Thursday, May 13, 2010


So today we learned to be flexible with dinners lol.

The plan that I made last week for tonight's dinner was chicken pitas with a yogurt dill sauce on them, and I would choose a vegetable side based off of what was in our box for the week.

I chose a kale recipe that I added at the last second to my last blog, where we sauteed red onion and oregano, and then added the kale and sauteed/steamed that for a few more minutes, and then put feta on top. It was good. I think I enjoyed the swiss chard more, and I didn't really like the bites that were just kale, but the bites that included the onion, and feta were really good.

So, I am getting everything ready for the pitas, I make the sauce, Blake is grilling the chicken, all is well, and I go to grab the pitas (very important in chicken pitas...) and they were moldy! They didn't even last a week! Sigh, I hate waste, and I didn't love having to change our plans.

Forced to quickly think on my feet, I think about what we have at hand, and decide that we can pretty easily change chicken pitas into chicken salad with a greek theme. We had a cucumber from our garden, some tomatoes we had bought, some of our own romaine as well as some red lettuce from the box, and feta cheese, and it made great little salads.

My favorite bites tonight though where when I took a piece of chicken, dipped it in my yogurt/dill sauce, and then ate a bite of the kale with onion and feta (hard to accomplish all those things on my fork... but when I did... it was great! :-P lol.

The kale recipe, like I said above, was good, and I would eat it again, but I wasn't so in love with it that I won't look around for other recipes (like the other ones on my previous blog). The swiss chard on the other hand was SO GOOD that way that although part of me wants to look for other recipes, most of me just wants to eat that particular recipe again... so if we get it again... we will. :-)

I definitely feel like I am growing in my culinary prowess though, first by expanding our diet to include more "exotic" food like kale and chard, and then by thinking on my feet and using what ingredients we have to create recipes with those things at the end of the week, and also to change at a moment's notice when things don't go as intended for dinner.

I used to watch the show "Chopped" all the time (before we gave up cable) and I love seeing what the contestants could do with what was in their box. Also, my mom's greatest talent cooking-wise (that I remember) was that she could take any leftovers and make something good out of them, usually in an entirely new creation. Like we would have El Pollo Loco leftovers, and some extra produce from the garden, and the herbs and spices that she always had on hand and would make this great soup from it.

When I first started cooking on my own, I never strayed from recipes. As I gained confidence, I would be less careful with the measurements, but I would still follow the recipe. Slowly but surely I am finding my culinary confidence, and making some recipes based off of what I know go together, and not just on what I find in recipes. These new items are forcing me to go looking for recipes more, but I know that in time, I learn what I like to eat with each, and start being willing to throw things together more.

One step towards this that I am noticing is that I rely less on cookbooks when I am planning my week's meals. I come up with a skeleton list based on what I know we have and what's on sale, and then I fill in the blanks with recipes. For example, this upcoming week, I planned on a steak (40% off organic beef at my local Sprouts this week!) and potato (with those fresh chives) night with a veggie from the box. Later I looked up recipes for radishes etc. and I think I am going to try baking them this week in that meal.

I planned a vegetable risotto because I know we have most of those ingredients on hand (and I do plan on posting that recipe because I keep talking about it :-)). Then I decided on a taco salad because we have ripe avocados sitting in the fridge (oh, btw, if you have ripe avocados, put them in your fridge, they will stay at their ripeness as they were when you put them in for a while, so you are not at the mercy of ripening avocados for your meal planning), and we both LOVE taco salad nights. Wild Salmon is on sale this week so I planned to have a night with that, a vegetable and a grain, both to be determined later.

By Saturday, I will nail down the lose ends on the week's meals, but it used to be that every meal was a pull out a recipe book kind of meal, and now I can do a lot before I go to the recipes.

Tomorrow night will be super simplistic, but yummy... Tuna sandwiches with baked, breaded zucchini chips on the side.

Here is the risotto recipe- I'll also note the changes that we make to it.
Emerald Green Risotto (don't remember where I got this from...)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1 cup Arborio rice
• 1 stalk celery, diced (We omit this because Blake doesn't like it, and the rest of the celery would be wasted)
• 1/3 cup dry white wine (Lately we omit this too because we don't like buying a bottle of wine to use a third of a cup... and in our opinion, it doesn't need it)
• 4 cups boiling chicken stock
• 1 cup broccoli florets
• 3/4 cup sugar snap peas, halved
• 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
• 1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
(We have made this with many variations on the vegetables because sometimes we don't have one of the 4, so we just omit it and make it with the rest of them, or we want to add something like asparagus (which turned out really good with it) so far every combination of green vegetables is still a great addition)
• 1/3 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional) (we use it if we have it on hand for another recipe, omit it if we would have to buy it for this recipe)
1. (Start boiling the chicken broth in a separate pan first... I hate the way this recipe reads because you go to step two, and you are supposed to add boiling chicken broth... but it never said to start boiling it... so I am adding it for you!) Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion begins to turn golden brown at the edges, about 2 minutes. Pour in the rice, and stir until the rice is coated in oil and has started to toast, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the celery and white wine. Or skip to step 2 :P)
2. Cook and stir until the wine has mostly evaporated, then stir in one third of the boiling chicken stock; continue stirring until incorporated. Repeat this process twice more, stirring constantly. Stirring in the broth should take 15 to 20 minutes in all. Add the broccoli, peas, zucchini, and green beans during the last 7 minutes of cooking, and cook until tender.(This sentence befuddles my brain, so let me break it down for you like I had to do for myself...Add 1/3 of the chx broth, let it absorb for approximately 5 minutes. Then add the second third, and give it a minute or two, then add all the vegetables. When you no longer see the broth in the bottom of the pot, then add the rest, and cook till you again no longer see the broth, but the arborio rice is done. I usually taste it before taking it off the heat, usually the vegetables are done by now too, but I typically taste them as well and cook longer if I have to... which sometimes happens, because I do play with the vegetables) Stir in the feta cheese and parsley before serving.

If you end up trying the risotto, I would love it if you let me know how it went, and how you liked it... it has become one of those recipes that we now pull out often. :-) Perhaps I'll post a picture after we make it... but its hard to remember that when you are hungry and dinner's ready lol.


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  2. Lisa, woohoo on becoming an increasingly confident cook!! I think being vegan helped me with that because I've always had to change and substitute ingredients when I use a lot of recipes.

    I definitely want to try the risotto though (with veggie stock and no cheese ;-), that sounds awesome!!

    P.S. I love Kale!!

  3. Thanks Adrienne! And I highly recommend the risotto, if you end up making it, let me know how it goes. :-) How do you usually eat your kale?