On Cooking with Alex #4: Fish & Chips

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I can only get better at different techniques with time and practice, and the only way to practice is to, well, cook! Especially for Alex, who is getting more confident and adventurous in the kitchen every time we cook, these FaceTime moments together are providing both of us with the practice we need. Alex wants to bake and challenge herself, which is good for me since I am not a good baker, and I want to attempt to make pasta or bread FROM SCRATCH! So, with that in mind, Alex and I put our heads together and came up with a recipe that had multiple moving pieces, included ingredients we haven’t worked with a lot—this was Alex’s first time cooking with fish!—and included a technique that I’m starting to feel more confident in, frying. And I know we will have MANY more recipes to make over the course of this year and beyond, but this experience was incredibly rewarding!

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But first, let’s talk batter, because batter is key! A good fish batter needs to be light, but not so runny that it falls right off the fish, and it needs to be FLAVORFUL, especially when you’re using a fish that might not have a ton of flavor on its own. I used Cod, which has one of the mildest flavor profiles for fish, and Alex found Haddock, which has a more pronounced fishy flavor to it, but still needs support from its backup dancers. So when we were shopping around for recipes, I wanted to find a batter that would provide flavor, and still let the fist itself shine. The one we picked was from Bon Appetit, and along with spices to kick it up a notch, it had beer, which is a staple accompaniment to go with Fish & Chips, which is what sold us on trying this specific recipe, and the batter really held up well to frying! The color on it was just fantastic, and it didn’t fall apart when you started to dig into the fish, so it’s a win for me!

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Side note: while I was originally looking for Halibut, which is my preferred white fish of choice, the price per pound is RIDICULOUS…we’re talking $22+ PER POUND! Yeah, no…I mean, I have a budget for food, but until those prices come down (not likely by the looks of things for a while at least), there will be no recipes that feature halibut any time soon. BUT that being said, if you are someone interested in finding fresh fish for a fresh price, I’m currently investigating Sea to Table, which is a company that has developed relationships with fishermen across all U.S. coasts to support responsible fishing. Their fish is always wild caught, comes straight from the actual fisherman, are local to the U.S., and as a result of responsible fishing, is sustainable, which I’ve become a huge supporter of since joining a CSA and doing my research. Even the packaging is eco-friendly AND they’ve expanded their selections of fish since the last time I took a look at them. Maine Redfish has SERIOUSLY peaked my interest since trying Redfish for the first time at Culinary Fight Club’s Pit Master Battle last year! When I place my first order, I will let you all know how it goes!

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Additionally, we weren’t 100% sold on the tartar sauce, but decided to give it the good ol’ fashioned try! And it was tasty, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it’s entirely the recipe we were hoping it would have been. However, the addition of the green beans added a really lovely fresh note to the plate! And all in all, we were completely thrilled with what we put on the plate and have started to seriously discuss what’s next. Ideas include homemade gnocchi, an entire episode on different kinds of classic cocktails (Alex is going to lead this one because she’s a bad ass bartender!), an episode on pickling (I’m just waiting for my coworker to bring in some homegrown pickling cucumbers to shoot this one off), and definitely some sweet treats to be sure! We’re working out our summer schedule, but it looks like Cooking with Alex will move to Monday or Tuesday nights, starting next week! And if you are also one of those homecooks who wants to get more confident in the kitchen, cook with a friend! You’d be surprised how much fun you’ll have learning something new! Till next time eaters! — Cooking Maggie

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Fish and Chips from Bon Appetit

  • Note: The chips we did were just sliced red potatoes, salted/peppered/Old Bay’d, and then fried in the same oil until golden brown

Classic Tartar Sauce from Bon Appetit

Green Beans with Garlic, Lemon, and Parsley from Epicurious

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On Healthy Eating [After Whole30]

If I haven’t already said it, and I’m pretty sure I have, Whole30 was indeed life-changing. Not only does junk food or fast food no longer taste the same, it’s no longer appealing either. Not that that’s a bad thing, because it totally isn’t (better on our budget and better on our waistbands too), but rather it’s been interesting to observe the gravity of how much foods we haven’t been eating make us feel post-consumption. Pizza? We originally thought twice a month would be okay, especially when we go up to visit his parents and that’s what they want to have for dinner that night, but we’re thinking once a month (if that) is going to be the better alternative. Sugary substances in all shapes and forms? Yeah, I’m a one and done now—case and point: I ate ONE of my mini cheesecakes from over the weekend and gave the rest to my coworkers because my teeth started to sing just thinking about eating a second one—and all the gummies Frankie had hoarded prior to Whole30 are still in the bag I put them in and will likely continue to remain in that bag in our freezer for a while yet…and for me, the most surprising thing is when Frankie comes home and asks if dinner is Whole30 compliant!

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So with that in mind, we came to an interesting decision. While we will still have our moments of freedom (not going to lie, I totally had some Bad Apple cheese curds on Tuesday with my book group, sorry not sorry at all), but at home, we’re going to stick to a pretty Paleo diet…with a few exceptions of course.

  1. Beer & Wine: This is totally in moderation and we realized we don’t need it, but sometimes, a small glass of red, or a Zombie Dust or Hopback Amber is exactly what the doctor ordered, so we are going to keep alcohol in our diet, but since Whole30, our consumption has decreased significantly. Also, I miss cooking with beer and wine…sure I can totally not cook with alcohol, no problem, but sometimes, it just adds that extra little…oomph.
  2. Rice: We’re pretty much over pasta (though not excluding it completely either because sometimes it makes for a great easy weekday meal), but I missed rice A TON in March, so we’re going to keep it in and vary the kind of grain I use (more wild rice than white rice).
  3. Bread: Also in SUPER moderation. Since getting off whole30 I think we’ve made…1 smash burger for dinner, and had one night of hot dogs with buns…so we’re also not gravitating back towards bread, BUT having it as an option is nice to have. But now that I have found breadless meatballs & flour alternatives, this may not even be an exception, but rather it’s nice to have as an option for when we go out.
  4. Peas, Chickpeas, Beans, & Corn: The other non-Whole30 approved veggies/legumes that frankly I like too much to remove, though beans…eh, I could say bye or minimize my exposure to a number of them, but frozen green peas are my favorite last-minute additions to a meal (and if I can get them fresh, EVEN BETTER), hummus makes for a GREAT easy/low key meal (with veggies and rotisserie chicken), and I love hardshell tacos and tortilla chips with a passion.

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And that’s it! Really not too bad right? So in honor of our more finalized everyday diet, I have two recipes for you this week that are sure to keep that healthy kick going (if you’re on one) or will help start one (if you’re looking for that) OR just taste good and don’t take a long time to make (what I believe most of you come here for). Enjoy my lovelies! — Cooking Maggie

Quick Housekeeping: Cooking with Friends #3 will be post-poned to next Sunday (hint: think pasta), so the next post will be Monday May 7th!


Seared Barramundi with Yogurt Mustard Sauce from Champagne Tastes

Note: I also made this with a side of wild rice & pan seared green beans with garlic! Delicious!

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Guacamole Stuffed Lime Chicken

I don’t really have a recipe for this, I just kind of winged it, but essentially, you’re going to take 3-4 chicken breasts and season them with salt, pepper, and cumin on both sides, then pan sear in an oven-safe skillet for 4-5 minutes, then top with juice from 1 lime, and roast until cooked (165°F) flipping it over every 6 minutes.

When the chicken is done, cut a pocket in it and fill with your favorite guacamole (mine is here), and serve with sauted or roasted veggies.

I know it’s not the most standard recipe, BUT I was cooking on the fly, worked with what I had, and feel like this is so straightforward a full recipe would be been redundant.

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On All The Catching Up

Dear Readers: My apologies for my incredibly late delay in a post…it’s been a busy last couple of weeks with some updates to announce! The first: Cooking with Friends will premiere for the very first time on Tuesday, April 17th, and will be posted later that evening or the next day (depending on how quickly I can get myself together). The second: I have gone ahead and updated my recipe page so that it is clear where my recipes are coming from. Not that anyone has complained (no one has, honestly), but this is a personal choice because it looks, at a glance, like it’s all me, and I don’t want that, that’s not what I stand for. And even though I want folks to go through the specific blog that talks about that specific recipe, I also thought it fairly annoying to have to scroll through the blog post to get to the recipe link, so I also added a direct link to every recipe that I can’t claim to their designated blog. If there are adaptations that I made, I’ve added a star so you can decide how you want to approach the recipe. Just trying to make it easier for my readers, you know. The third: I have also updated (a little) my cookbook page as well, but I know I have more recipes to add, so take a looksee! And with that, let’s dig in, shall we?

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This past Good Friday was a company holiday for me, which meant a day to stick around home with Tuggs! It also meant that I actually had time to unbox the lightbox I had bought…oh…about six months ago…and I rearranged one of the tables in my dining room to be completely dedicated to taking food photos! I had thought to set it up in my kitchen, but I don’t have enough counter space as is. Anyway, here we are! TA-DA! The very first photos from the lightbox!

If any of you have heard or follow Pinch of Yum, not only does she have GREAT healthy, low cal recipes to die for, but she actually has a really lovely and informative post about taking photos with artificial light. I actually bought her setup when I got my camera, and if you haven’t noticed, these are the best photos I’ve been able to turn out! (See side by side of crab cakes below. UGH I CAN’T EVEN!)

And especially since I was just coming off of Whole30, I wanted to make something that wasn’t going to be…too hard on our system, but at the same time, I wanted to make something that had been on my to-bake list, especially with my kitchen aid mixer having been neglected all month, so that’s how I arrived at funfetti cupcakes, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. Overall, you can ABSOLUTELY tell that these are not from a box – the cake itself is super moist and about as white as you get, and they weren’t bad, but they were VERY sweet, which I know is a weird complaint, but that’s only because we’ve been on an almost zero sugar diet for the last few weeks and it was just a little bit of a shock to the system. Still, a really wonderful first non-Whole30 recipe to try out! YUM!

Confetti Cake from Smitten Kitchen

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The week after Easter was very much filled with dinner with friends on Monday and Tuesday, then a singular night in (crab cakes), and then a comedy show Thursday night were we got to see Frankie’s groomswoman Emily Fightmaster kick butt and take names in Second City’s e.t.c. 42nd Review, Gaslight District  (yeah, shameless plug, but I love her to death and she is PHENOMENAL, so go see her while you can)! So there was minimal time to write, minimal time to cook, and then we whisked ourselves off to Buffalo to get REAL into wedding planning (menu, photographer meeting, ceremony site visit, and so on), which left even less time to catch up and pull something together for you all! Hopefully a two-fer recipe spill will set everything right again, especially since it’s one of my favorite dishes: curry! Red Thai Curry to be exact, but with my own spin to it. The recipe on it’s own, great, BUT, as I’ve noticed with any curry recipe that claims authenticity and quickness, it’s just not…where it needs to be. The same could be said for this recipe as well, and this is purely with regards to the spices that were just…not there. I’ve included the link below BUT the added spices and veggies are written below, along with my other notes!

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I love potatoes in my curry and I haven’t had peas in a month, so I couldn’t leave them stuck in my freezer for another moment longer, are all underneath! That being said, I also halved the onion/peppers as well to compensate for the amount of pot space I was swapping them out for. And you know what, so long as the sauce, the actual base of the curry is there, YOU can add and remove and swap WHATEVER you want! Don’t want chicken? Try duck! Or pork! Curry is great like that.

Red Curry Chicken from Mother Thyme

Adaptations:

  • USE FULL FAT COCONUT MILK! I feel low fat is just too watery, and a little dose of good fat does you good in the long run anyway.
  • I used ½ the peppers and onion because I wanted to add 2 red potatoes (cubed small) and ¾ cup of peas (swapped out for the beansprouts, which I don’t happen to like in curry).
  • Add an extra ½ teaspoon of salt & pepper to the dish before stirring in the peas.
  • To sauce, add ½ tsp turmeric, 2 teaspoon cumin, 2 tsp coriander
  • To kick up the heat, add in 1 serrano, deseeded, cut in half length wise, and thinly sliced! We used fresno chilies the first time and it didn’t have the kick I wanted, but no biggie! If my grocery store had the little red chilies, I would have used one of those, with a backup chili in case of extra needed heat.

My apologies again for taking so long to get back to you, but I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me, and I hope you’ll check back on Tuesday for the first COOKING WITH FRIENDS! Happy Eating Everyone! (I know I am!) – Cooking Maggie

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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 – 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 Baked Cod & Greek Salad

Okay, so my trip to Vegas did impact my ability to get a post out last week, but it was my first time in Vegas and I was CLEARLY overly ambitious. Lesson learned, let me tell ya, and I hope this recipe makes up for it! Recently, I’ve been craving lighter foods like fish & chicken (anything BUT beef after that tenderloin feast we had earlier this month), and that’s when I thought about making Greek Chicken, and then decided to do a twist on it because, while utterly delicious, I had made it back in December. My twist? FISH! What fish? COD!

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Cod is comparatively pretty inexpensive and fairly bland on its own, but takes on a marinade/seasoning very easily, so it makes for a great chicken substitute! As this was a total experiment, I wanted to find a way to mimic the skin on chicken thighs, so I thought a light breading would help with maintaining moisture. Of course, I made sure the flour had seasoning in it (topping the final fish dish off with my secret salt) and instead of eggs, I did a butter, lemon juice, and olive oil mixture. Single breading for three of the fillets, a double breading for one (just to see what would hold up more), and definitely double breading in the future, which is reflected in the recipe below! And to make sure that it didn’t stick once I got them in the oven (following the similar cooking method of the chicken thighs), I topped the fish with the leftover lemon/butter/oil liquid and added some garlic to it to add that beautiful lemon tartness and keep things moist as it’s baked!

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And I thought to pair it with a quick Greek salad, to keep the dish light and fresh! And it’s the simplest salad you can make: diced fresh tomatoes (roma or on the vine are best), diced cucumber (peeled or not peeled is totally up to you, same with English cucumber or regular cucumber – I don’t think I ever really notice a true difference between the two), chopped parsley, a little salt, a little pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss, and serve! And you can make this ahead of time too, or add some feta if you want, but I’m not the biggest fan of feta (just a little too salty for me), so I prefer my Greek salads without them.

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And as for the couscous that I served the fish over? That’s store bought. Couscous is super easy to make at home, but frankly, I just prefer the ease of store bought couscous during the week because it’s one less thing I have to concentrate on. But there you have it! And the salad travels GREAT for office lunches! The fish, maybe not, depending on what your work policy is for heating up fish at work, BUT the cod did hold up well in the microwave too (and it wasn’t too smelly at all, but I’m not sure I am the best judge of that since I was surrounded by the smell the night before). Happy eating! – Cooking Maggie

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Baked Greek Cod

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Cod fillets (frozen or fresh)
  • Lemon Juice (about 3 full lemons worth)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup olive oil, with some leftover for the pan
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • Chopped parsley, for topping
  • Optional: 1 lemon sliced for plating/baking

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Pat your fish fillets with a paper towel, and have ready. Mix the flour & dry spices together in a shallow dish/plate, and mix the lemon juice, melted butter, and olive in a shallow bowl, preferably one that is microwave safe. Cover fillets in flour, dip in wet mixture, then in the flour again, set aside on a baking sheet. Try to do this quickly as the melted butter may solidify again. If this happens, throw it in the microwave for 5 seconds, stir, repeating till butter is melted again without overheating (10 seconds should do it, tops)! When all fillets are breaded, dispose of remaining flour, but add the minced garlic to the lemon/butter/oil mixture, stir and set aside.
  3. In a cast iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. When oil is sizzling, add the fish and sear on each side for about 3 minutes each side to give it color.
  4. Turn off heat and add leftover lemon/butter/oil/garlic mixture over top of the fish, and top with sliced lemon if desired. Put skillet into over for about ten minutes (or until easily flaked by a fork). Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with couscous and Greek salad!

Easy Greek Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 Roma or On-The-Vine Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Cucumber (English or seedless or regular), diced
    • You can peel if you prefer it without the skin
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon Juice (1/2 lemon worth or more to taste)
  • Finishing salt (malden salt)

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl, stir/toss to combine. Serve & finish with finishing salt (malden salt).

 

On What Was Supposed to be Shrimp & Grits

…but then became Stewed Green Beans with a side of spicy pepper shrimp because you went to the 4th Mac & Cheese Fest and ate WAY too much pasta & cheese and the thought of eating more made you a little nauseous. And while I didn’t want to eat anything with cheese in it, I still had a small bushel of green beans ready to go for stewed green beans, so that’s what I went with (along with cooking up the shrimp I also had bought, quickly whipping up a spicy paprika shrimp to help cut the subtle richness of the green beans.

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I have always loved stewed green beans, and as a little girl, when playing with your food was still acceptable, I would split the bean open and suck out the little pea pod inside before munching on the beans themselves. It is still one of my favorite sides to eat with barbeque, but today, it was the comfort I needed coming out of my mac n cheese coma! As for authenticity, I don’t know if I can claim that this recipe is in fact very close to the real deal, especially with my addition of chicken stock (or broth) instead of water. But I think my own variation has all the depths of flavors that this dish boasts naturally, and will absolutely smell up your home in the best way possible (I mean, how could you not be salivating at the very first sizzle of bacon in a pan).

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Cooking Maggie’s Stewed Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 lb. green beans, longer beans snapped in half
  • 6 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups of Chicken Broth/Stock

Instructions: Heat butter in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add green beans, turkey leg, and 4 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat, and let simmer until green beans are very tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

For Paprika Shrimp: Add a little olive oil (about 1 tsp) to a skillet, and add 1 lb of shrimp (devein & remove the shells, but leave the tail). Saute for about three minutes, and sprinkle salt, pepper, and about 1 tsp paprika & 1 tsp chili powder. Saute until cooked through. Top with chives for a little freshness.

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On Honey Cajun Shrimp

So, I know honey and lime screams more summer beach dinner than fall, but this shrimp is SO yummy I’ve now made it twice in the last four weeks, and most likely may make it again after it snows because it’s just so flavorful and finger licking good! And I’ve also figured out a tip that will make clean up a BREEZE after cooking it.

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The thing I think I like the most is that this dish surprised me in the greatest way possible. Normally, I don’t prefer eating a meal that is sweet and savory at the same time (normally), and tend to veer more towards savory over sweeter main courses, but this dish may be the exception to my rule. It’s perfectly balanced between the tartness of the lemon, which helps cut the sticky sweetness of the honey, and the Cajun spice adds some depth with spice and those earthy savory notes I like so much.

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And if you don’t have a grill, which I don’t, that’s okay! What I’ve used instead was a cast iron skillet (the first time, but never again, despite the amazing char it gets on the shrimp) and your basic non-stick skillet. I prefer the skillet for cooking this dish mostly because the honey likes to stick to the bottom of the pan while you’re waiting for the shrimp to get that really wonderful charred crust on it, which on a cast iron skillet means using water and a little soap to break it up, which I really dislike doing because then that adds more time afterwards for re-seasoning the pan I’ve basically just stripped. With the skillet, I added the shrimp individually rather than dumping the bowl with the remaining sauce/marinade, which prevented there being too much liquid in the pan (which meant it would take longer to get the crust and end up burning most of the marinade) so my shrimp got that crust and a quick soak in warm soapy water got all the sticky remains off the pan in no time! I also threw the remaining marinade in about 30 seconds before I was going to take the shrimp off the heat and serve it up with some rice and vegetables.

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In terms of the dipping sauce, I honestly don’t think the shrimp needs it, though it does add that extra bit of tang to it, but I did sprinkle the shrimp with a little fresh parsley though, which I think adds a nice note of freshness to it! Super easy to make, and incredibly tasty! I definitely recommend it (and I also recommend checking out RasaMalaysia’s Panda Express Copy Cat Chow Mein, which is another one of my favorites from her)! —Cooking Maggie

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Grilled Honey Cajun Shrimp from RasaMalaysia


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On Roasted Chili-Lime Cod

With the change in weather now in full effect, the sweaters have come out, the scarfs have been arranged, and there’s usually a cup of tea in my hand while I’m cooking in my comfy pants (oh yes, I am more or less cooking in my yoga pants and pjs because I like to be comfortable when I cook, and it’s not like I’m in front of the camera). And even though the fall makes me itch towards Chicken & Dumplings (smitten kitchen just revisited her recipe for it and it has LEEKS in it! Oh my gosh I can’t wait to make this soon soon soon!) and Baked Apple Streusel (a recipe I made for the first time on a whim during my first fall in Chicago, so worry not, a delicious recipe to satiate anyone’s fall craving is coming to a kitchen near you). And I’ve also been craving fish, oddly enough.

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Sure, Fall doesn’t scream “FISH,” but sometimes you need a break from the rich and heavy stuff for a moment, bring back some freshness to the table, so I turned to Cod fish, a white flaky fish with a seriously mild taste that can be easily applied to a ton of different flavor profiles (think of it almost like chicken). Cod can be fried (like chicken), it can be stewed (like chicken) or curried (like chicken), and it can be baked/pan seared (like chicken). I know fish can be scary, and believe me, it still sometimes scares me when I get the courage to try cooking with it, but with the right combination of spices and sauce, it’s something else! And so I tried a Roasted Chili-Lime Cod recipe from Fashionable Foods (topped with a lime butter sauce that was SO tasty) with wild rice (from a box because you shouldn’t feel you have to make EVERYTHING from scratch when a little help goes a long way) and roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic, thyme, and basil!

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This cod dish is incredibly bright and vivacious on the plate, a dish that brings everything to life on your palate, and the spice does help kick things up a notch as well. It’s fast and easy to whip up all the ingredients in a bowl, and if you want things to get interesting, sub out the regular olive oil with a complimentary flavored oil. The oil I used (and is pictured) is actually homemade chili oil that my friends got as a gift from their wedding officiant. He gave them a ton of jars, and they were kind enough to share one with me, so I thought, what better way to accent and highlight the brightness of the spices than with a little kick to the oil that’s being absorbed into the fish? And then to top it off with a lime butter? That tang of citrus helps cut the spice a little too, not to mention that butter just makes everything better!

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I thought to pair the fish with tomatoes (just to add an extra note of bright acidity to the plate since the fish is pretty mild and the spice mix is pretty powerful on its own), and while fresh tomatoes on their own with a little salt on time is just a great way to feature the ingredient, I wanted to make use of the oven while I had it on anyway. I threw the tomatoes into the oven when I was letting my fish refrigerate, and took them out when the fish was done cooking, so that both components could be served together, piping hot from the oven! And they were so succulent and slightly sweet, but robust and juicy! These little tasty nuggets are just as easy to throw together as the fish, and pair great with chicken or pasta, in addition to fish, and you can let them cool longer to serve over top a salad as well! You can’t go wrong with this side, and you can also change up the herbs you’re using to make things interesting like subbing fresh for the dried (though I think those have a greater tendency to burn rather than bloom and develop into something more) or adding in some parsley instead of oregano. Maybe even throw in a sprig of rosemary!

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Hoping the start of your Fall is as deliciously scrumptious as it is in my kitchen! —Cooking Maggie


Roasted Chili-Lime Cod from Fasionable Foods


Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Thyme
  • 2 teaspoon dried Oregano
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F, line a baking sheet with foil, and spread out the halved cherry tomatoes all over the sheet.
  2. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over tomatoes. In a separate small bowl, add the basil, thyme, and oregano, then sprinkle the mixture overtop of the tomatoes, trying to cover all of them with a little bit.
  3. Pour olive oil over tomatoes and top with salt & pepper (sprinkling from farther up, think close to your forehead, will make it easier to cover all the tomatoes with enough of the seasoning.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time till they look wrinkled, but not burned. Let cool for two minutes, then serve with fish, chicken, pasta.

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On Cooking Fish & Salmon Delish

I am proud to report that I actually made fish…and Frankie liked it! *pause* I made fish, and Frankie liked it…*double pause* is three times excessive? Well, I won’t say it now, no doubt I’ll say it later (mark my words), but there’s a reason I made fish: Frankie has unfortunately been dealing with a nasty case of pancreatitis for the past few months, but we’ve finally turned the corner in the right direction (thank goodness), and, while I won’t toot my own horn too much here, it’s primarily been because of my cooking, per his severe need to change his eating habits. After all, most changes in your diet that stick start at home.

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So! With my new mission to get him all healthy and still provide delicious meals at the end of long work days, I turned to a protein I am by no means familiar with, but felt comfortable enough to take some risks with. Fish, but more specifically salmon, which Mama Sully has continually told me was where she started when she learned to cook fish herself. It’s the least fishy tasting fish is the usual Now, this is not my favorite fish, I have to be honest, especially growing up. My mom would make this Salmon Casserole with cheddar cheese, onion, and biscuits baked on top, but when I was a kid, I would HATE those dinners…I’d even try to sneak large chunks of it into my paper towel and secretly throw it away (wasteful and really bad, I know), but as I’ve gotten older, my taste has changed. Funny how that works. And any time my mom makes her Salmon Casserole, I am allllllll over it! It is by far one of those meals that is just uber comforting, warm all the way down from bite to belly. And sure, the biscuit is still my favorite part, BUT I do find that my plate is more fish than biscuit more times out of ten.

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Now, there’s a ton of ways that you can cook Salmon, but the way I like to eat my salmon most is where I thought best to start off. Baked Salmon. There are SO many varieties that you can play with when it comes to cooking and dressing salmon, but most common with baked salmon, you’re either going to use a glaze to get this really beautiful caramelization on the filet that just seeps and permeates into the meat of the fish, OR you can crust it, like I did here, which you sear off first before transferring it into the oven to get that nice beautiful crispy crust on the outside, but maintain the moist and flaky inside! Oh, and my piece of advise for this is, if you are crusting one side, I recommend just going ahead and removing the skin from your fish. Two crusted sides could be a little much in my opinion, but if I were to just basic season my fish with salt & pepper, and make a sauce to pour over it, then I would keep the skin and stick to simply pan searing my fish. And while I know I could have used a non-stick pan, I love, LOVE my cast iron skillet and went that route since some pans don’t hold up well in the oven (which is why you should always double check the tag & online information before you buy a pan, but getting a good, heavy skillet is a worthwhile investment too).

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With the crust, I did not have a spice grinder to finely grind up the fresh spices, but that’s okay! I had a blender, and that worked JUST as well! And besides, while a fine dusting is the best for even coverage of flavor, it doesn’t always have to be that way, and as you can tell from my photos, my crust was a little on the chunky side, but I truly don’t think it makes a huge difference in the overall product you’re aiming for, so if your crust isn’t entirely perfect, don’t sweat it! A trick I did think to try was adding a little olive oil to make it a little more of a paste than a dry rub, and I think that can help with smoothing out a spice mixture when you’re using a blender.

Then this is where I got a little creative. I felt like the salmon needed a sauce, and I really like to pair tomatoes & capers with my salmon, so I thought I’d make a really lovely aromatic tomato sauce with capers, onions, shallots, and a little orange juice to make up for the lack of orange zest I was unable to impart into my crust (again, I found myself at a grocery store with NO ORANGES! Weirdest thing ever, so I went ahead and also added a little lemon zest to also enhance the citrus flavor). I even got a little extra crafty by slicing zucchini planks and cooking them in the sauce, rather than just heading over to my usual go-to of dicing and simple searing with S&P. It was really tasty, and definitely a trick I plan to use again in the future. Plus, it kept to the one-pan dish goal I was trying to maintain (rice aside because you can serve the fish solo if you really want to, but I love eating rice with fish, so I ended up dirtying two pans by the end of the night).

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And then Frankie ate it…AND LIKED IT! Which means, more fish dishes are a go, and boy do I have a few recipes I’ve had my eye on for quite some time! Look out for more fish friendly fares in the coming weeks!

—Cooking Maggie


Provençal Salmon from NY Times Cooking
[Note: I did not have fennel seeds, so I substituted with caraway seeds, which still maintained that slight licorice flavor, and because I didn’t have any oranges, I used orange juice in the sauce, and I included some fresh thyme to add an extra note of freshness]


Tomato Sauce with Capers & Orange Juice

Ingredients

  • 1 large vine ripe tomato
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or Vermouth)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp capers (or more if you really love them like I do, or less if you just like them)
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon (about 1-2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Score an “X” on the bottom of the tomato and add it to the pot. Remove when the skin begins to peel back (roughly 30 seconds to 1 minute). Once cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the tomato and discard, then finely chop the tomato and add everything to a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over low-medium heat (preferably the same skillet you used to cook the fish in). Add garlic & shallots, and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the white wine, broth, capers, and tomato. Bring to a brief boil, then lower heat to simmer the mixture and let it reduce for about 2 minutes. Add in the orange juice & lemon zest, then add in the butter, salt, and pepper (to taste). When finished, serve over top of salmon.

** This sauce is also great for white fish and chicken!

On Spicy Shrimp Tacos

TACOS! I’m not going to repeat myself beyond the following: I LOVE TACOS! Okay, awesome. Now that THAT’S out of the way…I made these guys on a Friday (since during Lent, we don’t eat meat on Fridays) and not only were they super quick and super easy, it was the first time I ever had to de-vein/clean my shrimp! How have I never had to de-vein or clean shrimp before now you may ask?! Easy. Usually, I would go shopping at the Jewel by my office because it was convenient, and their shrimp (the uncooked AND cooked variety) are always de-veined for your convenience. Now, since starting this blog, I’ve tried going to a couple of other groceries stores on my way home, and I found one that has a better variety (and quality) of meat and fresh produce, and their uncooked shrimp does NOT come de-veined. So, I was left with the task of de-veining them, and it was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever had to do with my food.

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But it was so easy! Like, the backs of a shrimp were made for the blade of a knife to clean them out—is that a horrible thing to say about shrimps?—and by that I mean, when I made my initial incision, wondering if I was going to go too far or not far enough, the knife only went as far as the shrimp would let it go without pushing back, and then the back just flipped back to let me do my business! Crazy easy! Who knew?! Still gross (especially if you get one with the additional gelatinous goop too), but I learned something new! And they turned out exquisitely! The marinade was delicious, but I may add some more jalapenos to the salsa to up the heat a little bit, for the most part, absolutely one of the better recipes for shrimp tacos that I’ve come across! And while normally, I’m not the biggest fan of chunky avocado pieces, the warmth of the shrimp softened them up a little so the texture was smoother than it might have been originally, and I mean, I can only find so many ripe avocados at the store that aren’t bruised. Am I right?!

And in addition to a new skill in my pocket, I have upheld my personal promise to read my recipes more thoroughly, and actually notice the amounts or ingredients that, frankly/in my opinion, just aren’t enough or don’t belong at all. Essentially, I am noticing that I am starting to adapt the recipes I work from more to my liking, more to what I think will actually enhance the initial thought to something more! We all start somewhere right, and I guess it’s a little strange, yet exciting, to be a little more self-aware of the ways in which I’m mindfully changing my approach to cooking, really treating my food like a well-known acquaintance, with respect, rather than just…well, food, for lack of a better way of describing it. There’s something really beautiful about the nuances of a dish, the way ingredients will speak to you and to each other if you listen, rather than just thinking about the timing aspects of a meal. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m starting to really see between the lines of the food that I’m working with, that I’m cooking with, and really getting to know it inside and out during the whole process, rather than just inside my belly. There’s just so much more to learn and discover, and as the ever dutiful student, I can’t wait to study and practice (my favorite)!

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May all your trials not be perfect, and may there be always something new to learn that makes the familiar exciting! —Cooking Maggie

PS. And just to wet your appetite a little, I’m going to be re-greasing the old writing wheels and actually wroking on more…creative approaches to my blog posts! Oh, and I found a baller new photo app that I can’t WAIT to try and talk about! Stay tuned ya’ll!


Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa & Sour Cream Cilantro Sauce from Gimme Delicious Food