Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back in the kitchen!

Wow, I've been slacking.   A month and a half since my last post?  I truly have not cooked much since then.  10 days of my college roomie in town (although I did cook twice - shrimp & pasta concoctions), an unexpected 2 week trip to Michigan, my mom visiting (we made a pizza together, it was delish) and during her trip, an unexpected killer sinus infection that knocked me out for the last 2.5 weeks.  I have basically been eating cereal, yogurt, veggie burgers, and take out Combo salads from Hosum Bistro.  Last weekend I was feeling somewhat better and bought a few ingredients intending to make some sort of Pineapple Fried Rice....yesterday I threw out a moldy pineapple  *sigh*.  I did manage to make some cupcakes in the brief window I was feeling better...those are below.

Well, today was the day.  I finally feel about 95% better and I want to make my OWN food.  Plus I have nothing left in my freezer for lunches.  I had found numerous recipes for Pineapple Fried and liked parts of each one but wanted to make it my own way.  Some had shrimp (yum), red peppers (holy expensive), curry powder (I can handle it), but there wasn't once recipe that totally caught my eye.  So here's what I did for what turned out to be tonight's dinner & 4 extra servings for lunches:

3/4 lb chicken breast
Dry Jerk seasoning
1 cup brown rice (dry)
1 15 oz can black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 20 oz can pineapple (drained, liquid reserved)
1 10 oz bag of matchstick carrots
1/2 red onion, diced
soy sauce
red pepper flakes
minced garlic (from a jar)

I actually cooked the rice last weekend and when I realized I wasn't going to do anything else with it, I stuck it in the freezer until yesterday.

For the chicken, I seasoned with the Jerk Seasoning (bought a pre-made mix but I probably could have made my own), salt and pepper.  Browned and cooked it through in a skillet, and slice into thin strips.

Heated large skillet, used just a little bit of cooking spray, and added the diced onion.  Cooked until soft, added one heaping spoon (probably about a TBSP) of the minced garlic.  Added the black beans, pineapple chunks (not the juice) and carrots.  Sauteed for a bit, then added about half of the pineapple juice to help soften the carrots.  Added some red pepper flakes (I like HOT), soy sauce (maybe a TBSP or two), and let everything cook down until the carrots were almost done, and then added the chicken.  I had cooked it earlier & let it cool so it needed to warm up again.  Then I took everything out of the pan, sprayed it with cooking spray again, and added in just the rice and let it sizzle for a bit.  Not exactly "fried" since I didn't use any real oil but whatever...I prefer to cook healthy.  Then I added everything else back in after a few minutes, stirred it around, and added the rest of the pineapple juice, and salt & pepper.  Tasted it...not bad...added cilantro, and dang, it was pretty good.  I also made some broccoli on the side to get some extra veggies.  I feel like overall, it could use SOME work - I had ginger & forgot to use it, but I'm not sure yet what else I would do differently.  It was definitely spicy but it could use some depth instead of more spice.  I'm definitely willing to play around with it and make another variation, probably with shrimp.  All in all, I liked it, AND it was really healthy.

And of course I had to bake.  I wanted to something simple, no fancy cupcakes or multi-step cookies like I've been doing.  I found this recipe for Marshmallow Blondies and decided they sounded easy and tasty.  Not much to really say about them since it was the most basic recipe ever.  The only thing was that I baked them for longer than the recipe indicated (probably about 28 minutes) and I discovered they were definitely too soft in the middle of the pan.  They're super sticky regardless, but the middle of the pan was hard to cut and I was forced to eat that part.  Here's a pic of my new dough scrapper from my Favorite Cooking Store (as in, if you want to get me something for my upcoming cards are welcome...) stuck in the middle of the baked Blondies.  Verdict:  slightly undercooked & super sticky but really tasty.

The one project I did manage last weekend was Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting.  I had to find a new ingredient for these - freeze dried strawberries.  I happened to look through the Trader Joe's ad last week and saw they had them so I stocked up there.

I also needed fresh strawberries...mmm....I love strawberries.

So the batter had pureed fresh strawberries AND the freeze dried, which were pulverized in my mini food processor.  When I was making the batter, I thought it was too thick - and after they were baked I'd still agree.  One thing I need to learn is that while I can identify what might be wrong with a recipe, I don't know how to fix it.  The batter was very thick & dense - I don't know if more eggs (or beating the whites separately) would have helped?  I meant to try again because I ended up with leftover frosting, but that hasn't happened yet.  Here's the super thick batter:

Pretty & pink!  And the baked cupcakes, pre-frosting:

So I think the frosting was the best part.  The dried strawberries, butter, powdered sugar, and cream cheese.  There was no way that wouldn't be good.  Since I haven't used the extra yet and it is probably actually still good, I should probably just buy more fresh strawberries and dip them in the frosting goodness.  And here's the finished product:

And a whole bunch of 'em:


So I have zero plans to cook anymore this week.  Lunches are made.  At most I may make some guacamole tomorrow and call that dinner.  I fly to NYC on Thursday morning and will spend my weekend eating, drinking, and running my way through the city.  Maybe next week...

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