogging?
7. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask?
8. Who’s your main taste tester/critic/support system?
9. What’s your occupation?
10. What’s the biggest disaster you’ve ever had in the kitchen?
11. It’s almost spring! What’s the thing your most excited about heading into spring?

Now it’s your turn! Copy and paste these questions into a new post and answer them, and then pass along the award to 11 more well-deserving bloggers! Have fun!

And a major thanks again to Sherry from Cafe Vita for passing this award to me!

31-recipe challenge Day 19: Oscars and short ribs

What better, swankier dish to serve on Oscars Sunday than red-wine braised short ribs? There isn’t one, really.

These braised short ribs, courtesy of Diane, A Broad (love the blog name!) might be hands-down one of the best things I have ever cooked, ever. After just three hours in the oven, these were the richest, most fall-apart ribs I’ve ever had. (Enough so that two days post-surgery I was even able to eat them!). They seem scary and complicated and oh-so-fancy, but really it’s just a lot of throwing stuff in a pot and letting it go.

short ribs 1

There are several steps, between searing, slow-roasting, separating and reducing, but no one step is particularly intimidating on its own. It’s the sum of its parts that’s so seemingly overwhelming, really, but once you break it down you realize it’s really not all that bad. It’s downright doable! And I would totally do this again.

Also, I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a cooked carrot that’s not braised in red wine again. Even the carrots were melt-in-your-mouth.

I served these over some instant polenta, much like Diane, though I pumped mine up with pecorino romano and little light cream. Add a ton of chives and more sauce and dig in and don’t look back. Thank me later.

Despite the fact that I’m going home to cook dinner tonight (duh), all I want to do right now is eat leftover short ribs straight out of the fridge. Short rib appetizer, anyone?

short ribs 2

Short ribs, Seth MacFarlane, Les Miserables…it’s like everything I love just came together to make me the happiest girl in the world. Add in Jennifer Lawrence being adorable as ever while winning Best Actress (and HOW sweet was it when both Hugh Jackman AND Bradley Cooper ran up to help her when she fell?? Such gentlemen!) and it was a pretty great Sunday. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a big glass of the malbec I used to braise the ribs. Curse you, amoxycillin! I thought we were over.

 

31-recipe challenge Day 18: Soup Round-up

As I’ve mentioned before, I had my wisdom teeth out on Friday, and so, in anticipation of that, I spent a lot of last week prepping most of the soups on the recipe list. I could also rename this post, “Why an immersion blender is my best friend.”

First, I made this vegan herbed carrot soup from 10th Kitchen. This soup is fantastic. It’s light, it’s fresh and it’s so, so healthy. It’s helpful to have around when you can’t chew any real fruits or vegetables–it gets me my veggies! I’ve been eating the soup hot, but I’m sure it would be really refreshing cold, as well, like a carrot gazpacho.

Carrot soup

This soup is the first installment of “Why an immersion blender is my best friend.” I actually forgot I even had an immersion blender until I moved, and in the process of packing up the kitchen came across a really old one that I assumed was broken. But we plugged the thing in and, I’ll be damned, it worked! That was a great day. Now I’ve checked one thing off my ever-growing list of kitchen gadgets. Plus, it saves me the inevitable burns from pouring hot soup contents into a blender and back again.

I also cooked up a batch of ginger-chicken soup from Bon Appétit. The recipe called for six quarts of water to three pounds of chicken, which all the commenters said was WAY too much. I halved the recipe to begin with, so I was only using about a pound and a half of chicken (once I removed the breast that cooked in the initial stock to use in my chicken pot pie), so I cut the water down to eight cups to result in a richer tasting broth. I also then added in some extra chicken stock I had left in the fridge at the end.

Chicken soup

With the extra concentration of the chicken flavor, the ginger was kind of lost; I probably should have added more ginger to counterbalance the extra stock. Nonetheless, in the end it made a good chicken soup, even if it tasted standard and not ginger-y. But I made a pretty decent broth (round one.)

Round two of cooking chicken stock from scratch was the base for alanabread’s creamy leek and garlic soup. This soup. Oh, what can I say about this soup? This soup is so good that I was licking the spoon as it cooked. Like cake batter. It was, however, very, VERY thick when I only used half the chicken stock I made. (The recipe was supposed to yield double the stock needed for the soup.) I ended up adding all the stock to get the right soup-like consistency. After only half the stock, it was more like a thin mashed potato puree than a soup. (A delicious potato puree, though. I’m totally considering remaking this one, but doctored into mashed potatoes rather than soup. That would be one killer side dish.)

Leek and garlic soup

What makes this soup so OMG is the two bulbs of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic is sweet and aromatic, not spicy and pungent like in its raw form. And it smells amazing. I now highly recommend adding it to everything. Especially anything potato-based.

There’s just the tiniest amount of dairy in this soup, too; most of the creaminess comes from potato, with just 100 ml of light cream added at the end. And it’s heavenly. I think I found my new favorite soup. Also, see installment two of “Why an immersion blender is my best friend.”

With options like this, my post-surgery soft diet is way less boring than run-of-the-mill canned soups and applesauce (and much healthier.) It’s making the whole recovery process much smoother. (No pun intended!)

31-recipe challenge Day 17: Red cabbage, onion and walnut tart

I want to preface this post by saying I mean absolutely no disrespect to Mimi from Manger, who’s cabbage, onion and walnut tart I cooked recently. And while it was undoubtedly one of the prettiest things I’ve ever cooked (it’s purple!), it was, well, unsatisfying. That being said, I don’t eat cooked cabbage, like, ever. I’m the person who orders pizza on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t even like the way it smells. So I should have known that cooking a dish almost entirely composed of the stuff wouldn’t fare too well. Maybe it’s a French thing. I must just not be sophisticated enough to understand.

Cabbage, onion, walnut tart

Kevin ate a whole slice; I made it through a bite and called it a day–luckily we had already had a leftover pot pie. Possibly more balsamic would have made it better; Kevin suggested a balsamic reduction over the whole thing rather than just two tablespoons. I agree that that may have improved it and kind of covered up the cabbage taste.

All that being said, it’s not a bad recipe for cabbage-lovers. It’s just not a great recipe for non-cabbage fans. It’s one of the only two things I’ve made this month that I’ve ended up throwing out almost in its entirety. (See the pumpkin pie bread pudding) But while that was just poorly made (the squash didn’t cook enough, for one), this came out just fine (it was clearly cooked enough and correctly), I just wasn’t a fan. But Mimi’s recipe was good and very quick and easy, so it’s a great vegetarian weekday entrée or side dish.

Cabbage, onion, walnut tart slice

I served it with crème fraîche and parsley, like she suggested, which definitely complements it well. (What? Just cause I didn’t like it doesn’t mean I can’t tell what flavors do and don’t meld.)

*Side note: Mimi, if you’re reading, HOW did you get it to set up so well? As soon as I sliced this, the veggies fell out everywhere, but yours is so lovely and tidy. What’s your secret?

So, in short…fine recipe, not my taste, so didn’t care for it. But it sure looks nice! (Again, I’m a sucker for anything purple, especially food.)

31-recipe challenge Day 16: Miso-glazed cod

I know there have been a lot of things I’ve written about that I’m not a big fan of but ate anyway, but this was the biggest one. I’ve never, ever been a fish eater. I eat lox (Jewish girl at heart), shrimp and I’ve recently started branching out in my sushi selections. But, for the most part, growing up and into adulthood, I’ve never been a seafood person, and I’ve certainly never eaten a full filet of fish, let alone prepared it. Yet, for this recipe, I did both.

I was literally the dumbest fish buyer ever. I asked the seafood purveyors at ShopRite and Wegmans a million questions, then asked my mom even more about preparing and serving it and determining its freshness and if that “fishy” smell is okay. But now I’ve been de-virginized…in cooking fish.

Miso-marinated cod with rice and broccoletti

This recipe, from the ironically named No Recipes, was originally for miso-glazed black cod, which is apparently extremely hard to find on the east coast. I spent about two weeks asking around and trying to track some down, but when I discovered it could only be ordered in 15-pound cases, it was time for Plan B. After some inquiring, I ended up purchasing Alaskan cod instead, which is a good, mild starter fish. Black cod isn’t even technically cod–it’s sablefish. But, somehow Alaskan cod is readily available on the east coast, but west coast black cod isn’t. Not gonna question it.

The miso-mirin glaze was super quick and easy, and the fish cooked up in no time. The only time-consuming part of this recipe is marinating the cod for one to two days.

And the best part? I liked it! As did Kevin, who eats even less fish than I do. As a matter of fact, I ate most of mine, but left some of the less-marinated parts behind, but Kevin cleared his plate. I think I just added a fish dish to our repertoire. Look at us growing up!

I served it with some white rice and sautéed broccoletti. A quick, healthy satisfying dinner in under 15 minutes. Can’t be beat. And I ate and enjoyed fish! That’s growth, people.

Miso-marinated cod

31-recipe challenge Day 15: Chicken Pot Pie

There’s something so quintessentially wintery and cozy about chicken pot pie.  It’s really the ultimate winter comfort food.  And making my own lets me totally control what goes into it, unlike most of those frozen, pre-made ones from the store.

Chicken pot pie whole

Overall, this was a good recipe, though, of course, I skipped the mushrooms in lieu of an extra pour of chicken stock. Once it was all baked up, I did feel the whole thing could have benefited from some more salt, which is unusual for me, but nonetheless, an extra pinch of salt would’ve brought all the flavors out even more.

I used all white meat in my pot pie, breast specifically. I made chicken soup the same day (more to come on that later), so I used one of the breasts that cooked in the stock. (Multitasking!)

I really wish there was more I could say about this pot pie, other than Kevin loved it and I wish I had more, because it’s still cold and bitter and pot pie weather. But March is so close now, and I’m hoping the mid-Atlantic catches on that March means spring. (One can dream, right?) And I love the whole wheat crust instead of the typical white crust (not that the thought of topping it with biscuit dough hasn’t crossed my mind…yum.)

Chicken pot pie filling

I’m also still suffering from a bit of anesthesia hangover from my wisdom teeth surgery yesterday. On the good side, I’m in very little pain; I’ve only taken two Tylenol and none of the Vicodin the surgeon prescribed. On the downside, I’ve been super tired and groggy since yesterday, and there are solid chunks of time directly post-surgery that I remember NONE of.

I’ve been tucking into all the soup I prepped for myself last week–I’ll have a separate post about that coming soon.

 

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