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!

7518842848_IMG_1783

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!

7518842848_IMG_1786


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!

7518842848_IMG_1782


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

7518842848_IMG_1788


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

Advertisements

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!

e8a664ed-839c-4f28-a0b4-7b2f0d5fa7b2


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!

aeacb8d0-3cea-42fc-a44a-c3d0bed6ae0f


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!

83e6b4d0-5b86-42e8-9848-7982ab8611a9


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.

cd59752e-02c8-4ffa-a912-f65fcb3f1444


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!

263b181c-bbd6-49d4-883d-3142cdc4b707


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.

2a3c6991-0917-40fd-94ce-76a05e91bfec


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!

img_9778

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!

d4ce7bd4-9102-482e-87c9-68e5e8a512d7


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!

img_9816

img_9812


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!

bfb72e8b-9f3a-48df-9225-c053bc068a98

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!

48ca5000-77fe-4765-b78d-0575e67013aa


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.

81b53aa6-e58a-49a7-9ed9-a07487544637

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!!!

8ad43acd-7470-4fa6-811c-06b10d2689b2

img_9850


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 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

9711E046-E4F6-4EC0-8C27-3A2DFF1985FB273CA207-2B20-46D9-95AC-34A1A9CE606F4EECA796-A68D-4F5D-910B-949F4EDF3C002C0DA32B-E482-4D8D-8F8C-3C9D80365DFD

On Oktoberfest Stew

This has to be one of my favorite creations for the Fall/Winter season! AND THERE’S BEER IN IT! So how can it not be good right?! And the greatest thing is that the amount of beer you include is TOTALLY up to you, so if you’re not the biggest beer-in-food fan, then only adding a 1/2 cup instead of the entire bottle will be right up your alley to get that bitter/hoppiness to just cut through the richness of the meat and fillers. Oh, and you absolutely don’t have to have Oktoberfest beer to make this dish, especially if you don’t even like Oktoberfest beer in general! I’ve used different kinds of beer like Budweiser, Yuengling, and 312 before, but I would recommend using a beer that is smooth, rather than overly bitter as it will add a stronger depth of flavor to the dish without making it too tart, so I would stick with a wheat or ale style beer. But this dish is great for the weekdays because it isn’t fussy, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to make, and it’ll warm your whole body in no time! — Cooking Maggie

15E50D46-A6D1-4725-B493-DD2767400CEF.jpg

D950CE21-4F30-4C9C-8917-37B6527E476A.jpg


Cooking Maggie’s Oktoberfest Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (14 ounce) package smoked sausage, cut into bite-size slices (you can use beef, pork, bratwurst, or chicken sausage)
  • 1 onion, sliced into thin semi-circles
  • 1/2 head small cabbage, halved again, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup-1 bottle German-style lager beer (Oktoberfest variety or any beer that is smooth – think wheat or ale)
  • 2 russet potatoes, cubed to bite-size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon flour (stew thickener)
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Place a medium pot over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add in the sliced smoked sausage, and allow the slices to caramelize and brown in the oil, for about 5-6 minutes.
  3. When the sausage is browned, add in the sliced onions, stirring occasionally until golden-brown and softened (almost caramelized).
  4. Once onions are caramelized, add in the sliced cabbage, stir to combine, and allow the cabbage to soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Once the cabbage is softened and golden, add in the black pepper, caraway seeds, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stirring to combine well.
  6. Add in the cup/bottle of beer, and stir the mixture to combine. Slightly reduce beer for about 3 minutes, then add in the cubed potatoes and the hot chicken stock. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, and place a lid, slightly askew to allow just a little steam to escape) and leave it be for about 40 minutes.
  7. When stew is at desired thickness, turn the heat off, and finish the stew by stirring in the apple cider vinegar and the chopped parsley (add more salt if necessary, too). If the stew is not thick enough, add in a teaspoon of flour and stir in completely. Add flour one teaspoon at a time until desired thickness is achieved (I like my stews really thick, so I add about 2 teaspoons max.)

On User Errors & Potato Leek Soup

If there is one soup that I could eat forever, it would be potato leek soup [the close second would be white cheddar broccoli]! I can’t remember the first time I had it, but I do remember always looking for it, and hoping I would find it again. The last time I made potato leek soup from scratch—and not just calling Baker & Nosh to see if it was their soup of the day—I had just moved to the city and was living in Uptown, near Wilson and Clark, almost four years ago to the day! But it was nothing like the one I made over the weekend. Four years ago, I had no blender, just a handheld immersion blender, and my oven was basically half the size of the oven I have now, not to mention that my kitchen then was about 1/4 the size of my kitchen now [I’m realizing how lucky I am to have the space that I do, and is primarily one of my reasons I don’t really want to move any time soon]. So when I made this soup, it was watery, almost flavorless, and I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong…until now.

img_3105

It’s all in the veggies, and I had prepared them incorrectly—which means I boiled my potatoes, and I believe, if memory serves me correctly, I pan seared my leeks—and didn’t let them sing for what they were worth, covering them up in chicken stock and water. Shame on me, and I was raving about how much I love potatoes less than a week ago! But I will forgive my younger, inexperienced self that folly, because heaven only knows I didn’t make that mistake this time! [Have I mentioned that I also have a growing fondness for leeks? I think they’re amazing vegetables and love to cook with them when I can! Leek Fritters anyone?]

img_3112

Now, because I am only feeding two, I have been in the habit of halving recipes that are meant for full-fledged families that could consume 6-8 servings in a couple days where it would take me and my goofy personal Chopped judge a lot longer to go through, and our large and sleepless city makes it hard to just invite friends over simply because I made too much food. Spontaneity is not Chicago’s strong suit unfortunately, given everyone’s individual ambitions and schedule. All that, mixed with a little user error—I’m only human, and again, simply showing my weakness for not slowing down enough to really understand a recipe before I dive headfirst, which after this recipe, I have vowed to not do again, spending my lunchtime reading and re-reading a recipe to get myself prepped for grocery shopping and mise en place-ing before cooking—my soup is a little on the brown side.

User Error #1: I added just one two too many potatoes, trying to guesstimate one pound, but my kitchen scale hadn’t arrived yet so I was over by a little bit. Then, User Error #2: I should have used 3 leeks instead of 2 because leeks are great and more of them would have been even better. And then there was User error #3: I cut the potatoes too big and would cut them MUCH smaller, almost a quarter of what I did. But back to this soup, roasting is the key secret. You need to roast those suckers till they’re nice and tender, and I found that the addition of arugula at the last four or five minutes in the over was quite lovely and unexpected! And even though I didn’t follow the recipe to a tee, I still ended up with something delicious and “AMAZING,” according to my food critic who, at times, is a little hesitant about new and unusual vegetables.

So user errors aside, there’s a scale in the mail that will hopefully get here soon if my post office doesn’t take forever like it has been doing [as well as a new cookbook I couldn’t stop myself from buying, but I won’t reveal that until it gets here], and I had a good hearty soup to sweeten the graying sky that’s been creeping and cooling the lovely warm weather we’ve been having lately. Sometimes, all you need is a good soup to warm your soul, delicious errors aside.

Sipping on soup by my office window, Cooking Maggie Out


Ina Garten’s Roasted Potato Leek Soup from Food Network/Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (2008)

On Potato Stacks

img_3028Who loves potatoes? I love potatoes! Is it true? MM HMM! I do, I do, I do! I love to roast my potatoes (in olive oil, some herbs, with a sprinkling of kosher salt & pepper), I really love to mash my potatoes (with roasted garlic, butter, cream, butter, sour cream, butter, salt & pepper….butter), I love to grill my potatoes, bake my potatoes, put my potatoes in soup and stews and pot pies, and I love to make little loaded sliced potato appetizers. My favorite preparation though is to fry up some home fries for Sunday breakfast in my cast iron skillet with some green peppers, onions, and bacon, because every once in a while, I get that craving (as I’m sure many of us do) and nothing else will do. [Story Note: I will never forget this one time, when my best friend in high school had me over for a study session one afternoon, we got the craving for potatoes, and using what we had in her kitchen, we diced and fried potatoes in olive oil and cayenne. It doesn’t sound entirely hearty, but they were actually very, very good, with just the right amount of heat, and we would dip them in a little sour cream, which cooled them off a little too!]

img_3027-1

Essentially, there isn’t much I don’t love and haven’t done with potatoes, but there are a few. I haven’t made fries yet, but only because I feel like that would be the beginning of the end to my healthy habits (especially when my mandolin will cut those bad boys perfectly every time). I also have never put my potatoes through a ricer before either, but that’s because I don’t own one, but have it on my immediate list of things to add to my kitchen so I can knock out some actual potato gnocchi! I’ve also never made au gratin, but I have a recipe I’m ready to use in my Crock Pot soon, so this will be a short lived never have I ever.

img_3029

There is also one other thing I haven’t done with my potatoes. Never have I ever made potato stacks. Not only that, but I’ve never made potato stacks in a muffin tin…and I don’t know why I’ve never used my muffin tin for more than just muffins and cupcakes before, but there you have it! Shocking, I know, but rest assured, I’ve officially moved over to the dark side of using my muffin tins for the greater power of feasting (or would it be the light/good side of using my muffin tins since feasting is more a pleasurable activity than a diabolical one?)…well regardless, I’m on board!

img_3030

The main issue I had making these were simply that my mandolin (a hand-me-down from my mama) wouldn’t make 1/16″ slices of potatoes. They weren’t beautiful and round, but half slices or semi-slices…and I did try multiple times [ruining two potatoes in the process] before I gave up and moved up to 1/8″ slices, which came out AWESOME! I would also recommend filling just over the top of each muffin tin spot, only because the stacks did seem a little on the squat side, and there’s nothing wrong with a little more potato, am I right?!

img_3040

img_3038

But as you can see, while they ended up coming out super delicious, the cooking time from the recipe was just a little too long. The bottom was on the crispier side, which I didn’t mind because sometimes everyone needs a little crunch on the plate, but would definitely cook them a little less so they would come out more golden brown than over golden! I would also double the marinade only because I didn’t get as much of the thyme and Parmesan as I thought I would in the end. But these things you learn I guess! Oh, and I used the leftover sauce to coat a steak I had defrosted, and boy oh boy was that ever the tastiest! So this sauce can definitely be used to marinade pretty much anything and be delicious!

Here’s to the potato and our favorite ways to make them, Cooking Maggie Out!


Parmesan Potato Stacks
Adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnishing
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 8-10 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced to about 1/16 or 1/8 inch thick

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spray 12 standard muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, olive oil, Parmesan, chopped thyme, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add the potato slices and toss to coat evenly.
  3. Layer the potato slices into stacks in the prepared muffin cups, filling each one to the very top, if not a little bit over the rim of each spot. Bake until the edges and tops are golden brown and the centers are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes depending on your oven.
  4. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and let the Parmesan Potato Stacks rest for 5 minutes. Carefully remove them with a small spoon and sprinkle with thyme leaves and extra Parmesan cheese if desired along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

On Forgetting & Dinner with Friends

img_2903IT’S DINNER DATE TIME! Frankie cleaned during his lunch break, Tuggs looked super dapper and adorable in his sock monkey bow tie, and the smells of my roasting chimichurri covered potatoes and blistering jalapeños have soaked into the walls of our apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking for myself and my man (with some safe, freebie tastes to the pup), but there is definitely a moment of personal pride when I get to truly adult and share my passion for cooking with my friends. This is also the time where my very organized side comes out to play in full force. I make sure there aren’t food allergies or aversions to keep in mind, I make sure I have all my ingredients the day before so I can just come home and cook, and I read, re-read, and re-re-read recipes to try and plan out the timing of what I’ll be making and when. Very unlike my normal come home from the grocery store after work and start my mis en place self. I’m not sure how to transfer this more obsessive self over to my more normal self, but I like to think that every time I host, I get just a little bit better about my planning and my timing, though most of the time, I just like to go slow, really live in the moment of my cooking and not worry so much about when things need to be done. Sometimes that kind of mentality pays off, but not when I have people coming over in two hours…

And having people over is a time when Frankie gets to shine and play host, which is one of his favorite hats to wear, the close second being grill master because my man knows his meat. Just look at those steaks! Aren’t they gorgeous?!  Plus, any excuse to bust out the awesome serving platters I’ve started to collect from HomeGoods (my favorite store in the whole wide world), and put a dent in the copious amounts of wine and alcohol we have left over from our annual Christmas party, is a good one! I even got to use my new fancy photographing plates too!

Now, here’s where things get tricky and I hope you can forgive me…I am definitely a multi-tasker, but when I have hosting in mind, and then guests actually in my home, photographing the ends of our efforts didn’t really stand at the forefront unfortunately. So, yes, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but imagine there is a nice, black crust on those steaks, and they are incredibly tender. If you can’t, never fear, we have two more and will make them at some point, and I promise to photograph them accordingly. img_2876And no, I will not tell you how much Frankie spent on them. What I will tell you is that they are Tomahawk steaks with the bone trimmed off, so you can guesstimate on your own how much they were. But you know what, they turned out great, and we ate all of it, so definitely some good money well spent! Additionally, I will also admit to forgetting to snap the really delicious Elotes (Mexican street corn, which I have an awesome recipe for off the cob, aka. esquites, which I’ll provide at another time) and Key Lime Pie (from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits) that our incredibly gracious guests brought along! [Note: That pie was the best Key Lime Pie I’ve ever tasted…hands down.] And I wanted to be able to share our friends contributions because the elotes completed our plates, and the pie was just bomb-diggity! But one thing leads to another and I led myself right into dessert without a second thought. So with that I will apologize to you readers, but not too sincerely, since the point of dinnering with friends is to, in fact, dinner with friends, which I think I did rather successfully too!

 

But the wine flowed, and the whiskey for the steak followed, and we spent hours conversing and story telling till just after midnight. And it is that moment of feeling completely satisfied, not only physically with the good food I have put in my belly, but emotionally and mentally satisfied from laughing at jokes, to variety of discussions, to learning more about good people who make our lives just a little bit better, a little bit brighter, especially after a long week at work [or in some cases, just a really long week of news coverage]. But really, there is almost nothing better than that, and if you want to come over for dinner and spend time eating good food, and playing with our cute pup, hit us up!

img_2898

Note: One of our guests has an Argentinian background, so yes, we did theme our dinner for her just a little bit, a nod to challenging my own skills and diversifying our normal “Friends to Dinner” menu. Getting out of our comfort zones is always exciting and I like to think that catering toward their heritage, with the option of them bringing another dish they want to share with us, makes the meal all the more special and unique! So, included below, is the zucchini & carrot fritter recipe I found from Good Dinner Mom, as well as instructions on making chimichurri potatoes!

Hope everyone had a safe and delectable weekend! Cooking Maggie Out!



Carrot & Zucchini Fritters with Basil Chive Cream
from Good Dinner Mom


Chimichurri Potatoes

Ingredients

Instructions: Toss 1 cup of chimichurri sauce with uncooked baby golden potatoes. Spread out on nonstick baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes (until fork tender), tossing every so often. Serve with additional 1/2 cup of sauce.