Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lasagna is a Weekend Food!

Last Thursday I was done with work relatively early.  Early enough in fact, that I thought it would be the perfect time to try out Tyler Florence's Ultimate Lasagna recipe.  A recipe that my mom endorsed.  Given that her lasagna is to-die-for, I thought I'd give it a try.  Don't let the 'Easy' difficulty level fool you though -- this dish is no joke. 

So, at 5:30pm I began with the sauce -- which had quite a long list of ingredients, mostly herbs.  These herbs were supposed to be processed but since I don't have a food processor, I chopped them as finely as I could with my trusty Wusthof chef's knife.  (Note to self: Register for food processor!)  I browned the meat, added the veggies, herbs, and tomatoes and let it simmer for a little bit.  Then I mixed up the filling ingredients.  Finally, after all that, I put big pot of water on the stove to boil.  I'm not sure exactly how, but by the time I did this, it was already 8pm and M was starting to parade around the kitchen with his hunger face.  At the rate I was going, the lasagna wasn't going to be finished until at least 9:30.  So, as much as I hated to do so, I made an executive decision and ordered a pizza pie.  As much as I wanted to conquer lasagna, I didn't want to starve my fiance in the process.  I decided I'd finish the lasagna but then freeze it until sometime this week.  So, while it came out exceptional-looking, I still haven't tasted it.  Although, if it tastes how it smells, it will definitely be worth the wait.
So, what's the lesson learned here folks? Lasagna is a 'weekend food.'  Only make it when you have several hours to burn -- and even then, only when you have a food processor because mincing veggies and herbs by hand is quite time consuming.  I think M & I are eating it tomorrow night.  I'll let you all know how it goes.

Update:  After all of that work, I hate to report that I was 'eh' about the lasagna.  I suppose I should have read the reviews on the recipe site and left out the cinnamon - it was really overwhelming.  And even aside from that, the sauce wasn't all that tasty (next time, I'm definitely sticking to my parents' meat sauce recipe.)  I should also mention that the measurements in Tyler's recipe are not precise at all.  All you really need is one box of lasagna noodles -- I had to throw away an entire second box because I followed the recipe.  So unfortunately, I have to declare this recipe a failure.  (Sorry Tyler, I usually love your work.)

At some point in the future, I'll try to make lasagna again.  Hopefully, the next time, it will be a success. 

If you're still interested, here is Tyler's Ultimate Lasagna Recipe:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Conquering Breakfast

If you take a close look at my meal planning template, you'll notice how truly pathetic our breakfast meals are.  Although they're actually very good, the ThinkThin bars that I came to depend on for my morning sustenance, are also the furthest thing from natural.  Unfortunately, they're super convenient and so they became my go-to morning meal.  Well today, I came across a yummier, healthier and cheaper alternative - Egg Muffins.  (This is where I give a huge shout out to Kalyn's Kitchen because she has some of the best and healthiest recipes with very thorough explanations and illustrations.)

After dinner tonight I spent about an extra hour in the kitchen making breakfast for the rest of the week.  I modified Kalyn's recipe just a bit considering what I had on hand: I skipped the Spike Seasoning, used regular shredded cheese instead of lowfat (1 cup), and added some diced red peppers.  Now, I have 6 servings of Egg Muffins (at 260 calories per serving) in the fridge packed up and ready to go in the mornings.

Although my egg muffins aren't as pretty as Kalyn's they are quite tasty and I can't wait to gobble them up tomorrow morning before a hectic day at work.

Here's the modified recipe I used based on the one from Kalyn's Kitchen

Egg Muffins (Revisited Again)
(Makes 12 muffins, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from The South Beach Diet book.)

15 eggs for silicone muffin pans
1-2 cups grated cheese
3 green onions diced small.
1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers

Preheat oven to 375 F. Use regular or silicone muffin pan, 12 muffin size. If using silicone pan, spray with nonstick spray. If using regular muffin pan, put two paper liners into each slot, then spray liner with nonstick spray.

In the bottom of the muffin cups layer diced meat, if using, vegetables, if using, cheese and green onions. You want the muffin cups to be about 2/3 full, with just enough room to pour a little egg around the other ingredients. Break eggs into large measuring bowl with pour spout, add Spike, and beat well.  Pour egg into each muffin cup until it is 3/4 full. I like to stir slightly with a fork. Bake 25-35 minutes until muffins have risen and are slightly browned and set.

Muffins will keep at least a week in the refrigerator without freezing. Egg muffins can be frozen and reheated. For best results, thaw in refrigerator before reheating. Microwave on high about 2 minutes to reheat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fish Novice

Growing up, we hardly ever ate fish.  The funny thing is, my parents liked it and I liked it, but my sister was horrified by the smell and would complain so much when they cooked it, that they eventually stopped making it altogether.  As a result, I was actually really nervous about cooking it last night.  Even more so when I unwrapped the salmon and the smell hit me like a ton of bricks -- it was not pleasant.  After donning a pair of makeshift freezer bag gloves (note to self, buy latex gloves), I got started on this recipe I found on allrecipes.com -- Healthier Grilled Salmon I -- which was really easy and quick.  I made 3 minor changes - I used raw cane sugar instead of brown because that's what I had, I used Lite Soy Sauce, and I used Polamers Ready to Use Chopped Garlic instead of mincing a clove.  I grilled it on my new All-Clad Double Burner Grill from Williams Sonoma (my new favorite kitchen item) and believe it or not -- the smell was not an issue.  I plated it up with a bit of brown rice and much to mine and M's surprise, it was actually pretty good. 

Here is my modified version of this recipe.  Let me know if you try it out and what you think:

Healthier Grilled Salmon I

  • 1-1/2 lbs. salmon fillets
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Polamers Ready to Use chopped Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Lite Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Raw Cane Sugar
  1. In a 13 X 9-inch glass dish, stir together lemon juice and zest, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and olive oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish flesh side down in mixture and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat grill for medium heat.
  3. Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Weekly Meal Plan

My first task on the road to domestication was to figure out something that's always eluded me.  How was it that my parents' fridge was always fully stocked and mine was always bare?  How come their fruits were always fresh while I ended up throwing mine out after a few weeks?  And why was it that any single culinary inspiration always turned into hours of work that involved at least one trip to the grocery store?

Well, after picking the brains of some of my married girlfriends, and my dear mother, I found a common thread.  Planning.  Now, I know it seems like a no-brainer but it had never really occurred to me.  Up until this epiphany my motto had always been: When in doubt, boil some pasta.  Not only did that eventually get bo-ring, it was also not very waistline-friendly.  I attribute my 10 lb weight gain to this motto.

But I digress, so back to planning.  The first thing I did was google "weekly meal planning." After rifling through several meal plan templates and getting some ideas, I ended up creating this:
Weekly Meal Plan Template
I sit down every Sunday afternoon and plan meals for the week.  Although the menu is usually quite simple, I do like to throw in something new once a week -- keeps things fresh.  I also take into consideration M and my respective schedules and make a note of whether we might be out on any particular night.  Once I'm done, I peek in the fridge and list out the items we'll need in the 'Grocery List' column.  I copy/paste it into Evernote and can then access it from my iPhone when I'm at the grocery store later that evening.  It makes shopping quick and painless and prevents me from over-shopping. I also make sure to fill out the 'Prep' column. Here, I write down what I need to do the night before, like marinate meat or chop up veggies -- it makes the actual cooking process run way more smoothly.

I've been using this meal planning template for the past three weeks and not only have M and I been eating much healthier, we're also saving a lot of money by not eating out as often.  Eventually, I'd like to have a stack of weekly menus to choose from to minimize my planning time on Sunday. That is, up until we have kids.  After that, I imagine it's whole lot more complicated.

If you'd like a copy of the printable PDF of my template or the actual Excel file send me a message with your email address and I will send it on over.