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adventures in a culinary neophyte's kitchen

Archive for the ‘entrées’ Category

Hello Fresh: We’ve got a first timer here

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 9, 2015

Hello Fresh salmon ingredientsI am now obsessed with Hello Fresh, the weekly food box delivery service. My first order arrived last night, and I couldn’t wait to get cooking. This is the first time I’ve used a service like this, and I was super impressed. The Hello Fresh website was easy to use, and the meal selections were available a few weeks in advance, allowing me to order based on my tastes and my schedule. The giant box showed up on my doorstep on time, full of ice packs and fresh ingredients. Also, props to the the packaging designers, because everything was straight up adorable. (The soy sauce packets were little fish!)

I chose to make the fish meal first, assuming it would not stay fresh in my fridge as long as the others. (You can obviously freeze the ingredients upon receipt if your original cooking plans go awry.) I think I’ve come a long way in my culinary pursuits over the years, and I’ve cranked out some pretty good food (alongside some very sad, traumatic missteps), but the end result of this box was as close to “restaurant” as I’ve come. The fish was cooked to perfection with a nice crispy skin, and it paired nicely with the earthy beets. (Not to mention purple is my favorite color — and rarely present in my meals — so I got some food nerd fun plating the beets and the red onions.) I was a big fan of the “salsa” of beets, red onion, fresh dill and horseradish, and the side of farro added a nutty crunch.

Hello Fresh pan-seard salmon beets herbed salsa

Because I spend hours scanning circulars, scrolling through Pinterest and writing meal plans in my ladybug notebook, I wasn’t sure a meal delivery service like this would be “my thing,” but I really enjoyed this experience. Financially, it equates to a week of groceries for meals of this quality, but it also cuts down on waste. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lifted an unidentifiable baggie of vegetables from my crisper drawer, and thought, “Well there goes $3…” or let a $6-jar of something grow mold because I broke the seal to use 2 tablespoons of whatever it contained and let it sit on my refrigerator door for two years.) The weekly menu-selection process allows you to be adventurous, opting for dishes and/or ingredients you wouldn’t otherwise pick. It also makes a great date night activity that your culinarily challenged significant other pretty much can’t screw up.

If you are interested in trying out Hello Fresh, let me know and I can send you an invite email that will get you $40 off your first box (which means you’re getting six meals for $20-something — it’s a steal!), or use my referral code 7Y9WGA.


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what a crock

Posted by culinaryneophyte on November 11, 2014

pulled pork with cherry peach salsaOver my handful of years in the kitchen, I have accumulated a lot of appliances — some the greatest ever created (KitchenAid mixer <3), and some that collect dust in the back of my cabinet (I’m looking at you, quesadilla maker). The appliance I always wanted but never had? The Crock Pot. That one time I entered a chili cook off, I had to borrow one from my friend Christina down the street. (Carrying the slow cooker home was a lot less embarrassing than the time I noisily wheeled her vacuum up and down the sidewalk.) I said a Crock Pot would be my housewarming gift to myself, but all those stupid things you have to buy when you move to a new place because my “gift,” and the Crock Pot lust fell by the wayside.

At a holiday party, I was sharing how I had never made a meal in a Crock Pot before (try that for your next game of “Never Have I Ever” – scandalous!), and two of my friends said they happened to have an extra one. A few months later, during Corri’s bridal shower, Dave brought along the Crock Pot, which happened to be brand-stinking-new. If only all bridal showers came with such nice party favors. As soon as I got home, I started a new Pinterest board for all the fabulous things I was going to make in my new slow cooker.

Killing two birds with one stone, I decided the CP’s first meal was going to be pulled pork, because I had never done that before, either. I didn’t care if it was healthy; I just wanted it to be good. And it was.

It may not be peach or cherry season when you’re reading this (and it isn’t while I’m writing this), but I’m sharing this now because it’s always pulled pork season. If these fruits aren’t fresh, leave off the salsa… and just start chopping up whatever you do have in your house. That always [reads: sometimes] works for me!

Adapted slightly from Iowa Girl Eats (from The Pioneer Woman)

Serves 6-8

For the pork
3 lb pork shoulder (this was what I felt we needed, but you can go bigger)
♦salt and pepper
♦1 large sweet onion
♦4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 2 tbs. adobo sauce
♦1/2 c. barbecue sauce
♦2 tbs. brown sugar
♦20 oz. root beer

For the salsa
♦1 c. chopped sweet cherries
♦1 c. chopped peaches (about 1 large peach)
♦1 jalapeno, minced
♦juice of 1 lime
(I nixed the cilantro because I haaate it, but you can add some here if you don’t.)

Cut onion into quarters and separate into layers at the bottom of crock pot. Trim excess fat from the pork and cut into 4-6 large pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper. Lay pork on top of onions, then add peppers, adobo, barbecue sauce, brown sugar and root beer. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until pork is tender. Remove pork from the crock pot and shred into a bowl.

For the salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. This can be made in advance. We served over white rice, but you can easily make this into a taco or sandwich. I also added avocado to cool down the salsa a bit and add a creaminess to the dish.

Total time? 10 minutes prep (more if lots of trimming needed), 6-8 hours cook
Cost? $7 pork, $2 chipotle, $1 root beer, $2 barbecue sauce, $3 cherries, $1 peach
Overall success relative to expectations? 9 out of 10. I was just excited to pour root beer over a slab of meat. (I have soda maaaybe once a year, but whenever I do, it’s root beer.) All of the flavors came through so well, and no additional sauce was needed. The salsa was different than your traditional, from-a-jar variety. It was a *tad* spicy for me because of the jalapeno, which — like I said — can be cooled a bit with avocado, but I could have done with even less spice because the meat alone was just so damn good. For my first pulled pork and my first crock pot experience, this was definitely a winner. And I got to drink the extra root beer. Sweet nectar.

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ya make me wanna soup

Posted by culinaryneophyte on October 23, 2014

photo(5)The temperatures are starting to dip here in the northeast, and it’s only a matter of time before people start getting sick. Not Ebola sick (calm down, everyone), but, like, sniffles sick. The last time I was feeling under the weather, I happened to have some fresh ginger in my fridge and found a recipe for a paleo ginger carrot soup that also utilized the spare pound of baby carrots in my fridge. Didn’t even have to leave the house for ingredients, which was fortunate because I was looking scarier than Twisty the Clown.

Makes about 3 servings
3 c. chopped carrots
3 tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 can coconut milk
3 c. organic vegetable broth
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
​​♦1 tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic and onion in olive oli over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, ginger, coconut milk, broth and seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and run through food processor in small batches, or use an immersion blender (that’s what I used) to blend into smooth consistency.

Total time? 30 minutes
Cost? $1 fresh ginger, $2.50 carrots, $2.19 coconut milk, $2.99 broth
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. This soup was so creamy and delicious, and carried the perfect amount of spice in each bite. They say ginger can be used to calm upset stomachs and remedy colds. Even if it’s just folklore, this soup was easy to make and delicious enough for me to happily eat three days in a row, providing a simple, warm escape from my sick, sad mood.

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pesto change-o!

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 3, 2013

pesto tuna tomato

Quickly snapped substandard lunchtime photo. Didn’t need judgment from co-workers.

Despite being fairly busy in the kitchen, I’ve been lax on the posting. I won’t make excuses; I’ll just shut up and post something good for you to make: pesto tuna-stuffed tomatoes.

This was the brainchild of weeknight leftovers and a bread detoxification. I whipped up some homemade pesto to make pesto chicken wings (recipe to come), and when I had 1/4 cup left over, I started searching for uses. ‘Pesto and… tomato goes well together — yeah!’ It just so happened I decided to throw out all the bread products in my house at the same time, and was looking for creative ways to eat enjoy my meals sans the “evil” bread. If I can’t use bread or crackers as a vehicle for the tuna, maybe I can use a tomato? Lo and behold — it worked! And I didn’t miss the bread too much…

♦2 c. basil leaves
1/3 c. pine nuts (or almonds if you prefer)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. EVOO
1 can tuna
2-3 tomatoes

Combine all dry ingredients in food processor. (I used an immersion blender.)  Slowly add olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Add to dry tuna (no mayo needed!). Carefully slice a cone shape out of top of tomato, angling knife so you’ll be able to scoop out top and leave hollow to hold tuna. Fill with tuna. Slice and enjoy!

Calories? The pesto recipe will yield way more than you need. For one serving, I used half a can of tuna (45 calories), one large tomato (33 calories) and 1/10 of the pesto yield (90 calories).
Total time? 10 minute for pesto, 5 minutes prep for meal.
Cost? $1 tomatoes, $1 tuna, $6.99 pine nuts (won’t use entire jar – store in fridge!), $2.99 basil
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. If you’re a bread fiend, this isn’t going to satisfy you’re craving, but if you’re weaning yourself off stuff, then this is a good alternative. You don’t need to add any mayo to the tuna — just the pesto — so you save calories there, and even though that alone isn’t as dry as you’d think it is, using the tomato adds some juiciness to the meal. Overall, this is a nice summer dish, and can open the doors to more tuna add-in and/or non-bread experimenting.

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quinoa sushi

Posted by culinaryneophyte on July 4, 2013

Whatever the day, whatever the meal, if you ask me where I want to eat, there’s a really good chance the answer involves sushi. I can’t really pinpoint when my love affair with sushi began, but at one point after college, I was eating it two to three times a week. Obviously, that can get quite costly and not all sushi is that good for you, so I’ve had to cut back quite a bit.

quinoa sushiBUT THEN! A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a photo on Instagram where someone had used quinoa (my 2013 obsession) in place of white rice in their homemade sushi, and I had to try. Oh. My. Goodness. This has changed my life. It tastes great, doesn’t cost much and keeps much better as leftovers. Replacing white rice with quinoa makes the dish “cleaner,” adding protein, iron, magnesium and more. It’s also gluten free. The possibilities are endless in terms of filling, but I’m sharing my favorite so far — bacon, avocado and carrot quinoa sushi.

Makes two rolls
♦3/4 c. cooked quinoa
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 avocado
2 slices cooked bacon (I used turkey)
1/8 c. carrot shavings
2 sheets of nori
bamboo roller

For sriracha sauce
2 tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. sriracha
1/4 tsp. sesame oil

Heat vinegar, sugar and salt over medium heat until dissolved. Add to cooked quinoa a little at a time. (You don’t want this too wet or it will make for messy sushi.) Lay out bamboo roller and cover one side with plastic wrap. Lay down nori sheet. Add layer of quinoa to the lower third of the nori and flatten. Top with bacon, avocado and carrot. Hold the edge  of the mat with your thumbs, then lift nori and roll sushi away from you. Roll tightly. (For more visual instructions, click here.) Let roll sit a minute before cutting. Use a sharp, moistened knife to slice. Mix sriracha ingredients together to taste. Top each roll with a dollop. You could also skip the sauce and use more traditional soy sauce and/or wasabi.

Calories? About 200 calories per roll (not including sauce)
Total time? About 15 minutes (less if all ingredients are pre-cooked)
Cost? $2.99 nori, $6.99 quinoa (per package), $1.25 avocado, $2.99 turkey bacon
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. I very rarely make the same thing more than once, but I’ve made this on multiple occasions, and then used the second roll for lunch at work because it keeps well as leftovers. If you make a big pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week, you can get a make a few of these rolls with just a small amount and still have plenty left for other assorted dishes. Quinoa AND sushi? I am in love.

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lemon almond chicken

Posted by culinaryneophyte on June 12, 2013

So… It’s basically summer now. I don’t know where the time went, but I blinked and it was suddenly time for barbecues and bikinis. And because it’s the season for those itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny threads, I’m sharing another clean eating recipe for those of you working on getting that summer bod in effect: Lemon almond chicken — bright, light and tasty. The lemon provides a summery tang and the almonds give it a nice crunch.

lemond almond chicken
Lemon almond chicken
Adapted from
Makes about two (small-ish) servings

Three cooked chicken tenderloins, shredded
1/2 medium carrot, grated
1/8 c. organic plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
♦1/2 lemon (juice and rind)

Cook and shred chicken. (I seasoned mine with minced garlic and fresh ground black pepper prior to baking.) Combined ingredients in small bowl. Cut lemon in half, remove fruit and squeeze juice into mix. If you want to be fancy, use the lemon rind as a serving vehicle.

Calories? About 140 calories per serving
Total time?
 20 minutes to cook chicken, 5 minutes prep
Cost? $2.99 Greek yogurt. $3 chicken, $1 carrots, $2.59 almonds
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out of 10. I’ve been tending toward a pescatarian lifestyle lately, so I somewhat subconsciously sabotage the enjoyment of meatier meals these days. In any event, this was a light, tasty chicken dish that filled me up kept well as leftovers (served on whole grain or straight out of the Tupperware). The presentation is lemon rind serving vehicle makes for a super easy, summery presentation, so this serves well as a party dish, too.

lemond almond chicken 2

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