On Cooking With Friends: Chicago Edition #1 – BA’s Best Lasagna

I was hoping there would be an opportunity for me to host some friends and cook with them, and thankfully, when my friend Melissa asked for help in making bachelorette goodies/crafts, I figured we’d go ahead and make dinner too! We decided that we would make lasagna! Mm mm yay!!! There was one recipe in particular that stood out to me, because, if we were going to do lasagna, that means we were going to make pretty much everything from scratch, except the noodles. That’s a little more time consuming than I was quite ready to take on, and I figured we were doing pretty much everything else by hand, so we can sneak in the premade pasta noodles for this one).

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Lasagna for me is one of the main dishes that remind me of my late grandmother, following her ever famous Cake Box Cookies, which caused everyone to maneuver around the house by way of the kitchen and the Cookie Monster jar that contained all her baking efforts. Whenever my family would visit her and my grandfather in Colorado Springs, she always had a variety of family meals planned, including her infamous Tuna Casserole—one of the only things she ever made that no one really liked, and as a result, left us plenty of leftovers during our stay—and frozen Lasagna (Stoffer’s, always Stoffer’s). It fed the army that is my dad’s side of the family, and there were hardly ever any leftovers because that was the night were you supposed to eat more than your fill and remain seated at the dining table, cradling your food baby, as you caught up on current life news and reminisced about old stories you never really had to be there for to enjoy. Lasagna was also one of the harder things for my brothers to say when they were small, calling it “Bah-sagna,” their little faces contorted in effort as their little pink tongues tried to get the “L” sound just right, only to start giggling hysterically because the new word they made sounded so funny. We actually still call it Basagna in my family, and everyone still laughs at it. Basagna…it does sound a little funny when you say it out loud. Bah-Sahn-yaaaaaaa.

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But I digress. Lasagna, I think, is one of the trickiest things to serve, let alone, the trickiest things to make where EVERYONE likes it…how many of you dear readers don’t like ricotta (Frankie & Melissa: ME ME ME!)? How many of you don’t like the “no-bake” noodles? (Me: ME ME ME!) How many just don’t like lasagna in general (No one? Phew, that’s a relief)? And I bet it’s not because lasagna isn’t a good dish overall, but rather—and I will attest to this—it’s how certain family members and favorite restaurants have interpreted and served the lasagna we have constantly been exposed to. That immediate, and further exposure, is what shapes the foods we like, the foods we don’t, and foods we can never eat again. But on the flipside, what one of us doesn’t like, another may love. For example, my Mamaw (my mom’s mom) LOVES her lasagna to have a lot of meat sauce and a ton of cheese, whereas my main problem with ordering lasagna out is when they SMOTHER it in cheese to the point where that’s all I can taste. And if there’s not enough meat sauce, Mamaw’s got a few words to say about that…but that only proves my point. Lasagna is a hard dish to really get universally right because tastes are so different.

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That being said, since the majority of folks I was actually making this dish for did NOT like ricotta, I chose Bon Appetit’s Best Lasagna, which has a bechamel sauce with parmesan instead of ricotta, which makes this recipe even more of a win-win for those who were going to enjoy it! The one thing I will say is this: the sauce says it takes 3 hours to make, and it kind of does by their standard, HOWEVER, my main recommendation is go with your favorite bolognese and call it a day. Their sauce is good, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think I will ever spend three hours the night before to make it again, when I can spend 30-45 minutes making my own bolognese that I know everyone has enjoyed eating before.

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I will say this: EVERYONE loved it. Honest. I had one serving of leftovers at the end of the night because the girls who ate with me wanted to take some home with them too! I honestly believe the bechamel was the main reason this lasagna worked out so well, but I also believe the bite of the noodles (which held up significantly to the weight of the sauce and the gooey-ness of the cheese so beautifully) and the equal balance between noodle, sauce, and cheese, was what made this a winning dish. If you’re also a lasagna skeptic, then give this recipe a try and see if it doesn’t change your mind.  — Cooking Maggie


Best Lasagna Recipe from Bon Appetit

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On Last Week of Whole30

I can’t believe how close we are to being done! It’s Day 29, and tomorrow is DAY 30!!! Holy smokes! Sure, those last few days definitely have that “is day 29 pretty much the same thing as day 30” feel to it, and don’t worry, I absolutely am not going to give up! I will see this through to the end because I know I can do this for another day and a half, especially since I have the day off tomorrow! WOOT WOOT! Plus, Frankie & I have talked AT LENGTH about how to move forward from this experience so that the time and effort we put into the Whole30 won’t be wasted once we’re done.

We’ve discussed doing Whole7’s every so often (potentially every other month), and we’ve talked about ways in which we can continue to cut out processed foods/sugar from our diet a little more permanently, like not eating the free pizza that our works might order during lunch webinars and instead eat our leftovers so we don’t waste food, and just limiting our takeout/junk food habits significantly. We have decided that Friday night is going to be our date/eat out/cheat night, which works for me because I never really feel like cooking on most Friday’s anyway, but we won’t go overboard either! We’ve both seen such amazing results from this experience that neither of us wants to go to waste. We’ll definitely be including more veggies, more salads, and more real vegetables and fruits at home more than the processed snack foods we used to buy and store in our cupboard. There will definitely be an adjustment period, but I’m incredibly hopeful, and no doubt I’ll end up cooking as close to Paleo as I can since the majority of the dishes I’ve made were absolutely delicious!

But my ending thoughts though on the Whole30 are as follows: I will never do a month of that again, unless I really, REALLY have to, BUT the experience was indeed a life-changing one and will have a permanent effect on both Frankie & I’s lifestyle for the better. Would I recommend it? Sure, I would recommend it to someone who has been thinking about it or really wants to do it, and you should really want to dedicate yourself to this, otherwise you’re going to hate it, and in that case, I wouldn’t recommend this. But I will say that the best indicator of whether a diet is the right one for you depends on yourself. Only you know your body and general health better than anyone else, and if you do decide to tackle the Whole30 or another diet and find that it’s negatively impacting your mood or health beyond normal, then it’s likely not the right diet for you. Of course, you’re going through changes physically and mentally, BUT the only negative effect Frankie & I felt were the cravings and occasional hunger here or there because we cut out snacking, but we were never “moody” or “hangry” to a degree that would be considered abnormal. The Whole30 actually made us feel good, feel better in the long run, and THAT is why I would recommend this to someone else, but again, make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into and commit.

But I also know that diets aren’t for everyone, so if you’re looking for just the one thing we learned the most, that would simply be to reduce/minimize your intake of sugar (processed or natural). Sugar is one of the biggest inflammatory ingredients there is, and as much as I love my Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream, I understand that a lot of the weight I had accumulated was because of the sugar I was consuming on a daily basis through snacking and (honestly) mindless consumption. A little bit won’t hurt me now, today, but long term, yeah, I can totally see how it was impacting the way I was feeling and looking. Okay, THAT is my schpeel on Whole30!

Final Housekeeping: April 15th will be the first segment of Cooking with Friends!! The first round will just be a post, but we will be coming up with ways to potentially either stream it live or record it for when the post goes live. All things are still in the works, but that’s my main update for you! Tune in next Thursday for my attempt at homemade Funfetti cupcakes (courtesy of smitten kitchen’s recipe, because she’s amazing)!


Day 22

Dinner: Blackened Chicken, Guacamole, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Boats

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Day 23

Breakfast: Typical smoothie!

Lunch: Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya

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Dinner: CGBLTs!


Day 24

Breakfast/Lunch: Strawberry, Banana, Pineapple Smoothie

Dinner: Oktoberfest-less Stew

Note: Made WITHOUT the beer, and instead, I just added an extra cup of chicken broth. Oh, and to help thicken it up a little bit, I added Arrowroot instead of Flour to keep it all compliant! DELICIOUS!!


Day 25

Brunch: Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bake

Note: I did not take a picture of this mostly because it wasn’t the most beautiful looking dish, BUT I will say it was pretty tasty! I think it needed the third egg, as stated on the recipe, but because my eggs have recently been coming with double yolks (and these are eggs I get from my butcher, so they are legit), I just worried that three double yolk eggs would make it too eggy…but perhaps I should have gone ahead and added the third one in any way.

Dinner: Crab Cakes & Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, with a side of Zucchini

Note: This was Frankie’s second favorite meal this month, AND he wants me to make it again soon! Not only was it all very low carb & healthy, it was easy to pull together, didn’t take long to make, and was packed full of flavor! You can’t even tell that I cooked them in coconut oil and used coconut flour! And that red pepper sauce?! The avocado really helps to smooth it out, but I think I will use the blender instead of my mini food processor next time so that it smooths out even more, and I think a pinch of salt and pepper can really take it to the next level.

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Day 26

Breakfast: Leftover Breakfast Bake

Lunch: Last of the Jambalaya

Dinner: Steak & Potatoes a la Frankie

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Day 27

Breakfast: Leftover Breakfast Bake

Lunch: Akor Roka – Sashimi Salad with Japanese Sweet Potato

Note: The prettiest darn salad I ever did see, and honestly, this wasn’t a bad experience eating out either! Sure, I was a little nervous about being an obnoxious customer who has to ask a Japanese restaurant what I can eat on Whole30 that doesn’t allow soy or sugar, which a lot of the sauces and glazes do have. But I’m glad I did ask because my waiter ended up revealing that he was currently on Keto, and understood where I was coming from! So not ONLY did he pull some strings and bring me an amazing salad for the same price as their 3 kinds of sashimi plate, he also took away some ginger that was served with it because there was sugar in the pickling liquid!! How nice was that?! So, for anyone who is afraid or hesitant to go out to eat simply because you’re worried your diet will make things difficult, don’t be! You’ll never know unless you ask!

Dinner: Paleo Slow Cooker Meatballs & Spaghetti Squash

Note: Okay, so now that I’ve cooked with lamb for the second time, we’ve realized that lamb is not Frankie’s favorite, which is okay! I was trying lamb because the last time I made meatballs the pork turned white, and so I was just experimenting with a different meat component. Next on my trial list: Veal. That being said though, THESE were again, SO easy to make, and broiling them first was actually a really great way to get them to stick together before simmering in the sauce for four hours in my crockpot! I actually managed to throw the whole thing together in about 30 minutes, and had a fully cooked meal for lunch/dinner by the time I worked out, did laundry, helped Frankie cook, AND got ready for bed! Easy peasy, and SO so good!

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Day 28

Breakfast: Smoothie & Banana

Lunch: Last of the Oktoberfest-less Stew

Dinner: Leftover Meatballs


Day 29

Breakfast: Smoothie

Lunch: Last of the Meatballs

On Whole30 [Day 16 – 22] & A NEW LOGO!!

In case any of you wondered, Frankie and I did not go out for St. Patty’s Day this year, and you know what, I’m really okay with it, especially since it was a headache I didn’t have to deal with on Sunday! Yahoo! Instead, I got to hang out at home and really unwind from what hasn’t been the easiest month, and I’m not talking about the Whole30 nor will I turn this into a woe is me post because I’m also not that kind of person. With regards to how I’m feeling, this week, I haven’t felt any cravings, but rather I feel awesome! I feel like I could tackle the world and then some! Bring. It. On. This is what the Whole30 book says is the Tiger’s Blood phase, though I’m not sure I completely understand the actual concept of Tiger’s Blood, but that’s neither here nor there. Honestly, I feel great, I feel energized, I feel calmer (more often when I’m not at work work), and I just want to keep this feeling going! I know that means continuing a lot of the lessons I have picking up throughout this entire process, but I would like to reintroduce rice as a starch option sometimes. But I don’t feel the crutch of cheese anymore, which is a little hard to believe because that craving lasted two weeks and didn’t feel like it was going to lift off me anytime soon! Ugh! But we’re still here, Frankie & I together, and we have been each other’s best support system throughout this process, and I couldn’t have kept going without him, especially on those days when I wanted to take advantage of having our local Lou Malnati’s saved in my phone contacts…but anyway, this week we had a lot of success recipes, and hope you find something to nosh on at home yourself! #paleoisntscary! Also! Made a couple updates to the website! I’m trying out a new logo! Would love some feedback if anyone has any! — Cooking Maggie


Day 15

Dinner: Deconstructed Hot Dog

Note: This was…okay. Super easy and simple to make, but was it completely filling? Absolutely not, simply because it wasn’t a real Chicago dog. God I miss street dogs so much…


Day 16

Breakfast: Strawberry Smoothie Bowl

Lunch: Chicken Piccata Leftovers

Dinner: Teriyaki Salmon & Cauliflower Fried Rice

Note: Normally, I make a Honey Siracha Glazed Salmon, but neither Siracha or Honey are Whole30 compliant, SO, I made Teriyaki (coconut amino style) Salmon instead! Still really yummy, but I’ll include the actual Salmon recipe I normally use above for reference. Oh, and the cauliflower fried rice was AWESOME!! Definitely was a surprise for both Frankie & I! I didn’t include egg, but instead used bean sprouts, which added a really lovely crunch to everything! It was overall, and really satisfying meal!

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Day 17

Breakfast: Banana (light breakfast because I wasn’t feeling the best)

Lunch: Leftover Salmon

Dinner: Steak & Roasted Red Potatoes (in honor of St. Patty’s Day)


Day 18

Breakfast: Apple & Almond Butter

Lunch: Hashbrowns with Ground Pork

Dinner: Paleo & Whole30 Chili

Note: This I think is the best chili recipe I’ve made in a good long while! It’s not bad, and I really don’t miss the beans in this at all! Besides, bacon in anything always tastes great! I will note the following: 1) I halved the recipe because I didn’t want to make a ton; 2) I added chili powder as well, because what’s chili without a little chili powder; and 3) I didn’t use sausage, but instead, found some ground lamb, which was a great addition!

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Day 19

Breakfast: Pineapple Strawberry Smoothie (this week is going to be crazy busy, and this is the best I can do)

Lunch: Leftover Chili

Dinner: Spanish Chicken with Roasted Spaghetti Squash & Green Beans

Note: I was literally futzing about in the kitchen when I came across a recipe that intrigued me, but needed a little more of an oomph, not to mention I didn’t want to serve cauliflower to Frankie twice in one week, SO instead I went with my own intuition on this one and crafted a new chicken recipe that came out unbelievably juicy, tender, and well seasoned! It’s a keeper folks!

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Spanish Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon Italian Spice Blend
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup chicken stock (plus a little more if you’re using two pans)
  • 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes, removed from oil & halved
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, halved

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the spices together and rub all over the chicken thighs.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, and then the chicken. (Note: I recommend dividing the chicken between two pans.) Cook until there’s a nice golden brown/crust on each side (about 4-5 minutes).
  3. Add in about ½-¾ cup of chicken stock to each pan, then cover with a lid, and lower the heat to simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Divide and add the sun-dried tomatoes & olives equally between the two pans, cover again, and simmer for another 3-4 minutes, or until chicken reaches 165℉.
  5. Serve over roasted spaghetti squash and green beans.

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Day 20

Breakfast: Apple and Almond Butter

Lunch: Leftover Spanish Chicken (which I didn’t end up eating because breakfast was super filling and I had back to back meetings all afternoon, and by the time I even thought to eat, it was 4pm, and I had a training session at 5:30, so I snacked on carrots and strawberries instead).

Dinner: Skirt Steak Jicama Tacos

Note: I also got a little creative on this one too. There was a slow-cooker steak recipe in the Whole30 Cookbook, but frankly, I just wasn’t feeling the slow-cooker tonight, so instead, I flew by the seat of my pants and picked skirt steak, which I haven’t tried cooking on my own before. The rub ingredients are below, and let me just say, I was definitely doing my happy food dance around the kitchen! It was quick & easy, and unbelievably delicious! I even had another reason to use the leftover chimichurri from last week again! Yay! Also, while a jicama is NOT a tortilla, it’s not a bad substitute for getting me as close to the real thing as possible, which was what I was aiming & hoping for, and together with the beef and chimichurri, it was quite tasty and fulfilling! And with 10 days left to go, I am feeling all sorts of good vibes for this week and next!

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Skirt Steak Jicama Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1lb skirt steak
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Olive oil for steak (about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Avocado oil for cooking (about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 2 jalapenos, blistered, deseeded, and minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jicama, shaved/peeled (I found using a knife was easier), and sliced ⅛” on a mandolin
  • ¼ cup authentic chimichurri sauce

Instructions:

  1. Peel/shave the jicama, and using a mandolin, at the ⅛” setting, thinly slice and set aside. While you’re doing that, blister your jalapenos on the stove, and when done, let them sit in a covered bowl for about 1 minute. Then, remove the skin, seeds, and mince both jalapenos and set aside.
  2. Mix up all the spices in a bowl, then rub olive oil on the steak, season each side with the spice mix, and sear on each side for about 5 minutes each side (depending on the thickness of your cut, you might only need 4 minutes each side). This will produce medium rare steak, so if you like it more medium, make it 6 minutes depending on thickness. Let rest, then thinly slice against the grain.
  3. Spread the chimichurri on a jicama slice, add some of the jalapeno, top with sliced steak, and finish with cilantro. Then eat and do your happy dance!

Optional: Serve with a side of roasted fajita veggies (onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and zucchini – which I had in my fridge anyway).


Day 21

Breakfast: Apple and Almond Butter

Lunch: Day 20’s Leftover Spanish Chicken

Dinner: DMK Burger

Note: They have a PALEO burger! It’s served on a portobello bun, but you can sub it for lettuce bun, and then I had them add some caramelized onions and it was just an EXPLOSION of flavor in my mouth! SO SO GOOD! They don’t cook the beef in anything but their own juicy and natural fat, so worry not Whole30-goers! This place is a-okay for you! And you can also eat any of the other burgers and sub out the bun, cheese, and aiolis for…well…other things! ^_^ And for my Paleo readers, their fries are fried in beef fat, so they are APPROVED! Plus, they just have bomb diggity burgers! COME AND GET IT YA’LL!!!


Day 22

Breakfast: Banana, Pineapple, and Mixed Berry Smoothie with ground flax seed, coconut flakes, and walnuts

Lunch: Last of the Steak & Jicama Tacos

On Whole30 [Day 2-15]

This week was all about fighting against cravings, and not being so concerned with meal planning, which fell to pieces anyway…it’s just not my thing. I can see how it’s helpful for sure, but by the time I say, “Yes, I will cook that,” I don’t want to eat it or make it come grocery shopping time, so then, I’m searching for something that looks more appetizing about a half hour before I hit the store, and that’s what I end up making for dinner…which is super weird for me because I’m totally an OCD planner rather than a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person. (I have a large suspicion that this is Frankie’s spontaneity rubbing off on me.) But it works for me and my method of cooking, and that’s what counts. And I always try to plan around what’s already in my fridge so I’m not wasting (like how a recipe calls for spinach or collard greens, but I have a bag of green beans that haven’t been eaten yet, so that’s what I end up making instead).

But the cravings have been…particularly bad this week. Pizza has been our biggest craving, especially Lou Malnati’s thin crust sausage & sliced tomatoes, no, wait, Piece Pizzeria pan pizza with white sauce, mashed potatoes (I promise, this is NOT a weird topping for pizza, it’s so so good), sausage, pepperoni, and sliced tomatoes…with a growler of Golden Arm…oh my gosh I’m not doing myself any favors by talking about it, but there you have it. It’s not that pizza was our crutch, it definitely wasn’t, but pizza is something that we would gravitate towards when it was date night at home or one of us had a REALLY crappy day (we’re talking borderline tears territory to require a pizza pick me up). But we’re halfway through and feeling more determined to make it than ever! Pizza cravings be darned! And honestly, I think it’s also that, because Frankie was born & raised in Chicago, pizza (among other Chicago staples) was a big part of his diet in the grand scheme of things (not the everyday or weekly scheme of things). Family dinners with his family on Sundays usually involved pizza because it meant getting more things done and spending more quality time together, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that’s definitely where this particular craving stems from for him, and in a way for me too, since I’ve been going to Sunday dinners for the past, oh, five/six years?

That’s not to say we haven’t learned anything about this experience. Frankie has definitely felt the effects of eating cleaner, on top of being more mindful of what he’s eating. For me, I think it’s more about strengthening my willpower to not give into to unhealthy foods, that and not being so hesitant to try Paleo/Vegetarian dishes more often. Veggies never hurt anyone, and I will also say that both Frankie and I have noticed we’ve slimmed down a little, which is always a great benefit, and when you see good results, you’re more likely to continue to eat better too. I’m not saying this whole process is easy, it isn’t, but it’s not impossible, and a lot of times, I think that’s been the most difficult hurdle to jump in starting this. Can we do it? How much of a change are we going to have to make to be able to accomplish a goal we’ve set our minds to? Honestly, not much change—maybe 1 hour on the weekend to organize our cupboards/fridge/freezer and post stickies where bad food is hidden so we know to avoid it—and yes, we can do it, we are doing this.

I know this isn’t for everyone, and in absolutely no way and I’m trying to push this on anyone because that’s not fair, and that’s not doing anyone any favors, BUT from my personal experience, this has been really helpful in shifting our view on food in our everyday life. We’ve even talked about doing a Whole10 or Whole7 every month/every other month just to keep these lesson we are learning fresh and ensure we’re not slipping back into bad habits. THAT’S been the biggest thing we’ve learned and fought against. No more bad habits, though I’m not going to lie, the occasional shared pizza with a growler of beer with Frankie is something I have no plans or intentions of giving up. Moderation is key here. Not every week or month, but occasionally, especially when those nights involve a movie at home and my sweatpants! ❤ Ah, l’amor! — Cooking Maggie


Day 8

Dinner: Leftovers


Day 9

Breakfast: Smoothie – Banana & Berries

Lunch: Leftover Stuffed Pepper

Dinner: Steak, Lobster, & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes


Day 10

Brunch: Hashbrowns with Onion, Bell Peppers, & Ground Pork

Note: I added to the ground pork the following: ½ teaspoon of cayenne & crushed red peppers, 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt, & pepper. This will kind of get you that breakfast sausage taste using pork that’s compliant! I also diced up ½ an onion, ½ green bell pepper, and ½ a red bell pepper for color & veggie freshness!

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Dinner: Zesty Chicken Bites & Marinara

Note: To quote one of my favorite rascals, OH MY LANTA! These are so, so good! Even Frankie liked them, and I know I shouldn’t be shocked, BUT I AM! The dude actually ate these healthy nuggets, and we made them again on Sunday because we had some left over tenders! I did use ground flax seed instead of almond flour, but I don’t think there’s much difference between the two.

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Day 11

Brunch: Zesty Chicken Bites & Marinara

Dinner: Beef & Broccoli with Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

Note: The chow mein was SO good! Definitely a keeper and one I will be returning too in the future when I want to make something just a little healthier. The beef & broccoli was super delicious too, and there was barely enough leftovers for just one of us! This was a solid meal, and I think next time, I’ll be doubling it! YUM!

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Day 12

Breakfast: Cold Banana Coconut Bowl

Note: Tastes just as good cold as it does warm, and I was feeling incredibly lazy this morning, so sue me…sometimes my lifestyle does not fit into what the recipe calls for.

Lunch: Leftover Shrimp w/Chimichurri Sauce

Dinner: Lettuce Taco Night (Leftover Carnitas, Guac, Homemade Pico, Leftover Salsa Verde, & Leftover Chimichurri)

Note: Honestly, chimicurri on tacos, not my favorite, even though it’s delicious on steak and can be delicious on jerk or lime cilantro chicken, but my carnitas were better accentuated with the guac and pico pairing.

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Day 13

Breakfast: What was supposed to be a Paleo Strawberry Pineapple Smoothie Bowl that turned into just a smoothie because I was running late…

Note: Okay, so picture this, it’s 6:45am and if I want to make it to work by 8, I need to be out the door by 7:10/7:15, and I’m not dressed, the pup needs to be fed and taken out, and my lunch bag isn’t packed…I was rushed, and last night was too tired to prep bags/containers for the next morning, BUT that won’t be a problem tomorrow morning, so I can actually eat this the right way! Oh, and to make it whole30 compliant, don’t add honey, which it honestly didn’t need anyway, and don’t add oats. When I make it tomorrow, I’m going to top it with some blueberries, nuts (undecided as to which one, but probably going to be walnut because I’m super predictable), and coconut flakes! Oh, and for the fruit, I used fresh pineapple (which you should be able to buy in two forms: cored but unsliced, which is cheaper, and cubed), fresh strawberries (about 10 small ones), and frozen mango chunks. I also used a whole30 compliant almond milk from Califia Farms (unsweetened!)!

Lunch: Left over beef & broccoli & spaghetti squash chow mein

Dinner: Bacon Ranch Chicken Poppers w/ Ranch Dipping Sauce

Note: A no no recipe here, the first in our entire month that we haven’t liked, so I’m not going to include the recipe. The texture was too soft, and the carrots that were included in the recipe made the whole thing too sweet. And the ranch dipping sauce was off…Frankie said too oily, and I did use avocado oil, so he’s not wrong, but I’m not sure what was so off putting for me. The whole meal just wasn’t the best, so Frankie & I both agreed that we would not try this one again. Not all of them can be winners after all…BUT I have a feeling that using ground chicken was where I erred. The chicken bites we made over the weekend were OUTRAGEOUSLY good, so I think tomorrow, I’m going to try again with some chicken tenders, and perhaps almond flour vs. coconut flour, and see if that doesn’t produce some better results. I’ll even add the bacon to the top of each nugget so it looks cute! And I found a different ranch that actually looks yummy!

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Day 14

Breakfast: Apple Sandwiches! Yum!

Lunch: Sweet Potato Soup, topped with bacon, and served with a side of roasted green beans

Note: Another loser recipe for us…it could be that I used sweet potato instead of butternut squash, or maybe it was because there was ginger in it? I don’t know, but it just had no flavor depth…it was weird, and I was a good sport and ate it for lunch, but nada. I’m not going to make this one again. Whomp…

Dinner: Bacon topped Ranch Nuggets with Dump Ranch Dipping Sauce

Note: Okay, so after yesterday’s complete failure, I couldn’t let myself be defeated, so I decided to try again, and this time, I kept the bacon separate, no carrots, and used tenders like I did over the weekend. The covering was the Ranch spice mix linked, and I used almond flour instead of coconut flour, and I cooked the bacon separately, cutting them into bite-sized pieces to top each nugget with. They were BOMB! And I liked this ranch recipe way more than the other, but Frankie has this weird gift where he can tell when something isn’t actual dairy…it’s the main reason he hasn’t jumped on the almond milk/coconut milk bandwagon that I’ve become a part of. And I know this because I have tried purchasing other kinds of milk (ranging from fat free to 2%) and he hasn’t liked ANY of them. If it’s not Oberweis 2% milk, he won’t drink it. It’s weird, and I have no idea how he can tell, but he can…so Whole30 Ranch is not going to be a thing for him. Ohhhhh well, still a great dish, and a VERY easy to make appetizer! Possibly one that will make a reappearance at our annual XMAS party!

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Day 15

Breakfast: Pineapple Strawberry Smoothie Bowl, the right way…

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Lunch: Chicken Piccata with Green Beans

Note: I made this last night, and it was SUPER easy to make! However, 1) I did not butterfly my chicken breasts and kept them whole. 2) I did not coat them (didn’t feel like it, and frankly, I don’t always like the coating), just salt & pepper, and pan seared them to almost fully cooked. 3) Once I removed them, I added in the stock, lemon juice, and capers, let it bubble, then added the chicken back in, and stuck it in the oven (375℉ for 15 minutes), adding a bunch of green beans, garlic, and lemon slices at the 8 minute mark. I did check the chicken with my meat thermometer at the 15 minute mark to make sure it was fully cooked, and if it isn’t, check again every 1 minute till it is. But it was easy and it came out smelling great! Frankie even had the smallest portion for dinner last night because it was fresh, and he ate every bite!

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On Whole30 [Day 2 – Day 8]

I’m sorry for the length, but I did warn I was going to be as accurate as possible. So far, with a week in, and yes, I’m having some cravings, but not as bad as I would have thought. Day 2 I think was the worst for cravings (cheese, chocolate, rice), but after that, especially if I just started to walk around my office when I noticed I was having cravings, or go and get some water, it made all the difference in being able to stay strong and not give into temptations, which I’m incredibly proud of myself for this! Frankie’s biggest cravings are the Chicago staples he grew up on (and cheese, definitely cheese), but he has also noticed the positive changes to make this whole journey worthwhile! Where we are in the typical timeline are different (he’s going through the cravings phase right now, while I’m dealing with a slight decrease in my energy levels, which I know will get better in another day or two), but it’s safe to say that we almost should have done this sooner. It’s going to have a permanent effect on how we view food when we go out and how we eat at home (which wasn’t terrible to begin with, but now I know it can be better), which is part of what this whole experience is supposed to be helpful in dissecting! That and how certain foods have a negative impact on our bodies on a personal level, and I’m curious to see how the reintroducing period goes! Oh! And all links to recipes will be included within the post, rather than after the post like I normally do!


Day 1
Oh my gosh, my work out today, the worst…definitely feeling the lack of energy for sure, but that was to be expected. I’m going to be taking the Whole30 advice and cooling my jets this weekend so as not to completely overdo it. I am, however, officially on the right track for making meatballs! Baking to have the meat set, then a quick simmer in sauce (which I think should be simmering about an hour prior to even making the meatballs themselves, is the way that best works for me! And the fact I don’t have to mess around with figuring out the egg and bread combination made it 100% easier! This time I used a mixture of pork & beef (2:1 beef to pork), and it was a tiny bit dry, but that was because 10 minutes in the oven and 20 on the stove was too long (I was following the recipe guidelines because I am still in my experimenting phase to just find a good point for me to work from, which I know I’ve found now!), so in the future 10 in the oven, 10-15 on the stove, CHECKING periodically! Oh, and I won’t use pork again because the meat came out white, which looked weird…instead I’ll use veal & ground beef, or just ground beef. But overall, really yummy, and I think next time I would even potentially double the spices so they really come through! Also, Frankie enjoyed the squash, which I never would have thought he would, but it’s so encouraging to know that he is really down to eat whatever I make, and instead of telling him ahead of time, just serve and let him enjoy it! We’re going to make it through this month! No question there!


Dinner: Spiced Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce w/Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Notes: Due to the fact that I couldn’t find any dried chilies or canned chilies without sulfites or non-compliant oils, I decided to simply make the meatballs with the spices I could, and made a different sauce that I had tried before. I will say one thing though – after you stick the meatballs in the oven, CAREFULLY remove them from the pan, drain the oil, THEN put them back in and top with sauce. Our sauce was super oily and didn’t thicken as nicely as I would have liked while simmering. Just a thought! I also added a little bit more of the spices I put in with the meat.

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Day 2

Definitely felt a little sluggish, and hungry, and don’t get me started on my cravings…being at work today was the worst because everyone was eating delicious Lebanese food (our office has an order in service that you can choose something from two previously chosen restaurants each day, which is great when I don’t have enough leftovers to make a meal) and then someone munched on a piece of chocolate…yeah, get out of here with all that! But, I was able to stifle my cravings with healthy food like carrots and Cutie segments, and a little walk around my office while sipping on some water! Thank you Whole30 for that trick!


Breakfast: Warm Banana Coconut Bowl

Notes: This was so easy to make, and while I did have to bring a bigger bag to hold my components—my own bowl, my adorable bowl holder, a jar to hold the leftover coconut milk, the can of coconut milk itself, and a can opener (I ended up buying a spare one to leave at my office)—it was really delicious, and I can’t believe how much I actually enjoy the taste of coconut milk!

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Lunch: Leftover Chicken Thighs

Dinner: 20 Minute Shrimp & Sausage Paleo Skillet

Notes: For the skillet, I had a jar of homemade chili oil that a friend gave me, so used that in place of regular olive oil, and it was the best choice I could have made! The whole meal was soooooo delicious! Definitely a keeper recipe for sure, but I think I also need to learn how to make my own chili oil for future uses!

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Day 3 & Day 4

Our first weekend on the Whole30, and probably not the smartest thing we could have done for ourselves, BUT it was the first time in…20 odd years that Salisbury was going to play Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU)—Frankie’s & my alma mater where we met and fell in love and all that romantic goodness—AT OWU! Frankie decided that we needed to be there and so we drove the 5 and 1/2 hours to Delaware, Ohio and went to the game! The difficulty in this spontaneous decisions was not whether we bring Tuggs or not—becuase we did, thankfully there are a couple of dog-friendly hotels about two minutes from the main drag—but rather, how were we going to eat. Delaware is a very small town in mid-Ohio, about 20 minutes north of Columbus & Ohio State University), and their restaurants aren’t really the most…dietary restricted friendly if that makes sense? We’re talking diners and burger joints and basic college town food necessities, all of which are incredibly delicious, but not great when you’re going Paleo. So, to make it as easy as possible, I packed. I packed A LOT! I packed dinner, breakfast, lunch, and snacks so as not to fall into temptation and dive off the Whole30 wagon. And let me just tell you, making dinner in a moving vehicle ain’t easy, and I don’t recommend it, BUT it wasn’t impossible either, and it kept us full and going for the small hiccup we had with Frankie’s car (which meant turning around an hour in to go back to Chicago to get my car) and the majority of the day that we were there! Plus, it meant we got to drive around real quick and visit old haunts and show off Tuggs, who was an INSTANT hit with the college kids, but that was a total given! Definitely don’t have ANY more plans to travel during this month if I can help it though!

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Day 3 Breakfast: Bacon & Apple Slices with Almond Butter, Blueberries, and Pistachios

Notes: While I did buy pistachios, I actually decided to use walnuts because I prefer them, but the slices themselves were SO good, refreshing, and filling!

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Day 3 Lunch: leftover meatballs

Day 3 Dinner: Chicken & avocado BLT on the road! & homemade mayo

Notes: The mayo recipe I got from the Whole30 Program Book, and it was really, really easy to make with my mini food processor, and I bought a Simply Organic Rotissere Chicken, but had to make sure there wasn’t added carageens or sugar, which I was surprised to see in a lot of the rotisseries I used to buy, but will never again. The Simply Organic chickens at Mariano’s are compliant for my Chicago readers! Also, here’s the Whole30 Cookbook Mayo Recipe!


Day 4 Breakfast: Hashbrowns with peppers & onion

Notes: We asked specifically for it to be cooked in oil, and Frankie got an egg to go with it! Worked out really well in our favor!

Day 4 Lunch: Greek Salad (from Whole30 Program Book), leftover chicken meat, Apples with Almond Butter, Blueberries, & Walnuts

Day 4 Dinner: Leftover Shrimp & Sausage Skillet


Day 5

No real change today, but definitely feeling a little tired. Not a ton, but tired.


Breakfast: Breakfast Smoothie

Notes: I know, I know this isn’t the best thing to eat with Whole30 because they prefer that I actually eat my food, BUT when I have just driven back from Ohio, it’s late, and not enough time to go grocery shopping, you work with what you’ve got. I won’t make a habit of it, but it’s a great alternative for when I just don’t have any time.


Breakfast Smoothie – Banana & Berry

  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup of frozen berries
  • 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tbsp walnuts
  • 2 tsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp coconut flakes

Instructions: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Then, well, enjoy!

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Lunch: Leftover Greek Salad, chicken meat, blueberries, oranges

Dinner: Frankie’s Bunless Jalapeno Smash Burgers (with homemade ketchup from the Whole30 Program Book, AND we used lettuce instead of buns!)

Notes: The ketchup recipe in the book isn’t bad, but I didn’t feel like it was the best for what we were hoping/going for. SO! I started digging around and I plan to try this recipe out next: Whole30 Ketchup


Day 6

Today I woke up feeling like a million dollars, but when we got to the end of the day, I have never felt more tired in all of my life. I felt hungover or developing a head cold, which meant I was stuffy and mentally sluggish, and the only thing I wanted to do was lie down and veg…so I did. I managed to still go to the gym (seriously patted myself on the back for putting the effort in), and then when I got home I cleaned my floors and get the kitchen in order again, but that’s when I said, “Nope, I’m done,” and proceeded to take an HOUR long bath (#treatyoself) and then vegged on the couch with Frankie in my comfiest pj’s and my 3DS (yes, I’m a super nerd, and it’s the best way for me to destress). Best decision I could have made for myself!


Breakfast: Oven Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

Notes: I LOVE these potatoes, and are my go to when I’m feeling like a hearty, easy to make hash! I have one more hash on the docket for this week, but I adjusted the recipe slightly by adding fresh thyme & rosemary into the potatoes before baking them, so they could get extra potent! I also added some diced green bell pepper too, but I know others who have added or changed up the veggies they used!)

Lunch: Spicy Southwest Whole30 Stuffed Peppers

Notes: I made these the night before and I adjusted the spices/added a few things because 1. It was a little dry after it was said and done, and 2. It tasted like…nothing, SO I Cooking Maggie-fied it, as I tend to do when things aren’t to my taste. Additions included: upping the ground pepper to 1 teaspoon, with a spare teaspoon at the end to taste; upping the chili powder to 1 teaspoon; upping garlic to 2 teaspoons; upping cumin to 1 teaspoon (all the increases are to match the 1 teaspoon of paprika because I think it should be a 1:1 ratio so it’s not just SPICE!); I added ½ teaspoon of onion powder, ½ teaspoon garlic salt or granulated garlic, ½ tsp crushed red pepper, and at the end ½ cup of chicken broth, but I added it ¼ cup at a time to ensure I wasn’t going overboard on moisture and ending up with a soup.

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Dinner: Smoothie

Notes: I know, I know, smoothie, not great, but I hit my major wall yesterday in terms of how I was feeling, which wasn’t great. I think I’ve had just a steady feel of the Whole30 hangover phase for this entire week, and usually at night, and by the time I finished cleaning the floors and my kitchen, I was just way too tired to make the carnitas I had planned to make, so, I just didn’t. Frankie had some of the breakfast potatoes for dinner, and I made myself a smoothie because I wasn’t feeling hungry to begin with, was slightly nauseous, and was the only thing that sounded remotely appetizing. Not great, but at least I had something, and in my mind, not eating anything is much worse than drinking my meal.


Day 7

Definitely wasn’t feeling as burnout today as I was yesterday, but I definitely feel sluggish and took it easier. Still went to the gym and had my session with Dana, but thankfully, I had enough time beforehand to prep most of dinner so that, when I got home. it was a set and forget kind of situation, which gave me time to tidy the kitchen, prep lunch, AND do laundry. Still exhausted by the end of it, but in the good way. Oh, and physical changes include my normal work pants feeling looser and my stomach getting flatter (and I know that my working out has a good amount to do with this change as well)! I’m trying so hard not to focus on the physical aspect of this whole thing because that defeats a lot of what I am supposed to be focusing on, but that being said, I definitely feel more motivated to stick to these changes as a result of what I am seeing! Nothing better than feeling good in general, and feeling great about myself! All about that self-love right now!


Breakfast: Breakfast Potatoes

Lunch: Leftover Stuffed Pepper filling & Last of the Greek Salad

Dinner: Chicken Carnitas with Salsa Verde & Warm Fajita Veggie Side

Notes: To make this Whole30 compliant, don’t use honey, and don’t serve it with rice or tortillas, but the chicken & spices portion are all compliant and makes for a great set it & (kind of) forget it meal during the week! I still didn’t make it with the pepitas or acorn squash because I was feeling lazy. I’m sure I’ll try the acorn squash at some point, but tonight was not that night. The veggies were just green bell peppers, onion, and zucchini.


Day 8

Happy International Women’s Day! Today I’m feeling upbeat, bright, a little tired, but I went to bed way too late last night, which is my own fault, but I couldn’t care less because my lunch today is EPIC! SCALLOPS YA’LL! For real, big ol’ sea scallops! ALL FOR ME!!!! Mariano’s was having a GREAT sale on their frozen scallops, which came in a 1 pound bag for about…$12?? And I think there were 11 in there, but only 8 made it to lunch because, you know, I gotta make sure it’s not poisonous as I’m cooking it! So I definitely plan to keep my eyes peeled for more of those deals so I can snag a few more frozen bags to stash for a day when I need a lunch filler! But this salad, scallops aside, was bomb in itself! The vinaigrette was unbelievably tangy and slightly spicy, but completely light and refreshing! I ate EVERY bite, and might steal some of the shrimp I made for Frankie’s salad to make another helping of it for tomorrow! I don’t think it’ll be as good as my scallops, BUT I know it’ll be delicious! Another recipe to keep in the bank!


Breakfast: Apples with Almond Butter, Bananas, and Walnuts

Lunch: Asian Seared Scallop/Shrimp Salad (from Whole30 Cookbook)

Notes: Frankie doesn’t like scallops, so I seared up some shrimp for him, and some scallops for me because I LOVE SCALLOPS, so any excuse to get some and eat some (even if it means I’m cooking two proteins at once) I’m in! And it was SO SO good!!!

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So that’s one week down, three more to go, and I will say, the days are flying and I’ve stopped noticing any cravings or that I’m even on a diet, though when my coworkers eat Lebanese food, or Jimmy John’s BBQ Chips (the best!), I do have those pulls of wanting just a little nibble….no, no, I’m going to be good and keep my will strong, but it’s not easy. It’s not hard, but it ain’t easy either. Anyway, until next week readers! Sorry for all the overload of recipes, but I hope some of them are helpful for any of you looking to take a healthier approach to eating at home, and if you do, you WON’T be disappointed! And to my East Coast readers, stay safe! — Cooking Maggie

On Frankie In The Kitchen…

…which is a rare sight in itself! Normally, I run a solo ship, and don’t always ask or require a sous chef, but lately, the man has been helping me out (especially on my longer days that include training) by making us dinner a couple times the last few weeks! And on one of those nights, he grabbed my camera and started to take some photos, you know, for the blog! HOW CUTE IS HE?! So naturally, I decided to use his photos, and his recipe and present them to you dear readers, and without further ado, I present Frankie’s Jalapeno Smash Burgers! YUM!!

Now, to make these smash burgers, you’re going to need a cast iron grill press, and possibly a cast iron skillet, which if you haven’t invested in one, DO! I may have already told you about the Alton Brown method of cleaning the cast iron skillet, but since then, I’ve found an even easier way to clean out my skillet, black grit & all. Heat up about 1- 1.5 cups of water in the microwave until boiling (about 5 minutes should do it, if not less) and as soon as you’ve removed all the yummy food from your hot skillet, slowly pour the hot water into the pan and using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently scrap off all the black, burnt bits from the bottom. When done, pour out the dirty water, wipe it all down, and take a little vegetable oil or shortening to the bottom of the pan to coat it all up again, then let it sit out. DONE! As for the press, those are incredibly inexpensive an can be bought for about $20 at any of your local cooking equipment stores OR Amazon…like most everything else, am I right? Alternatively, you could use a non-stick pan, but I think cast iron skillets really get a lovely sear on your meat that a non-stick can’t do as nicely – and you can use ANOTHER pan to squish your burgers. Just food for thought (no pun intended)!

Now, once you’ve got your equipment all set, it’s time to assemble the burgers! I finely minced up one deseeded jalapeno, and Frankie mixed up the jalapeno into the meat, then used the kitchen scale I had bought last year to weigh out four 3-4oz meatballs. Then he got his pan nice and hot, placed a ball in the middle, then took the press to it, pressing firmly till the patty was about 1/8″ thick (give or take, my eye measurements have never been the best). Give it a sear for about 1-2 minutes, then flip, let sear 1-2 minutes, then remove and repeat with the remaining balls. SIMPLE! Oh, and if you want to add some crunch, bake off two slices of bacon per burger at 400ºF for about 20 minutes.

And then this is where I learned something new! As Frankie finished off the burgers, he addressed the toasting of the buns issue. Now, normally, I will either brush on olive oil or spread some butter, then stick it in a pan, BUT NOT FRANKIE! And do you know what he did?! HE SPREAD MAYO ON THE BUN, THEN TOASTED IT IN THE PAN!!!! CRAZY RIGHT?!?! And I’ll tell you right now, not ONLY did those buns come out looking pretty darn perfectly toasted, THEY TASTED BUTTERY! I honestly don’t know how he did it, and I never knew that he’d been doing this to our burgers and sandwiches for years, but there you have it! Mayo instead of butter or oil, and it’s actually pretty clever because the mayo won’t sucumb to burning quite as easily, nor does it leave that burnt taste on the edges of the bun, but rather just…I don’t know what you would call that, but it was such a fantastic tip, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buttering my bread (for sandwiches and burgers specifically) again!

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But all in all, with this burger, not only are the patties thin, but they’re hearty, and not all that fatty! Super delicious too, and we both finished every last bite! And I think this wonderful co-cooking may lead to further collaborations in the future! But you (and I, for that matter) will just have to wait and see what other clever meals Frankie’s got stowed away for a rainy day! Until then folks, chow on! — Cooking Maggie

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Frankie’s Jalapeno Smash Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 strips of bacon (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely minced
  • Romaine Lettuce – left as large leaves
  • 1 Beef Steak or Vine Ripe Tomato – sliced thin for sandwiches
  • Sliced Cheddar Cheese
  • Dill Pickle Slices (small rounds or long planks)
  • Mustard, Ketchup, Mayonaise
  • Buns of your preference (we love Brioche buns or potato buns personally)

 

Instructions:

  1. (Optional): If cooking bacon, heat oven to 400ºF. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil, then arrange bacon on sheet so that each has its own space (not touching each other). Bake bacon in oven for 20 minutes (or until done), then remove and let cool on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
  2. Mix the ground beef & jalapenos together in bowl, then make four 3-4 oz balls with the mixture.
  3. Pour a little oil into a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and when hot, add a ball and press (smash) it with the cast iron grill press until patty gets to be about 1/8″ thick. Let sear for 2-3 minutes, then flip burger to the other side, and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Remove the patty from the pan and place on a plate, keep it warm by covering it. Repeat this for the remaining patties. (Optional: If you’d like melted cheese on any of the patties, add a slice of cheese on top of the patty after you flip it, and cover with a pan lid or heatproof bowl.)
  4. When all patties are cooked, assemble your burger accordingly and munch away! Serves well with salt & vinegar kettle chips or a salad!

On Meatball Bolognese…

Because I am not the best at making meatballs. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy knowing that there is something that I’m not really good at doing because it means it’s time for another experiment in methods to better my skills! But meatballs are just one of those things—specifically when trying to get a sear on them—that never seems to go my way. I have made meatballs successfully by baking them, cooking them in a crockpot, and straight up braising them in sauce, but when I try to sear them off and get that really wonderful caramelization, they just fall apart or stick to the pan, thus falling apart when I try, as gently as I can, to get them off…

So I’ve been asking myself all week, WHERE did I go wrong? Did I overmix or mix too hard? Was my attempt at using white bread (seriously drenched with water and wrung out) not as effective as breadcrumbs? Did I wring out the bread too much or not enough? I don’t think it was the meat mixture I used (all beef, 20% fat, with chopped pancetta), I had actual herbs in there, ricotta, two eggs (maybe one too many?), salt and pepper, and I used a little oil on my hands to make them into balls…so then my next questions lead to the actual making of the meatballs themselves. Were they too big? Not big enough? Was my pan too hot? Not hot enough? Did I use enough oil in the pan? Did I even use the right pan? You see my problem…but again, this is great, because now I’m in full experimentation mode!

 

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So when I get back from Vegas (work trip for my day job all next week, which hopefully won’t impact the posting schedule too bad, but hey, IT’S VEGAS AND I’M SO EXCITED!) I plan to spend a weekend trying different cooking methods of meatballs! I remember making one my first year in Chicago that had a little nugget of mozzerlla cheese stuffed in the middle, with a tomato jam on top that was awesome! I think I made those for a Game of Thrones binging session with Frankie, if my memory serves me right! But you’ll be seeing more meatballs here soon, and I plan to find the perfect balance & cooking method for my skills/needs! If anyone has a favorite meatball recipe, please feel free to pass that along to me as I’m not sure I’ll be making this recipe again, though I may! I haven’t planned that far ahead yet, but all recommendations and ideas are welcome! – Cooking Maggie

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Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs from bon appetit


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On Resolutions & Best Last Meal of 2017

FIRST POST OF THE NEW YEAR! AH!!! And this marks the second year of my blog! DOUBLE AH! And with that, I hope and wish that everyone reading this had an incredible Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy St. Lucia Day, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year!

And as we enter into 2018, I have a few resolutions I want to share, two of which directly impact the blog itself, but not in a bad way! The first is to set a schedule, and by that, I mean a blogging schedule. This past year, I’ve been VERY sporadic with when I have posted my blogs, and this year, I would like there to be more consistency, so I am going to post something new every Thursday! These Thursday posts will either include a recipe or it’ll be a dining recommendation, but since I’m pretty darn strapped after the holidays, more likely than none it’ll be a recipe for the next couple of weeks! Bonus Posts (such as the new segment Cooking With Friends) will post either same-day or the day after. These segments will be much more video forward (Facebook Live?! How exciting and cool is that?!) than writing, but no doubt I’ll still take photos, and of course, recipe links will continue to be at the end of every post! But in having more of a schedule, it helps reduce the pressure of having to cook something new and interesting more than once a week, when sometimes old favorites are craved for last minute! And I feel that’s a schedule that’ll fit better with my day job & wedding planning, which will be picking back up pretty darn soon! T-Minus 10 more months!

Another resolution I have is to get healthy, and I mean it this time. As of yesterday, I’ll be doing Personal Training twice a week, and incorporating my own workouts two days a week as well! Which means, I am going to be really doing my research on upcoming recipes to find out ways I can substitute for healthy options without losing the overall balance and taste of the dish, as well as just looking for lighter meals in general! And to align myself with this resolution, I have even purchased a CSA share from Geneva Lakes Produce Farm! I chose them specifically because, unlike the majority of the CSA shares I researched, Geneva allows you to pick your own produce at the Farmers Market they set up at! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! I will definitely be featuring my vegetables more often once I start getting my box, so that’ll be a new and exciting adventure! And it gives me more control over what I would like to cook with, at the same time as being a little adventurous too! And for a ½ bushel, it honestly wasn’t all that expensive, and even less so because I’m even going to be sharing the box with a friend (who will likely also appear in a Cooking with Friends segment) to ensure there is no wasting of the beautiful fresh veggies I will be seriously nomming on this summer!

The only other resolutions I had were to keep reading and spend less money, which is pretty typical for me every year. What did NOT align with the spending less money was the last meal I cooked for 2017, which I took a gander at on Bon Appetit. Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Garlic & Rosemary (and Thyme, because I like Thyme), with a side of green (AND PURPLE!) asparagus and roasted garlic whipped red potatoes! AND BOY WAS IT MM MM GOOD! Frankie said it was the best thing I made all year, and I mean, I made a lot this year! Over 87 posts, 31 new dining/drinking experiences, and 80 recipes!! I mean, THAT’S a lot, not to mention all the remakes of favorites in between all the new ones! I’ve included the links below, and for the record, while the recipe says to use kitchen twine, I found I didn’t need it, so feel free to skip that! Oh and don’t forget to add a little thyme if you happen to like that on your steak as well!

And I think that about does it for the first post of 2018, which I’m sure will hold just as many wonderful moments and adventures as 2017 did! I know this wasn’t much of a reflection, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I like to reflect a lot throughout the year, and I really want to focus on looking forward with open eyes and an open heart, so here’s to you 2018 and to the excitement you hold! I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year, and I’ve already picked out a great first recipe picked out for next week! – Cooking Maggie


Roast Beef Tenderloin with Garlic & Rosemary from Bon Appetit** Add a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves too if you’d like!

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Cooking Classy

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On Christmas Parties & First Christmas Trees

I don’t know WHY I bothered trying three different grocery stores, but when it came to finding party sized samosas, spring rolls, and spanikopita, ONLY TONY’S HAD SOME! Seriously?! Ugh, and I think I may have posted about Tony’s when I was making Empanada’s and how Tony’s was the only place that sold the premade empanada wrappers…so I hereby solemnly promise, on my honor, that I will only go to Tony’s for all my International food needs. If this promise seems repetitive, my apologies, but sometimes a good reminder can go a long way. But Christmas is my favorite time of year because this is when Frankie and I throw our only party of the year, and it’s definitely a highlight! We also go ALL OUT! I mean, we’re taking catering from Spiro’s up in Waukegan, a special cocktail, a pony keg of Spotted Cow, appetizers made by yours truly, and some appetizers not made by yours truly because I have spent whole parties in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up, and sometimes, not making everything yourself is okay, especially if it means getting to spend more time with your guests, am I right?!

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This year’s menu looked like this:

Drinks: Make-Your-Own Moscow Mule’s (using antique spirit pumps filled with Tito’s, the Dog Lover’s Vodka), Spotted Cow (purchased from Tenuta’s Deli in Kenosha; their price for the keg was exceptional, even though I think their deposit is a little steep, but you get that back as soon as you return the empty keg, so only a temporary hurt on the credit card), and access to other spirits that our guests may prefer if beer and Moscow Mule’s don’t sit well with them.

Appetizers: Baked Brie with Blackberry Jam & Apricot Jam (now, these are SUPER easy to make on your own at home, BUT I happened to find two of them premade from Jewel, for a little less than I would have paid to make it from scratch, so I thought, what the heck! And most grocery stores should sell the premade bakable brie in the special cheese area), my famous Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers, standard cheese tray that included gruyere and white cheddar cheese with water crackers, and spanikopita (purchased frozen from Tony’s), chips & two kinds of salsa (pico & blended). I also had some frozen vegetarian spring rolls & Tostino’s Pizza Rolls for any 2am hunger crunches too, but ended up not needing them! And yes, I did say 2am. This year, most of our guests left at 2.30, and the final guests left at 3.30 I believe, so I guess everyone enjoyed themselves!

Dinner: Catering from Spiro’s: Make Your Own Italian Beef/Bomber’s complete with dipping au jus, bread, sweet peppers, and giardiniera; Cathy’s Baked Chicken (always a favorite and can be stripped from the bones to be made into a casserole or soup afterwards; Greek Salad; Mostaccioli (penne & red sauce). This is where we splurge the most, but it’s worth it to see everyone happy and full! And the key for us is to start saving for our party starting January 1st of every year. Also, no joke. We put a little bit away every month and whatever we have at the end, that’s our entire party budget!

Dessert: Funfetti Cupcakes (a normal addition) and Gingerbread Sheet Cake Bites with Stabilized Whipped Cream made by Ed (he had them cut into bars, but we thought bites would be better for a larger group, and then we topped the whipped cream with just a sprinkling of cinnamon), and this was an AWESOME addition that may become tradition after how well it went over with everyone! I even plan to take a crack at this myself over new years with my new Kitchen Aid Mixer, which was a fabulous Christmas present from my future in-laws, and I cannot WAIT to try that sucker out! (Recipes are linked.)

Decorations: Honest to goodness, almost EVERYTHING came from the Dollar Store. No joke because honestly, people don’t come to your parties to analyze your decorations or wonder if it’s Crate & Barrel or Pier 1. They are there to spend time with the people who matter in their lives and just be joyful! So I firmly believe that any home can look beautiful with a budget, and while I hesitated with revealing my secret, I actually am really proud of what I have put together in years past, which is why they keep appearing in years future, and why I decided I wanted to share! The potpourri, Dollar Store. The red candles on my wine glasses, and the wine glasses themselves, Dollar Store. The fake garland, which I think I will replace with something juuuuuust a little nicer next year, Dollar Store. Most of the bigger ornaments, Dollar Store. The small ornaments, Walgreens (yup, you read that right, Walgreens) and I add to them every year for about $20…each year the patterns change, and if they can be integrated with some of the setups I already have, done deal. And all the other decor we’ve accumulated over the years were from mine & Frankie’s family, and some are even Christmas gifts! My rule of thumb is that you should be able to use what you have to decorate your house without breaking the budget. I think the only things I splurged on where the gold & silver plates for the wine glasses, which I bought at Target for $12 each I think? But if you find something similar for less, do it!

The big kicker this year was that Frankie & I got our very first Christmas tree together, and it was a momentous occasion! Sure, it’s not enormous, but it was perfect for our apartment and the space we had to work with! And using all the ornaments we’ve received from friends & family over the years, including a large set of straw stars made in Haiti by Frankie’s mom, we were able to really deck the tree out! And on top, well, that’s  Frankie special from our favorite Urban General Store, Enjoy. If you haven’t been, definitely go next time you’re in the Lincoln Square area! They are one in a million for all things interesting and unique, and I mean, you can’t find a more unique tree topper than this one!

And that’s it! Another Christmas party for the books, and a great anticipation for next year as it will be the first Christmas party that Frankie & I will throw as a married couple, which, can I just say I am SO excited about?! EEK!!! But if you’d like to share your own decorating hacks or favorite appetizers to serve! I’m always looking for new ways to keep our parties interesting and would love to hear what you do! Hoping you all had a Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year! — Cooking Maggie

On Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

Ragu seems like the easiest thing in the world to just throw into a pot and leave it alone right? Wrong. I have since learned that you should REALLY research any ragu recipe you find because some are going to say “simple and flavorful” and they’ll tasted like bland meat…gross. Well, as it does sometimes happen to even the best of us (or at least, I hope it does), I found a dud recipe…and I found it somewhere I wasn’t expecting, which is incredibly disappointing. True to my word, I’m not going to name or badmouth the blog I found this recipe at because that’s just not the kind of cook/blogger/person I am, BUT what I am going to do is share how I “Cooking Maggified” it.

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Now, last I checked, Ragu is a meat based sauce…and when I was making the dish I had planned on, it seemed like I was making pulled beef over a beef sauce. There was crushed tomato, and beef broth (which in my opinion doesn’t add much in terms of flavor, which is why I prefer stocks over broths for almost anything that calls for it), but no tomato paste to thicken it, there was HARDLY any seasoning, I mean, what was the deal?! I went into it skeptically, and I came out of it with my prediction confirmed. It just wasn’t where I knew it could be, so, when in doubt, improvise. I threw it all in a pot over the stove, and started to build up the flavors I felt it lacked. Onions, more garlic, a lot of pepper (and just a pinch white pepper for an added punch), more salt, oregano, parsley, basil, marjoram. I basically took this sad sauce and treated it like a shredded meat Bolognese instead of my normal dual-ground meat mixture.

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The results were FAR better than I could have hoped for, and the dish was saved and savored by all! Phew! I was for a moment worried I had just wasted 1 1/2 pounds of perfectly good flank steak! But I will say, at the end of the day, I still really prefer my Bolognese and me thinks I don’t plan to divert very far from it in the future. Why fix something that’s clearly not broke? (You don’t, silly woman!)

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But for kicks, I’ve included rough estimates for the ragu—I was panicked and didn’t think to even write down my amounts, but I added about as much as I would normally add for my bolognese anyway—and have relinked my post on my Bolognese recipe! I hope you enjoy one (or both) of these and let me know which one you prefer! I’ll also happily take suggestions on bettering the ragu recipe as it currently stands right now (a different kind of beef cut perhaps? Rump or round roast maybe?). Perhaps even a little red wine to spice things up? Another experiment for another day! – Cooking Maggie

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Bolognese [From Scratch]


Slow Cooker Flank Steak Ragu

Ingredients:

  • 6 garlic cloves, kept whole, but smashed
  • 1 ½ pounds flank steak
  • 1 28 oz can crushed san marzano tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbspo tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large handful of finely chopped basil (plus more for topping)
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 pinch of white pepper
  • Salt and Pepper (about 2 tsp salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper to add at the end, and extra for seasoning/rubbing the meat)
  • Pasta of choice (I used pappardelle)
  • Parmesan for topping

Instructions:

  1. Pour in everything except the beef, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir until all mixed together.
  2. Season the beef with salt & pepper, rub it in and give your meat a little massage to prep it for the slow cooking process. Transfer to a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker and nestle it in the juice until covered (you can cut the beef up if you are having trouble fitting it in).
  3. Cook for 8 to 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high. When done, discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, and shred the beef in the pot. Add salt & pepper to pot, and stir, adding more to taste.
  4. Cook the pasta of choice according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, take some of the meat sauce and add it to a pan, get it nice and hot. When pasta is done, add desired amount to the pan with the meat and stir for a good minute.**
  5. Serve with fresh basil & parm and eat!

**If you want a looser sauce, add about ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan (you can also save all the pasta water too if you want to add water to each reheating/serving.

On Sloppy Joes!

I know we all just got done stuffing our faces and bellies with delicious Thanksgiving food (#allthegravy), but I recently shared this recipe with a coworker, and she loved it, so I thought, okay, we’re already getting overly full, so what’s another filling recipe for those post-feast days, or for whenever something gooey and messy is needed at the end of a long work week (or work day as I’m sure we all have those every once in a while)!

A few notes though. 1) I LOVE Worcestershire sauce, so I am VERY heavy-handed with it in this recipe. I think its peppery tang helps cut the heaviness of the meat, BUT if you prefer the tomato-y flavor, just simply halve the amount that I’ve included. OR, if you’re like me and you can’t get enough Worcestershire, add the amount I’ve listed, taste, and then add more if you think it could be more pronounced, which I have also done. I do think the amount I’ve given is a good starting point for those who embrace the tang, but again, halve if it’s too abrasive a flavor for you, or add more if you want it to stand at the forefront!

2) Buns. Everyone is different in how they’ve eaten their Sloppy Joes, but I think it’s fun to try different buns to see what works best for your messy masterpiece. If you prefer more of a meaty mixture, then I think a hamburger bun is going to work in your favor, but if you’re more focused on developing the flavors of the sauce (which means a runnier/messier Slop), then I feel a hamburger bun is more likely to disintegrate before you finish your sammich! But others love that, so again, it’s totally up to you and your preference, but if you’d like to try something a little more substantial that can stand up to just about any kind of mess you can imagine, I really like pretzel buns OR Kaiser buns! In both instances, they are soft & salty enough to stand up to a runny sauce and a lot of meat!

And for all those who are Manwhich lovers, trust me, making the sauce from scratch really does make a difference, not to mention that this recipe is super easy to make, flavor-packed, and one of the most enjoyable meals where getting messy is required and napkins are completely useless. If you’re ready to get your hands (and face) dirty, then this sloppy concoction is right up your alley! — Cooking Maggie

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes (or canned tomato sauce when in a pinch)
  • salt & additional ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • oil for the pan
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 rolls (hamburger, Kaiser, or pretzel buns)
  • Optional Toppings: fresh tomatoes, dill pickles, sliced cheddar cheese, cole slaw

 

Instructions:

  1. Brown meat, add cracked black pepper.
  2. Add pepper and onion, until soft. Then add garlic till aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
  4. Let simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with sliced pickles & cheddar cheese on your preferred bread roll, then enjoy the mess!!

On Telling the Truth: Dishes I Wouldn’t Make Again & Chili

Recently, I’ve been asked a few times about how I handle dishes that I didn’t like or wouldn’t make again. These could have been dishes that either just turned out bad (because not every recipe out there is going to work out the way it says it will) or they just didn’t suit mine or Frankie’s taste. So I thought I would go out on a limb and be honest about something that not a lot of cooks will speak to.

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  1. What do I do when I make a dish that doesn’t turn out right?

Easy. If it’s a complete disaster and there’s no helping it into something palatable, I will throw together something quick that I’ve made before, or we eat it for a night and then don’t make it again. A prime example would be the one time my mom made chili so spicy that no one could eat more than three bites of it, and the boys ended up munching on chicken nuggets, while my mom and I suffered through one bowl before pitching the whole batch. Even my dad, who has a high tolerance for spicy food, couldn’t muster more than a small bowl of it. And goofs like this are BOUND to happen every so often with anyone who cooks, even when you read over the ingredient ratios to make sure it all looks like it’ll come together nicely, so I try not to get too hooked up on those moments. But I will say, I never keep a recipe I didn’t like in my home or on a secret pinterest board because, frankly, if it wasn’t good, I’ll remember that it wasn’t good if it pops back up on my screen.

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Another example: During my first year in Chicago, I tried to make pulled buffalo chicken in my crockpot to make little sliders for dinner. Seemed like an easy enough recipe, a packet of Hidden Valley ranch, and a ton of hot sauce, and that should have come out delicious, right? Nope! What came out in the end smelled like cat food and tasted like mushy bread. It was AWFUL, like, I couldn’t even eat a slider it was so bad. I ended up pitching it (I know, wasteful, but even if I had thought to bring it into work, NO ONE would have eaten it…even Frankie, who normally is a good sport and will at least give most of my food a good ol’ fashioned try wouldn’t eat more than a couple bites), and whipping up a quick pot of spaghetti, which I always have the ingredients for because it’s an easy go-to.

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But if it’s something that just doesn’t suit our tastes as is, but could be good if a, b, or c was adjusted, then I get into my experimenter mode and go at it. And this is one of the reasons that I feel so lucky to have such an honest guinea pig for a boyfriend. Not only does the guy watch an unhealthy amount of Food Network with me, even turning it on for me if I’m having a rough day, he’ll treat my food like any judge on Chopped. He’s honest about what he likes, what he doesn’t, and if he does like the dish, but thinks it’s missing something, or maybe needs a little more/less cooking time, or a spice adjustment, my immense dabbling in food and cooking has rubbed off on him enough that he often helps me with each new variation.

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This isn’t to say that any bad recipe isn’t salvageable. I think every recipe is, but some are just better to start from scratch or find a different recipe base to build off of if it needs more than just simple tinkering.

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2. Would I ever write about a bad recipe?

Yes and no. Devoting an entire post to something you shouldn’t make seems really counterproductive to what I am trying to do, which is share recipes that you should be making because they are delicious! I also wouldn’t go out of my way call out a recipe as bad if I just personally wasn’t a fan. There’s no glory or good to come from defaming anyone else’s hard work, but I most certain have no problem commenting on a foundation recipe I’m using if it’s lacking certain ingredients or their ratios are off, at least, based on what I know about myself and what I like in my food because no one’s palate is the same. But in commenting on what I feel it lacks, I’m not calling it quote unquote bad, but rather giving myself the room to tinker, adjust, and create something of my own to suit me better. That’s why we have recipes, why we cook, adjust, share the adjustments, cook some more, and share any other adjustments back. It’s a beautiful, and inherently inclusive, cycle that I will continue to be a part of if I can.

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And speaking of chili, my main example for this is my own chili, which I thought I had posted back in February, but somehow find that it’s missing! OH CALAMITY! But not to worry, because I’m using it as my example, what better remedy than to include the recipe here! The recipe I initially started with had a very simple ingredient list: meat, kidney beans, 3 tablespoons of chili powder (their main mishap), a teaspoon of brown sugar, and diced tomatoes. Three ingredients and minimal spices does not a cowboy chili make and I knew the end result was going to be…disappointing. So, given how little was there to begin with, that’s when I went to my fridge & spice wall, and, well, went a little crazy. I wanted to brighten this initial canvas with all sorts of colors and flavors, really build off of their bare bones and add my own flair! I threw in Worcestershire sauce for a tart bite (I always have a bottle of this in my pantry, fyi), turned the 3 tablespoons of chili powder into 1/3 cup (which should be a BARE MINIMUM for any chili base), added in an onion and bell pepper to add some additional freshness to the hearty beans and meat, threw in chicken stock instead of water to build on the meaty flavor that chili should exude, and then went to TOWN on the spices. I’m talking cayenne, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, coriander, marjoram, and then a little more brown sugar to just round out all the edges. AND VOILA! A cowboy chili that would make any chili-loving man, woman, or child happy.

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And what’s great is this chili can actually be re-purposed! Do you happen to remember a particular post I had made about Cincinnati Chili? Well, this was the actual chili that I ended up using! And this chili can be thrown into a pot of Mac n Cheese, dolloped on top of some queso to make it fundido, layered between sheets of lasagna, or put between a bun! Chili does NOT have to just be eaten from a bowl, and I even served this chili with some SUPER DELICIOUS French Onion toast rounds that were out of this world delicious (so much so that Frankie asked me to make a second batch to go with his second bowl of chili) from who else but the amazing Deb Perelman! The recipe is in her first cookbook, but I was able to find the recipe online (JUST FOR YOU GUYS!) so I hope you do give it a try because it is one of those dishes that will definitely make it to my Christmas Party this year for sure! Oh, and please try hard not to balk to hard at all the spices that are in this chili because these are just what I threw in at the time I was originally messing with the recipe. YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE EVERYTHING! Especially if you don’t have them, DON’T WORRY ABOUT THEM! I’ve put the most important ones at the top and optional are just the other ones I threw in last minute.

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But all in all, I know for a fact I’m not going to like everything I make, and that’s okay. My kitchen is really just a test kitchen after all, so I expect mistakes and missteps. In fact, as I’ve maybe mentioned more than I should how much I like finding things I can tinker with as much as I find things that are just super tasty as they are! It means I get to take the time to practice my skills and maybe learn something new about myself! And besides, it’s all a process anyway. — Cooking Maggie

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French Onion Toasts
from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Pounds yellow onions, cut into dice of about 1/3 inch (about 4 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cognac, brandy, or vermouth (optional)
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef, veal, or mushroom stock or broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Thirty-two 1/2 inch thick slices form a long baguette
  • Finely grated Gruyere cheese (you might want a little extra)

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan, toss them gently with the butter and oil, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, and cover the pan. Cook the onions for 15 minutes, then remove the lid, stir in the salt and sugar, and saute without the lid for about 10-15 minutes, until the onions are fully caramelized and have taken on a deep-golden color. Pour in Cognac, if using it, and the stock, then turn the heat all the way up and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Simmer the mixture until the broth almost completely disperses (a small amount of slosh is okay; you don’t want to cook it off so much that the onions seem dry), about 5-10 minutes. Adjust the salt, if needed, and season with freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Preheat your oven to 75 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil. Dollop each round of bread with most of a tablespoon of the onion mixture. Add 1 tablespoon grated cheese to the top of each toast, mound it a bit so it all stays in place. Bake the toasts for about 15 minutes, until bubbly and a bit browned. Serve immediately.

Cooking Maggie’s Cowboy Chili

Ingredients

  • 2lb ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ cup chicken stock or water
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cans of drained kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cumin

Optional Spices:

  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. parsley
  • ¼ tsp. ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp. ground marjoram
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes

*Optional spices are just that, optional. Use what you want, don’t use what you don’t like. All spices can be adjusted to taste as well.

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, brown the ground beef, drain, and put back in pot. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and all spices. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes.
  3. IF you would like a thicker chili, whisk 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water and add to chili after it has simmered for at least 30 minutes, cook for additional 5 minutes.