Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “healthy eating”

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.

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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 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 13: Soba Noodles

Well, folks, this is pretty much the halfway point! And what better way to commemorate than soba noodles?

Why soba? Well, because who doesn’t love a steaming hot bowl of noodles?

Soba noodles

These soba noodles from Pickled Plum were probably my most “exotic” recipe yet. I mean that in the sense of the ingredients. I spent more time in the international aisle for this recipe than for any other, and, in the end, some adjustments had to be made. I couldn’t find certain things on the list, like fish cakes (okay, not that I really looked that hard…) and ichimi pepper. But luckily, I found out ichimi is basically just a hot Japanese chili pepper, so I used a little chili powder instead.  I almost couldn’t find the dried fish flake (katsuo bushi) for the sauce, but I found an unfortunately large package of it at the last minute.

I ended up halving the amount of fish flake in the sauce because I was afraid it would impart too much of a fishy flavor, because when I opened that package, whoa baby was it fishy! But I think the full two tablespoons actually would’ve been fine. The flavor seems way milder than the smell.

To be completely honest, I don’t think what I bought were truly soba noodles. I bought rice flour and buckwheat vermicelli (soba are buckwheat), but I don’t think that’s actually the same thing. Close enough though, right? These were great gluten-free noodles, though. I gave the rest to my mom to try because I liked them better than most gluten-free pasta substitutes I’ve tried (like brown rice pasta), and they were cheap. I have a bunch of sauce and toppings left, so I’ll probably go buy actual soba noodles and make it again.

Soba bowls

This dish was an unbridled success. It took only as long as it took to heat up the sauce and boil the noodles, so basically no longer than any other pasta. Plus, it’s warm and cozy and totally customizable–add pretty much whatever you want with as much or as little sauce as you want. You could totally add chicken, pork, shrimp or fish to this and make it a more filling meal. We went with grated ginger, grated daikon (a large, white, Asian radish), chopped scallions and cilantro. I also spent way too much time in the international aisle at Wegmans hunting down nori, found some, and then forgot to add it to the soba. Oops. It’s there for next time. (Confession: I ate this along with pizza. Not traditional and very weird, but it was there and I love pizza. Sue me.)

Truth be told, I’m leaving the wasabi out next time. I thought I just put the smallest bit in, but holy cow! I couldn’t finish my bowl–I gave it to Kevin. It was SO spicy. (To me, anyway, but we all know I’m a spice wimp.) Anyway, next time I’m just saying “no” to wasabi.

Wasabi or no wasabi, soba is a great cold winter day meal or home sick meal, because it’s so cozy and warming and a fun alternative to the usual pasta or soup. And it’s quick! (And if you have a cold or sinus infection, just mix a little extra wasabi in there and BAM! Sinuses cleared.)

So go cozy up with a bowl of soba…what are you waiting for??

Soba noodles 2

31-recipe challenge Day 11: Cauliflower Curry

We’re getting international, folks! This challenge is filled with vegetarian recipes, and this is just another one. As a matter of fact, this is the recipe Kevin got excited about, which may mark the first time he’s ever gotten excited over anything strictly vegetarian, except pizza and Twisted Tree vegan ginger cookies.

This “exciting” recipe would be Cauliflower Curry from Cook Republic.

Cauliflower curry 1

I should tell you that, for whatever reason, I was totally frazzled Wednesday evening when I was cooking this. It’s super easy, but my head was just not in the game. I got caught up on the phone with my mom, and before I know it, the water’s boiling, so I dump in the cauliflower before realizing I’ve yet to chop the potato. Then I think I let them cook too long, because the finished product was a bit softer and mushier than the original recipe photos. That being said, it still worked. It was more like a traditional curry.

I also completely disregarded measuring the cauliflower and just dumped it all in in haste, so I’m pretty sure I had more than two cups, so I had to keep adjusting the spices accordingly.  In the end, I still think it came out a tad bland. (UPDATE: eating it as leftovers for lunch a couple days later, I’ve changed my mind. I think the spices just needed some more time to meld and develop.)

Then there were the peas. I just kept dumping more in cause I like peas. I see nothing wrong with that.

From there, things got better. I let it simmer. Even the most absent-minded girl can do that. My curry came out wetter and yellower than the original recipe, but that, again, could be due to my ratios being off. Still, I wanted more of a sauce-like curry, so I added in about a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of light cream at the end, as per her suggestion. In the end, I liked the texture, even if it was a bit soft. (It actually kind of reminded me of curried chicken salad in spice and texture, which I like.)

Cauliflower curry 2

We toasted up some whole wheat pita in place of flatbread and dug in! Kevin’s never had curry before, but he enjoyed this one. And I’ve been enjoying the leftovers. She recommends adding them to naan or pizza, but I’ve just been eating them with a fork. Works for me.

 

31-Recipe Challenge Day 8: Banana Bread Oatmeal and Snow

As I mentioned yesterday, it snowed here over the weekend. I woke up Saturday to a blanket of white…that was plowed right up and over my car. The upside of moving from a house to an apartment is the lack of a driveway and walkway to shovel. The downside is I now park on the street and the snowplows plow our cars right in. So I did still have to spend Saturday morning clearing off and shoveling out some cars. And it was crazy windy, so I ended up looking more like I had jumped in the snow than shoveled it. (Have I mentioned I’m not a big fan of snow?)

But the upside to shoveling snow is getting to come inside after and warm up with some hot oatmeal and cocoa. So I made myself a hearty post-snow breakfast of banana bread oatmeal, courtesy of My Fat Heart.

Banana bread oatmeal and cocoa

I’ll be up front: I’m weird about banana. I like them, I eat them, I excitedly pair them with peanut butter. But banana bread? Banana chips? Most other banana-flavored or banana-inclusive things? No thanks. I’m picky about where my bananas can make an appearance. (Get your minds out of the gutter! No? Just me? Dammit.) So naturally, I was little worried to try out an oatmeal recipe that calls for mashed banana out of fear that I would not be in a banana mood when I decided to make this recipe. (I was. It’s all good.)

Actually, I like the idea of adding mashed banana to oatmeal to add sweetness and moisture. But for me, this oatmeal wasn’t a hit. It seized up before I got to eat it, making it unappealingly chewy, thick and sticky. In hindsight, I probably could have remedied this by just adding some more hot milk to it and stirring it in. Oh well. (Also, I used dairy skim milk, not almond milk like the original recipe states. I wonder now if the almond milk’s thickness would have helped the texture.)

(To be fair, though, the oatmeal may very well have started to solidify as I took shot after shot trying to get a decent, shadow-free photo. Eating this immediately after cooking, sans photo shoot, would probably have resulted in a much better oatmeal experience.)

One other thing–this had way too much cinnamon for me. Next time, I’d probably skip it in the topping and just sprinkle with brown sugar. (I also only had dark brown sugar on hand, not light, which has a more intense flavor and may have highlighted the cinnamon spice even more.)

Bottom line? I’ll try it again, no photo shoot, no extra cinnamon, maybe extra milk. And for the love of God, NOT with McCann’s steel cut oats. I tried it that way the first time in place of rolled oats (because I love my Irish oatmeal), but the ratios were not right and it cooked right onto the bottom of the pot. That was a fun cleanup.)

Therefore, if you do try this recipe (and please do! Just don’t take a thousand photos in front of a cold window first), FOLLOW IT! She knows what she’s talking about. Don’t be me.

Banana bread oatmeal and mocha on windowsill

And then snuggle up with a steamy bowl of oats and a big ol’ mug of cocoa, coffee, tea or some combination thereof. Happy snow day!

 

31-Recipe Challenge Day 6: Chili and granola (but not together…)

Day 6 may be one of my most successful recipe challenge day yet (or at least my mom would think so…she gave a double-thumbs up to both these recipes. Consider them added to the bank!)

Vegetarian chili and granola is a strange combination, but trust me…I didn’t eat them together! I had actually intended to make the granola the day before, but after not one, but TWO separate grocery store trips, I came home to realize that the oats I swore I had at home were nowhere to be found. It’s pretty hard to make granola without oats. So I bought oats the next day, THEN I made granola. And it. is. awesome. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even halve this recipe–I had a feeling this one would be good, so I have a big container of it sitting in my cabinet now, just waiting to adorn all sorts of yogurt. (Or milk and strawberries, in place of cereal. Or just straight out of the container into my mouth. Also delicious.)

Granola

The great thing about the recipe from Dining With Dostoevsky (major props for the name, btw) was the room for adaptation. I followed largely to the T, as I said I would, with a few exceptions: for one, she used a honey-water solution, but mentioned that you could use pure maple syrup, as well. So, naturally, I had to take that invitation (I adore maple syrup). My final sweetener ratio ended up being 3/4 cup maple syrup and 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (not light like the recipe called for, but it’s what I had.) And honestly, I could probably remake this with even less syrup/sugar and it would still be great.

I also got home and could not find my pumpkin seeds ANYWHERE. Seriously, they still haven’t turned up, even though Kevin was eating them the day before. (I think he ate them all.) Anyway, no big loss for me there…I don’t even really like pumpkin seeds. Worked for me. I also couldn’t find any “extra thick” rolled oats, so I used regular rolled oats. They worked fine.

Also…the recipe calls for cardamom, and I skipped it. (Gasp! I know…) Thing is, cardamom is, like, crazy expensive. It was $10-11 for a regular 1-2 ounce container, $13 if I wanted whole pods. Since cardamom has a unique flavor, I didn’t try substituting anything for it. The granola was still delicious, and the maple flavor came through a lot, though I imagine the cardamom would make it extra special.

*Sidebar: This challenge is making me poor. My grocery bills have been well over $100 a week, and that’s only including the bare minimum of basic groceries in addition to the ingredients. I should start a fundraising campaign so I can afford things like cardamom and duck fat. If anyone wants to send me money (or cardamom), I wouldn’t turn it away. I should create a Kickstart fund or something! *end sidebar

However, I kept everything else as-is–even the pistachios, and I don’t care for pistachios. But it all works well together. Of course, I could always do with adding another cup or eight of apricots!

While the granola baked, I made the vegetarian chili from Nutritionist in the Kitch. I’ve never made chili because it always seemed intimidating, but really the only moderately difficult part of this recipe was prepping and chopping all the vegetables. Once it’s on the stove, it more or less just does its own thing.

Chili ingredientsPrepping the chili ingredients…more cans than I realized, but also plenty of fresh veggies!

I found red quinoa, not white quinoa, at the supermarket, and I actually really loved the extra shade of red it added into the chili–red peppers, tomatoes, red kidney beans and now the red quinoa. Of course, I scraped all the seeds out of the jalapeño, but you could keep them in for more heat (we all know my stance on spicy food by now.)

Cooking veggiesShe included plain yogurt and scallions as toppings for the chili, but I love grated cheddar on my chili, so I added that instead. Add whatever you like!

Vegetarian chiliMy mom absolutely loved this one, though she claimed it needed meat. Somehow I think she’s an even bigger carnivore than Kevin (who also gave this the seal of approval. Pretty sure he agrees with the need for meat, though.) Personally, I think this chili has more than enough protein on its own already, with two types of beans and quinoa. But sure, you could add some ground beef if you want.

Two totally unrelated (but healthy!)  recipes, but two certified successes. It was a good night. I should listen to showtunes on Pandora while I cook more often–apparently they give me good vibes!

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