Chicken Florentine w/ a Twist & Pantry Chili

I agree that a well stocked panty comes in handy.  But I think there needs to be a balance between available space, shelf-life, knowledge of key food stuffs and frequency of usage too.  I do find myself stocking the pantry a bit more during the winter months—perhaps it’s from living in MN all my life or just being a bit on the type A side.  Either way, it came in handy for our assignment!  It was nice to have a number of proteins in the freezer too.  Alas, I was most certainly missing fresh produce components.  A normal week consists of knowing which nights dinner will be prepared at home and the appropriate shopping is done.  While not necessarily ideal, it does cut down on the food waste during busy times.

Dish one was a chicken florentine recipe that I found online.  I knew I had the majority of ingredients but I was missing spinach–be it fresh or canned.   I was going to use frozen peas in lieu of Popeye’s fav but I couldn’t find them in my freezer.  So I substituted canned peas.  I made sure I had all the other ingredients ready to go and read through the recipe.  I liked the idea of this recipe because it used the chicken that I was going to prepare anyway, it had a total time investment of 45 minutes and used one skillet for cooking.

All went well.  No fires, spills, burns, or other mishaps.  The resident cat even stayed out of the way.  It tasted fine too.  Would I make it again?  Only if I had spinach.  Peas are okay but it was just a chicken dish with rice & peas.  Nothing uber special.  After the meal was completed, I did find the frozen peas on the freezer door.  I knew I had frozen peas in there!

 

Pantry Chili.  I was a bit surprised we were to make two recipes for our homework assignment in week 1.  It could have been scary if faced with the on hand ingredients found in this refrigerator….

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Thankfully, this is merely a new refrigerator we have at work.  Whew!

Again, I didn’t have any of the usual fresh items the recipe I received from brother-in-law Bob called for—onion, celery, garlic, etc.  I might have even thrown in some green pepper if I had some on hand.  Nonetheless, I raided the spice rack and found good options.  After browning the hamburger, I threw everything else in the crockpot for one hour (the recipe also included a can of tomato soup that was a bit camera shy).  The resident cat’s attention was peaked when the meat was cooking.  Thankfully, she didn’t show much interest in any of the prep activity thereafter.

During the chili cooking time, I tinkered with a corn bread/cake mix recipe that I found online that sounded intriguing.  In essence, it combines a corn bread mix with a cake mix in equal portions and then follows the cake mix prep and baking instructions.  The chili turned out to be much tastier than expected having used only frozen hamburger and pantry parts.  Who knew?!  It was topped with a little bit of mix shredded cheese before dining.   I thought the corn bread muffins were very good too but I think I will make the honey butter next time.  Today’s lunch will be a repeat of last night’s dinner.  I do enjoy me leftovers!

 

Homework #1 – Kimchi Bokum-Bob

Kyungsoo- I have no complaint that my wife is a wonderful cook. It is a blessing, in truth. One downside of this is that my job at kitchen is mainly a chore – mostly dish washing. I should not, however, blame my wife for myself being a quite primitive cook. Frankly, I was never successful in maintaining constant interests in cooking. Of course, I cook for my family once in a while and am overjoyed when they like my meals. These, however, are occasional events. Maybe once a week or so or even less. My children like my foods but they still prefer their mom’s. The consequence is that I am called upon for cooking only when my wife does not feel like cooking or when I have sudden urge for doing unusual things.
One day, it came to my mind that my wife would value me more or I would respect her more if I turn myself into a more proactive and capable helper while she cooks. Once this thought established itself in my mind, I started paying attention to her cooking and volunteered more for my family cooking.
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My wife and I are Koreans. My children are born here but they still like Korean foods. Most of our meals are typical of Korean families’. Many ask me which Korean restaurants I would recommend. I have no recommendation. Not because there is no good Korean restaurant but because we never go out to try Korean restaurants. It is not fun to try what we eat everyday on those special outings. One of the easiest Korean foods to prepare is Kimchi bokum-bob. My children love it, and we love it. This is a perfect recipe for cooking it at least once a week.
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We love kimchi. There are thousands different kinds of kimchi. Most often we have kimchi as one of many side dishes next to rice. But we can also cook fried rice with Kimchi as well. I start with slicing kimchi into small pieces. Green onions and peppers are also cut into small pieces. In the mean time, our rice is being prepared in our pressure cooker. Depending on what you have in the refrigerator or pantry on the day, I may cut some sausages, ham,. or spam into slices as well.   Once all kimchi, vegetables, and meats are cooked in frying pans, these are mixed with rice in a big frying pan wok. This is a good time to prepare eggs sunny side up. I am used to having kimchi bokum-bob with hot bean paste soup which is really easy to prepare if I decide to have a simple version. Simplest one takes only bean paste and tofu, and I may add slices of green onion. When I have more time, I include a lot of variety of vegetables.

Homework Assignment 1 -Freezers are the best

Generally speaking, I tend to make the same three meals I know I am really good at.  These are beef soft shell tacos, greek pasta, and lemon chicken.  Yes they are delicious but eating them every week can get a bit boring. So I was actually looking forward to this assignment.  On Wednesday, I got home from work and did an inventory.  What do I have to make that is different from the usual but also using only the things I have.

As I opened my freezer, I realized I have sausage saved from when my boyfriend’s family made it over Christmas (a tradition).  Now, I personally do not think I am a picky eater but I HATE sausage.  The look, the smell, ew.  But, I thought this may be a good opportunity to figure out what I can do with it so it won’t just be in my freezer for the next five years.

Meal One: Sausage Pasta

I have boxes and boxes of pasta because of those amazing “10 for 10” deals at Cub.  After doing some research for “Sausage Pasta” online I realized I had many of the ingredients.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/19291/sausage-pasta/

  • 1 onion, chopped – Had Shallots
  • 3/4 pound pasta – My Pantry
  • Olive oil – My Pantry (extra virgin)
  • Spicy Italian sausage – Freezer

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced – My Pantry

  • Can chicken broth – Used Beef Broth instead
  • Dried basil – Not Fresh but in my spice rack
  • Can diced tomatoes – No tomatoes – decided to use mushrooms
  • chopped spinach – In my fridge
  • Parmesan cheese – Used Ricotta Cheese instead
  • I added some Cayenne Pepper (because I like spicy food)
I boiled the water for pasta.  In a separate pan, I combined ground sausage meat (took it out of the pig intestine casing, ew).  Once it got a little brown I tossed in the mushrooms and shallots.  Once the pasta had somewhat cooked (still a little hard) I tossed in the pasta, spinach and cheese and cooked until everything had been cooked down.  I will say, I was surprised how much I liked it! Looks like the sausage will get eating after all.
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Meal Two: Stuffed Peppers

I had actually bought peppers before our assignment with the intention of making stuffed peppers but I actually didn’t get all the ingredients I wanted to.  Therefore, I had to be a bit more creative.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/16330/stuffed-peppers/

I cooked the beef for about 10 minutes or so  with spices maybe less and then put the meat inside the stuffed peppers and baked them for another 10 minutes.  Then I covered them with cheese and tomato sauce. I forgot to take a picture while I was cooking but I remembered yesterday to take a picture of the left overs.

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  • How does meal planning generally work for you?  Do you have a routine or strategy, or is it spontaneous?  Without judgment, talk about what works, and what doesn’t work about it.  

    I generally try to plan over the weekends to cook two or three meals for the week expecting that I will have a lot of left overs.  As I said earlier I tend to eat the same meals each week.  I try to be conscience about switching it up.

 

  • How does your pantry inventory look?  Do you think you have what you need to prepare food the way you want? What do you still need?  What do you have that isn’t necessary?

    I thought my pantry inventory looked good but I have way more snacks (popcorn, crackers, chips) and less staples than I should (meat, fish, etc).  I think I should have a few more types of spices and sauces to be able to have more flexibility in what I make such as cumin, paprika, nutmeg etc.

Home Assignment 1

This was a fun assignment as I currently do not have much in my refrigerator or pantry since I am moving soon! So I had to be creative. Luckily, this past weekend my roommate had a birthday party and I lucked out with the left overs from the veggie tray. MyFridgeFood.com is an amazing website that lets you select foods you already have and generates unique recipes that include those foods. I picked Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. I had to substitute to Cheddar cheese because that is all I had on hand. Below are my ingredients and how it turned out! It didn’t take too much prep time and I roasted them at 425 degrees for 10 min. I also threw in some peppers as those were on the veggie tray too-

I always have olive oil and lemon on hand. I feel like those are essential ingredients and give many of options to preparing meals, drinks, and homemade natural beauty products.

When it comes to cooking, I try to be spontaneous (fits my personality too:) and I like to add my own twist to the recipe. I usually don’t buy mass quantities of items at the grocery store and am especially trying to eat up the random foods I had in my pantry/refrigerator before I move. The second recipe is very VERY simple but it’s what I could think of (also with the help of Pinterest)

 

I spread PB on Ritz crackers and topped with cut up strawberry’s and drizzled melted dark chocolate. It’s a nice snack/dessert however, these pictures above do not look too appealing. They tasted better than they look! I like how you can turn a simple cracker into a decent appetizer/snack with just a few added ingredients. Unfortunately, my pantry didn’t have many ingredients to work with.

Not a Chef by Trade

Let me start with the hot topic in my life and what has led to my current pantry and lifestyle situation: I recently got divorced. I no longer cook on any regular basis for my ex husband and my three stepchildren. So, going from a regular routine of homework and home cooked meals every night for 5 people to one person has caused my meals and prep to lack significantly.

My lifestyle has changed a lot as my work schedule demands have changed as well. I am much more spontaneous and do a lot less planning than I used to. Therefore I rely a lot more on pastas, frozen veggies versus fresh and other packaged soups and dinners that would lasts and allow for quick meal prep. The kids do come over from time to time so, I do have kid friendly food on hand as well, which isn’t always the most nutritious:) But if they eat it, that’s all you can ask for sometimes, right?!

With my work schedule being demanding with long hours and some late nights, I would love to get more meal planning done and use my weekends to do more weekly cooking. I have seen the lunches you can make online and that looks like a more beneficial option for me at times. I would like more fresh produce but I would need to buy it day of as I know it would spoil too quickly. I have tried some of the Hello Fresh and Blue Apron products for variations and I do like those. Though I have found some of those I don’t finish all the products in and I don’t like the waste.

The meals I chose to make including a childhood favorite of mine that we make every year during the holidays: Cheesy rice with broccoli. It is an old Campbell’s Soup recipe. The second one I made was a classic standby: Mousehouse Grilled Cheese. I have a cookbook all on grilled cheese sandwiches as the kids and I love them. Who doesn’t?!

All turned out delicious and the recipes are simple to make. If I had more fresh items and other produce on hand, I could have made much more of a variety of things. But, I’m not too picky for myself. Worse comes to worse, I end up eating a bowl of Cheerios!

2 Recipes, 1 Assignment

Okay, friends. I have to confess that I felt a bit like a cheater when we got this assignment. Prior to coming to class, I had placed an online grocery order AND confirmed my HelloFresh subscription delivery for the week. Groceries showed up on Wednesday, and HelloFresh arrived Thursday. So I had lots of food on hand and several recipes I was committed to preparing. In general, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping cupboards stocked. I still fall into the convenience and processed food traps, but not as much as I used to. I like to cook, so that helps.

My cupboards typically have beans, soups, and pastas. I’m not much for canned veggies. Would rather use fresh and prepare them as needed. This works out well with HelloFresh, since most of the veggies they send are fresh. The grocery delivery included bell peppers, avocados, chicken breast, and ground beef (all of which were on sale). So I decided to include one of my HelloFresh adventures in this blog post and also one of the recipes I intended to make from my groceries.

The HelloFresh recipe was Spicy Shrimp Linguine. The photo shows the ingredients that were sent and the finished product. I will confess to adding some garlic bread (the frozen kind that I know is not healthy but have a hard time resisting) to that plate after taking the picture. I was really pleased with the dish overall. I try to always choose a  pescatarian meal if one is offered in the delivery menu, because I like fish but don’t tend to buy it at the grocery unless it’s frozen or on sale. The best thing about this dish, other than the taste, was that it portioned out to three meals. I ate one Friday for dinner and put the other two in the freezer for a future meal.

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The next recipe was chicken chili. This one is my own modification of the recipe on the back of the prepared spice mix (pictured). I shred the chicken instead of cutting it up, because I like the consistency better. I also use chicken broth instead of water and use the pot in which the chicken was cooked/shredded. I think it adds to the flavor. I add green chilies and bell pepper (1-1.5). In this case, I even added some celery because I had some on hand that needed to be used up. I also throw in some extra black pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder, and cumin. I’ve tinkered with this recipe for a while to get it the way I like it. The McCormick’s prepared spices are good, but they don’t pack enough of a punch for someone who grew up in Texas.

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Overall, I am pretty satisfied with the state of my cupboards and refrigerator. I would say my biggest downfalls are putting things in the freezer and leaving them too long or buying things and not using them quickly enough. Part of this is a result of living alone and not always having people to help me consume what I make. Part of it is the result of buying things to experiment and then having more than I need or deciding I don’t care for it after all. (The meal delivery subscription services are helpful here.) The other thing I wish I was better about is having fresh veggies on hand. I do a better job of this– I’m sure most of us do– in spring and summer. As good as I am with freezing, I’d like to learn how to can. I think that would help me take better advantage of summer veggies. Maybe that should be my next cooking class. . .

Pear Tart and Awesome Pork Chops

Since I talked to Bill after class about not knowing what to make and he suggested a  pear tart. I have never made a tart in my life so I found this recipe for a Rustic Pear Tart on Pinterest. It looked simple enough which is what I look for in recipes. I only had canned pears so I drained them really good. My first thoughts were that this is not going to work because its so wet and there weren’t enough pears to make this work. However, after making the dough, which was much smaller than I though and I came to the conclusion that the I had way to much fruit so I made a second one. The first one seemed like there wasn’t enough dough and fell apart on all sides. The second one I made with twice the amount of dough and at least it looks better. I think if I did this again, I would add something more to the dough for favor.

The Awesome Pork Chop recipe, I also got on Pinterest. I have made Pork chops before but usually I throw them in the oven and they turn out tough. So I did something out of my comfort zone and made these following a recipe. It called for Italian bread crumbs but I substituted cracker crumbs. The recipe had me dip the pork chops into eggs and then the bread crumbs, then fry them until golden. The recipe had me bake the pork chops and then 10 minutes before put a sauce of mushroom soup, milk and white wine. I substituted some moscoto wine for the white wine and added garlic powder because I didn’t have the Mushroom soup with roasted garlic as it was called for.  It was wonderful and will definitely make that again.

My cooking style has changed over the years. When my children were growing up, I always had a dinner ready for them with a meat, potatoes/rice and veggies. But since they are on their own, my dinners are more a what can I throw together or drive-thru meal on the fly. I am working to make more meals on the weekends so I have something to take to work for lunches.

When I look in my cupboards for something to eat, I get discouraged because nothing goes with anything. My pantry has lots of miscellaneous stuff from tea to spices, to canned veggies, to dessert making items to jellies. I have tons of spices some of which I don’t know how to use them and usually use the same ones over and over. My spices are also old and wonder if they lose their flavor after years.