that's forking good

adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

“GM Diet”: Day Three

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 9, 2012

I am blogging my experience in completing the “GM Diet” — incorrectly labeled as such as part of an apparent hoax, but still effective as reported by many across the Internet. Click here to read my intro/explanation.

I awoke on Day Three empty and still bitter from the day before, but hopeful that reintroducing fruit into the diet would raise my spirits. Indeed it did. Day Three is all fruits and veggies and tons of water — no bananas, no potatoes.

What I Ate
I defaulted to mostly fruits on this day – three oranges, grapes, strawberries and an apple (they’re growing on me). I again went with an avocado for lunch, but with the vegetable allowance for Day Three, paired it with mixed spring greens, cucumber, chopped carrots and raw sweet peppers. It was a pretty satisfying meal — something I did not encounter the day before. For dinner, I craved something savory, and steamed some zucchini and squash.

Challenges
Fruit was the saving grace of Day Three. If I had to do another day of just vegetables, I would have been miserable, but if I come away with nothing else from this diet, I will still have an newfound and intractable love for fruit. The only real challenge of Day Three was my trip to the supermarket. Damn ShopRite for putting the bakery at the entrance. I may or may not have crept through there to give the bread a little squeeze — not in a creepy way, just in a “miss you, old friend” sort of way. Siiiigh.

The Weigh-In
I still hadn’t felt/seen a huge change by Day Three, but the numbers don’t lie…

At the Day Three weigh-in, I had lost 1.9 lbs from the day before — down 5.4 lbs total.

GM Diet: Am I Really Doing This?
GM Diet: Day One
GM Diet: Day Two
GM Diet: Day Three
GM Diet: Day Four
GM Diet: Day Five
GM Diet: Day Six
GM Diet: Day Seven
GM Diet: Drum roll, please…

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easy, cheesy, doable

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 22, 2011

I ate a lot of frozen dinners when I was little; that’s just what happens when you have two older brothers who’d rather be sneaking cigarettes and macking it with the ladies than preparing meals for their precious baby sister. Aside from salivating over the thought of that nuked Kid Cuisine brownie (seriously, how awesome were Kid Cuisines?), one of the most distinct microwaveable meal memories I have is heating up a Swanson chicken pot pie and picking out the repugnant peas to make it edible.

I’ve since said goodbye to my old friend Swanson, but moving on from microwaved meals doesn’t mean you can’t take shortcuts, and that’s why I love this cheesy chicken pot pie from Kitchen Simplicity. 

(I might also mention that I couldn’t make or talk about this dish without thinking of this — a little shout to “Preston and Steve,” for those who live in the Philadelphia market.)

I employed a bag of Pictsweet Steam’ables for the filling (okay, so I guess I’m not totally rid of that microwaving habit); I used the peppercorn-seasoned variety, which includes asparagus, carrots, celery, onion, zucchini and squash — and no peas! The topping is comprised of Bisquick. I know this may seem obvious, but make sure you use the boxed baking mix variety, and not the buttermilk pancake easy-shake bottle. Don’t ask me how I neglected to read the label before purchasing the latter; thankfully, I realized my error before it was irreparable, and made a mid-cooking trip to the grocery store, but I am embarrassed nonetheless. Pancake pot pie? Bleck.

notice the difference, please.

FILLING
♦2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
2 c. mixed vegetables of your choosing

Place chicken and veggies in a glass baking sheet.

CHEESE SAUCE
2 tbl. butter
2 tbl. flour
1 c. chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 c. shredded cheese

Melt butter over medium heat, add flour and cook for one minute. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in cheese until melted. Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables, and mix well.

TOPPING
1 c. Bisquick mix
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
1/3 c. milk

Stir ingredients together with a fork until moistened. Spread thinly over contents of baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until top is golden.

Total time? 35 minutes prep (includes trip to store), 25 minutes bake.
Cost? $3 box Bisquick ($2 wasted on pancake mix bottle), $2 frozen veggies,$1.74 cheese, $1 chicken broth.
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. A+ shortcuts on this one, too. When I finished eating my single serving, I put out an APB to my friends that I had leftover chicken pot pie available for pickup, and 30 minutes later, I was nearly cleaned out. Next time, I’ll try to make the filling a little thicker (more cheese? flour?), but overall, this was great for a cold day, visitors and a little bit of leftovers.

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chicken zucnuggets

Posted by culinaryneophyte on December 7, 2010

Remember Happy Meals? I do. I remember eating one virtually every Saturday afternoon from age 5 to 9 — and this was before McDonalds revamped its children’s menu with “healthy” alternatives. Why did my parents think it was a good idea to pump me full of french fries, orange drink and questionable meat nuggets on a weekly basis? Sure, those chubby years gave me some time to develop a stellar personality, but I would have made it there eventually. All I got from those Happy Meals were cheap Barbie figurines and stacks of embarrassing elementary school photos. And probably heart disease.

I recently found and made this “sneaky” recipe that uses lean meat and zucchini to make chicken nuggets healthier than those you’d find at McD’s (or even the bagged, frozen variety). I don’t have any kids to fool with this, but I think it’d work on my unsuspecting picky-eater friends. The consistency is on par with a traditional chicken nugget and they’re breaded, but baking them saves you some calories and clean-up time.

mmm, non-questionable meat nuggets

♦1 1/2 c. grated zucchini
1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg
1 tsp. onion salt
2 c. bread crumbs

Mix zucchini, chicken, egg and onion salt until well combined.  Form 1 to 2 tablespoons of mixture into small balls, press flat (until about 1/2-inch thick) and coat in bread crumbs.  Transfer to lightly greased baking sheet.  Once all nuggets have been formed and breaded, give them a light spray of cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes. Serve with barbecue sauce, ketchup, honey mustard or — my condiment of choice — pure honey.

Total time? 10 minutes prep, 15 minutes bake.
Cost? $2.99 ground chicken, $1 zucchini, $1 bread crumbs
Overall success relative to expectations? 6 out of 10. Instead of grating the zucchini as the recipe recommended, I did some sort of chopping-slicing hybrid and ended up with pieces too big and visible to sell anyone on this being a “normal” chicken nugget. The bread crumbs were plain, and I accidentally used onion powder instead of onion salt, so I lost a lot of flavor points there. Still, these have potential to be a not-as-delicious-and-fatty-as-McNuggets-but-still-tasty-and-healthier meal or snack. Recipe yields 18-20 medium nuggets. Hot Wheels toy not included.

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asiago no-go

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 13, 2010

Sometimes when my family discusses days of yore, we’ll bring up how fitting it was that my brother’s first word was “no,” considering he was a disobedient devil in school and a terror at home (for about 22 straight years). My first word? “Cheese,” which they also consider apropos due to my childhood affinity for Land O’ Lakes white American (sliced thin) and my relative hatred for anything but.

My high school English teacher did a deserted island exercise once and asked us what one food we would pick. My answer? Cheese. “Do you have any idea what a steady diet of cheese would do to your innards?” she asked. Yup. Don’t care.

So given my love for cheese, it’s a bit surprising how little I actually know about it. I’ve got a pretty good handle on American, cheddar and mozzarella, but I’ve only just begun branching out to more “exotic” cheeses. Sadly, this experience with the eggplant and asiago panini may have set me back a bit in that venture.

A word of advice: If you’re using an ingredient you’ve never tasted before — especially one that’s going to be a major, melted component of your dish — try it first. I foolishly thought, “I like Panera’s Asiago bread. There’s no way putting a big hunk of this smelly cheese on an otherwise awesome sandwich would ruin my dinner!” Wrong-o. (And I thought my cost-saving use of a kaiser roll instead of legit panini-making bread would be the make-or-break of the meal. That actually turned out to be the best part.)

If you’re a fan of the strong-tasting Asiago, the dish is simple: Cook one eggplant (sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper) with a little bit of olive oil in a pan for about 6 minutes. Place on bread. Cover with slice of Asiago. Add roasted red peppers if desired. Grill in panini press or cook on frying pan as grilled cheese.

Total time? 15 minutes.
Cost? More expensive than I wanted: $5.49 Asiago wedge, 69¢ roll, $1.29 eggplant
Overall success relative to expectations? 2 out of 10. Even after I scraped the melted Asiago off the sandwich, my meal was inedible. And thank God I ended up with a whole wedge of cheese I absolutely hate. Sigh. Really, though, I can’t get mad about this; it’s my own fault for not trying the cheese beforehand. Next time, it’ll be mozzarella for sure.

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