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

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On Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes & Whole30 Day 1

If there’s one thing you need to know about me, aside from the fact that I love to cook, is that I love to read! With the book group I’m in right now, we meet on Sundays and have started to pair our deep discussion of the book with brunch! GENIUS! I don’t know why more book groups don’t do this to begin with! Everyone brings something (a little booze or champagne, some sweets, some savories, whatever!) and then we spend a couple hours together really delving into that month’s book, analyzing literary choices, social/political issues that were reflected on the page that we’ve experienced in real life, and just general life conversations! Before you know it, we’re well into the afternoon, but I mean, books, food, good conversation, and good people…nothing better in this world! Seriously, if you have a book group, I really recommend this meeting format!

 

Last month, I made avocado toast (albeit, not the prettiest avocado toast) with prosciutto, tomato, and burrata, but this month, I made my cheesecake cupcakes WITH A TWIST! A raspberry puree twist that is! I pureed a container of raspberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar, strained it, then added a few small dots to the top of my cheesecake mixture. Swirl it all with a toothpick and you get that amazing marbling effect, with just a pop of tartness! It’s the easiest thing in the world, and I plan to try it again with strawberry to see which one I like more! I’ve linked my cheesecake recipe/post above, but here is the recipe for the fruit puree & swirl!

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Raspberry Swirl for Cheesecake Cupcakes

  • 1 packet of raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Add raspberries and sugar to a food processor and pulse until well pureed, about 30 seconds. Press/strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl until there are only seeds remaining in the strainer. When done, set aside until you’re ready to add the swirl to your cheesecakes!
  2. Add 4 small dots to the top of your cheesecake cupcakes, then use a toothpick to swirl them around into a pattern. Then bake the cheesecakes according to the recipe.

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And how could I forget?! Today is Day 1 of Frankie’s and my Whole30 adventure and already I feel like everything is off to a great start! Frankie made himself a small plate of bacon and eggs this morning—for those who are also Paleo, or doing the Whole30 and are wondering where in the world we found compliant bacon, we went to a local butcher/deli and asked them about their cure! You can also try your local grocery store meat counter and ask them about the cure for their bacon—while I dined on a Warm Banana Breakfast Bowl, consisting of pecans, bananas, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and coconut milk! I had also made Crispy Chicken Thighs with a Pesto Zucchini Noodle last night (which we ate for lunch today), I’m planning to make meatballs tonight (which will not be the spicy meatballs I had hoped for because all the dried chiles had sulfites in them…so instead, I’m commandeering a sauce from another meatball recipe instead)!

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I will admit that I am actually feeling the hunger just a little bit, which was to be expected, BUT I have enjoyed everything I’ve eaten so far (though take that with a grain of salt since this is only Day 1 after all). That being said, I will be using Coconut Milk more because it’s not as coconutty as I was expecting it to be, and it’s creamy as get all, ESPECIALLY the bit that solidifies at the top of the can when it’s been chilled? Oh yeah, that stuff is basically like whipped cream, which makes it the BEST! I’m really looking forward to keeping a detailed account of this journey and cannot wait for all the recipes I’ve picked out to try! Here are the two from today, and I hope, even if you aren’t Paleo, that you give them a try anyway because they are really, really yummy! Oh, and if anyone has any questions about the Whole30 or more specifics on recipes/experiences, please don’t hesitate to ask! Happy Eating Readers! And wish me luck! — Cooking Maggie

Warm Banana Coconut Breakfast Bowl from Fast Paleo

Chicken Thighs w/Zucchini Noodles from Paleo Comfort Foods

 

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On Lent & Gumbo

Lent is underway, and this year, I have given up spirits and weekday (Monday to Thursday) drinking in general. This isn’t to say that drinking is a problem because it’s not, BUT I have just started to find myself not feeling very good after one beer/drink at dinner later that night or the next morning, so I think a break would do my body some good. And in the conversations that Frankie and I have been having regarding the removal and giving up of foods we know are not the best for us, we’ve seriously considered doing the Whole30 in March!

A lot of our friends are doing it right now, or have told us about how they did it recently, and the positive changes that it has made for them, and since our impending wedding is making us both more health conscious, Frankie thinks we should try it to help get a jump start on things! Since I am already getting back into a more consistent workout regime (also, not to plug, but I’m going to plug, the SWEAT App, specifically Kelsey Wells’ PWR Workout Program is LEGIT mind-blowing! Some of the best workouts I’ve been getting most recently!), it seems like a good idea!! So, in March, look out for Whole30 posts & weekly summaries to come, and hopefully, if you are already thinking about doing something like it, my own experience might sway you one way or the other. Plus, it’ll be a GREAT way for me to practice my willpower and not spend money out on food for a while. And naturally, I’ll be nothing but honest about my experience and will try to keep a day-to-day summary of what I’m eating, how I’m feeling, etc. I just want to be accurate and detailed if something like this can be helpful to you dear readers!

As for our Fat Tuesday indulgence? Well, while we were in Breckinridge over the weekend, we happened to make a quick visit over to Ft. Collins and visit with Frankie’s older sister Katrina, and his youngest brother, Ed! Well, Ed is a fabulous cook as well, and he decided to make gumbo for Fat Tuesday at Katrina’s house, and while I was not able to actually eat any of the gumbo that he made, I did get to taste the soupy broth before we left for the airport to come back to Chicago, and was instantly like “this, I need to make this as soon as I get home.” So I did!

Ed got the recipe from Munchies, and I will tell you now, when it says 3-hour simmer, it means a 3-hour simmer, and you’ll want to do a 3-hour simmer. I also had no idea that a roux could get as complex and deliciously deep in flavors as this one did! Oh, and Grapeseed oil is my new favorite oil! Ed told me that it is a great substitute from olive oil when you’re stir-frying or cooking anything on high heat because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, so it won’t get that bitter burnt taste as easily! I wouldn’t replace olive oil entirely with it, but it’s nice to have an alternative when cooking on high heat! And the gumbo itself was so delicious, that I don’t think I’ll ever keep another gumbo recipe handy (though Frankie did gift me with a true Louisiana/New Orleans Cookbook, so I will definitely have to peruse and compare one of these days). But if you’re looking for something rich, elegant, and hearty as get all, this is the recipe to try next, without a doubt! Enjoy my fellow eaters! – Cooking Maggie

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo from Munchies

On Chicken & Rice

Because sometimes, one-pot meals are exactly what you need at the end of a long day, rainy day, cold/snow day, or even sick day! And I’m not kidding about that either! This is literally one of those put everything in the pot, let it simmer for a bit, then stuff your face with its hearty deliciousness! It’s just the right amount of spiciness to warm the blood, the vegetables warm your center, and the broth warms your soul. It’s just good ol’ fashioned good, and I’ve made this a couple times and somehow can’t wait to make it again! It won’t stick around in your fridge for long if you try this yourself either! And that’s it! Short and sweet this week, but don’t worry, next week will be a doozy! Next Week: Lent & Gumbo…woah, but we won’t get too heavy, promise! Until then readers, stay warm, safe, & full! – Cooking Maggie

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One Pot Chicken & Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes (bite-sized)
  • 6-8 ounce package of diced ham/pancetta (depending on what is easier to find at your grocery store)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (including juice)
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil (olive or grapeseed)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley for serving

Instructions

  1. In a large pot or Dutch Oven, melt butter or heat oil over medium heat, then add chicken and cook until no longer pink (about 5-7 minutes). Then add ham, let cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add onion, pepper, and garlic to the pot, cooking until onion is translucent, then add remaining ingredients except for peas & parsley to the pot, stirring until well mixed. Let pot come to a boil, the turn heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
  3. When rice is tender, remove from heat and stir in the green peas. Add salt/pepper to taste, and serve in deep bowls with chopped parsley!

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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 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 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 Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad

With a renewed sense of wanting to get healthy, I thought that the best recipe to present for the New Year was a salad! I know, I know, it’s not the most exciting thing to make or eat, but there are actually plenty of salads that are incredibly delicious and filling that aren’t calorie heavy, and this is one of them! Drum roll please….Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad! TA-DA! Have I caught your attention? Excellent!

This is one of the EASIEST salads to make, AND if you want to go one step further, the Caesar dressing is easy to make from scratch, and the recipe is from one of my faves, Smitten Kitchen! Her recipe to her own Chicken Caesar salad is included below, which is where her own dressing recipe is located, and while I like me a Chicken Caesar salad on any other given day, this blackened chicken really kicks things up a notch and takes this salad to a whole other level of deliciousness! The season mix is my own concoction after a few years of playing around with amounts and components, and this is what I’ve finalized! It’s not really even that spicy, just enough to give a slight kick, so if you’re not a big fan of spice, you should still be okay with the amounts I’ve given. And if you want a little more spice, through in a ¼ more teaspoon of cayenne or paprika or chili powder (or all three if you want it to really zing)!

And in terms of the preparation, you can cube your chicken, as I did this time, or pan sear/roast your chicken breast whole and then cut it into strips, or cut into strips and pan sear them, but I like to cube them because then they are more bite-size friendly, and it reduces the cooking time for the chicken, which means it gets into my belly much faster! Plus, what better way to satisfy my healthy ideals or my healthy appetite? And the dressing? Also very easy, and quite tangy too! It might not be the bottled creamy Caesar that everyone knows and loves, but it’s certainly very close to it, and still very delicious! So if you’re looking for a way to lighten up your weeknight, or your afternoon lunch, why not give this salad a try and see for yourself! Salads can be fun and delicious! – Cooking Maggie

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Chicken Caesar Salad by smitten kitchen (Dressing recipe at the end)


Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad
4 servings

Ingredients

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast – cut into bite sized pieces or strips
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano, dried
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped or torn
  • 1 beef steak or roma tomato, diced
  • (Optional) ½ – 1 cup crouton
  • (Optional) ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Caesar Dressing

 

Instructions

  1. If you’re making your own Caesar dressing, whisk that together first, and keep chilled in the fridge. (Note: I added some cracked black pepper to the dressing as well, about 1/4 teaspoon.)
  2. For the chicken, mix all seasonings together, set aside. Heat pan on medium-high, add cooking oil. Add chicken, cook for 6 to 7 minutes until chicken turns white, then add the blackened seasoning, coat & cook chicken until no longer pink. Remove from heat.
  3. For the salad, tear or chop up your lettuce, and put into a bowl. Dice up your tomato and add to the top of the lettuce. Top with your chicken, croutons (if you’re having), and a little parmesan cheese (if having). Pour dressing over the salads, toss, serve, and enjoy guilt free!

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 A New Weekly Segment: Cooking With Friends

I’m super excited and thrilled to announce that I will be doing a weekly “Cooking with Friends” segment that I will be doing with my Maid of Honor, Alex! Each week, we will be cooking the same dish and we will be recording/FaceTiming together as we work our way through a recipe, changing it up for our own tastes and seeing how it all comes out at the end! And who knows, there may even be bonus Cooking with Friends: Local Edition, as I have definitely been asking some of my more baking savvy friends to help me with my lacking baking abilities. We are still working out the kinks and logistics, but it’s happening! Keep an eye out for the first session sometime in January or February New Year!

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 Roasted Garlic Chicken and ACTUAL Polenta

Recently, I have been dealing with a polenta craving that stemmed from my grits craving from over a month ago that I never satiated because of Mac n Cheese Fest, which frankly satiated my regular craving for cheese for over three weeks. But that’s when my cravings started to kick back in, and frankly, the idea of grits, albeit delicious, just weren’t really reaching the exact note that my craving desired. So, I turned to the Italian cousin of grits: polenta.

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I have only attempted to make polenta once, about two or three years ago, and I did it so horrendously that I just never attempted to make it again. My mistake? I bought the wrong kind of polenta for the kind of polenta I was trying to make. What I wanted was creamy, and what I bought was the prepacked sausage roll of precooked polenta that only required a quick fry in a skillet or bake on a sheet pan. What I should have bought was course corn grits (aka. Polenta), and what I also didn’t know was what brand I needed to be looking for get exactly what I wanted. Enter Bon Appetit, and their recipe for Polenta Cacio e Pepe and their article on baked polenta, which included a feature of Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits (also known as Polenta). Seems like an easy enough mistake, right? Okay, maybe that’s me or I really need to invest some time into researching my local grocery stores better…

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But now that I’ve made Polenta again, and this time made it the right way, I think I actually prefer it to grits! (I also really want to try the baked polenta recipe that was on Dinner: A Love Story’s blog.) This recipe was out of this world delicious, and surprisingly light! I will just quickly note that I ended up adding a little more salt & pepper to it (the power of “to taste”), and I think I added a couple more teaspoons of butter to smooth it out a little as well, but definitely added a pinch or two of S&P, stirred, tasted, then added more if it needed it, so don’t feel pressured to stick with the amounts listed on the recipe.

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But then the question becomes, what to pair with it? Ragu goes great with polenta, but since I’m now hunting for a better ragu recipe, I thought maybe best to try something a little different. Chicken perhaps? And then it hit me. About a year ago, I tried this recipe from Food Network, and it was UNREAL how good it was, and for the life of me, I can’t remember why I didn’t bother cooking it again sooner! All you need, about 2-3 heads of garlic (note the word heads, plural, not cloves), some rosemary, about 4 chicken breasts, and that’s it. Sear, roast, serve! It’s that quick and that easy, which I seem to be all about this holiday season especially. Not only are you getting a really tender chicken, but you’re getting the flavor punch of roasted garlic that you can double as a toast topper alongside the chicken! And who doesn’t love a little garlic toast? Spritz a little olive oil on top, and just, oh my gosh, enjoy that moment. And dare you EVEN try to sprinkle a little kosher salt on top?! STOP IT! However, if you are not a fan of garlic, then this chicken recipe is not for you. Instead, I would do a simple baked chicken, or maybe a balsamic glazed chicken, but if you’re game on for garlic, then get ready to fall in love with it to a whole new level!

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I will also note, that if you think this is a little on the heavy side, it honestly wasn’t, which I’ll admit, I was surprised about. I was expecting these dishes together to be rich, but it was just heavy enough to fill me up and allow some enjoyment of roasted green beans, which I felt added a little brightness to the plate! Simply throw green beans (topped with olive oil, salt, and pepper) into the oven at the same temp you’re cooking your chicken, and let them sit for about 10 minutes, stir them up, then roast for another 10 minutes. Then VOILA! Easy peasy! And I felt they were a fantastic accompaniment to the cheesy polenta and herbaceous chicken! So if you’ve been itching to try polenta, this is definitely the way to do it! Spread that delicious holiday cheer ya’ll! — Cooking Maggie

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Polenta Cacio e Pepe from Bon Appetit

Garlic-Roasted Chicken from Food Network

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