Lesson the Third: Make Dinner

Well, here it is, as predicted: the post on dinner!  Last night, I really didn’t feel like making dinner, but I’m glad I forced myself because 1) I have a fridge full of food thanks to my Friday night Wegmans adventure; and 2) I made cheesy potatoes.

Over the weekend (really since Thursday), I ate SO well.  I didn’t necessarily have anything exciting – there was mango guacamole, which, to be fair, is pretty exciting, black beans and rice, salads – but I ate a ton of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and it felt great.  I surprised myself by going four entire days without eating meat.  I didn’t set out to do this; it was really just sheer laziness, but it felt good and got me eating other great stuff.

So last night, while we still had a pretty healthy meal, I decided to indulge a little.  I went BACK TO WEGMANS yesterday afternoon for two non-food things and left with potatoes, cilantro, avocados, mangoes, and artichokes. Oy.  I’d purchased some salmon Friday night that I planned to cook either Sunday or Monday for dinner, and when I saw the artichokes I thought they’d be a perfect side.  I wanted a little starch to go along with that, so I got 20 (I counted them when I started cooking, not in the store – I’m not completely nuts) small, red potatoes.  I was originally planning to cook them as I usually do, which is to cut them in half, boil them, and toss with butter and thyme, but I thought I’d try something different.  It’s been a while since I got creative.

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I decided to do a cheesy potato bake, so I knew I’d have to slice the potatoes thin – almost chip-thin.  I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I have a really hard time getting potatoes to cook.  Baked sweet potatoes?  Forget it.  So I made sure these slices were skinny.  I sprayed the bottom of a round baking dish with olive oil and then just barely shingled the potatoes around.  I learned that term for layering food slices this year – pretty neat!

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Once the first layer was down, I salted, peppered, thymed, and parmesaned.

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I kept going for four layers – I had exactly enough potatoes – crazy! I topped the whole thing off with cheese and put it into a preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes, checking every 15.  Once a knife slide out easily, I knew it was done.

IMG_6544And done it was.  This was so good and such a great side dish for the fish.  Since fish is light, I like to balance it with something a little bit heavier.

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Meanwhile, I steamed the artichokes with some lemon (not the ones below – the steamed lemons turned to mush and were just for flavor and aromatics) and cooked the fish.  The whole thing took right around an hour, but it was so tasty and filling that it was worth every slice, every chop, and every dirty dish.

IMG_6620As you saw, the potatoes definitely took some prep work, and the artichokes did as well.  They’re not that hard to steam, though – you just have to snip the thorny ends off and open them up a bit.  The fish is ridiculously easy to cook – put on baking sheet, season, and put in oven.  Yes, there are fancier things you can do with salmon, but since I was going to town on the potatoes, I kept the rest simple.  Sometimes those are the best meals.  I’m so glad I didn’t skip out on cooking dinner last night.  It was filling, nutritious and fun to cook (and let’s be honest – fun to photograph).

Till next time! 🙂

 

Cheesy Potato Bake

Ingredients

20-30 red potatoes, thinly sliced

1/2-3/4 cup shredded parmesan

1-2 tablespoons dried thyme

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees; spray bottom of round baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray

2. Arrange a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the dish in a spiral, slightly shingled

3. Top potatoes with salt, pepper, and thyme, then sprinkle with a layer of cheese

4. Repeat layers until you reach the top of the dish or the potatoes are gone; finish with seasonings and cheese

5. Cover and bake for 45 minutes

Enjoy!

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Sweet!

A big part of healthy eating is cooking for yourself. You know what’s going into your food, you can control what’s going into your food, and let’s face it: when you have to put in a little effort, you’re less likely to over-indulge. Although last night it was hard not to over-indulge on what I cooked.

I’ve always loved sweet potato fries – I mean, who doesn’t? Anyone? Didn’t think so. But the only times I’ve had them were in restaurants or from the frozen section of the grocery store. Last week, I tried out a black bean burger recipe that has a little bit of cooked sweet potato in it, so when I made them again tonight, I thought the fries would be the perfect side.

I read a few recipes online, but in the end I went my own way. The big decision in making fries is how to season them. After smelling every spice in my cabinet, I landed on these:

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I had never even opened the ground cloves! It kind of makes me wonder why I bought them. At any rate, from what I’d read online, I knew I needed olive oil, salt, and sugar. As far the rest, I think I landed on a pretty good combination. The cloves and nutmeg gave just enough kick to balance out the sweet.

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After tossing everything together in a bowl, I spread the wedges onto a baking sheet and put them into a preheated 450-degree oven for about 15 minutes, then tossed them around and flipped them over.  Then they cooked for another ten minutes.
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I’ll be honest, at first I thought they were burnt, but it was just the spices.  They were perfect!  A little crispy on the outside and oh-so-sweet on the inside.

 
 

You might disagree, but I think these fries would be good even after they got cold! I was so happy with how they turned out. This was definitely a spur-of-the-moment dinner decision, but it’s one that I’ll be making again!

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The black bean burgers are Tosca Reno’s recipe, of course (I do love her), and the fries were the perfect complement. This was the perfect summer dinner. I know it’s not summer yet, but I’m a teacher, so it’s actually been summer for three weeks.
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Till next time! ❤

Sweet and Sassy Couscous

I’ve been thinking a lot about side dishes lately.  I’ve got some pretty good main dishes down (lemon chicken, tilaplia, pastas, etc.), but sometimes I get tired of making salads and steaming vegetables, healthy though they may be.

I didn’t necessarily want to find a recipe so much as I wanted to create something new.  After rummaging through the cabinets to see what I had in the kitchen (and don’t the best dishes start with that?), I found a box of couscous.  I’ve made it a hundred times before, but remembered a particular couscous recipe with saffron I’d made from my clean eating cookbook.  I had only made it once, and therefore had most of the spice still in my cabinet.  Since the saffron cost SEVENTEEN dollars, I knew I wanted to use it for something… anything.

 

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I almost left out the spice packet that came with this couscous, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I just cooked it according to the package directions with one very special addition at the end.

When I found the couscous, I  decided that I wanted to include a vegetable with it to give it a little more substance, and I had a few carrots in the fridge.  Bingo!  (They’re great, but they’re not the special addition – wait for it!)

Chop them up into coins or however you prefer.

Chop them up into coins or however you prefer.

 

Before I started on the couscous, I got the carrots going.  The couscous only takes about five minutes to cook, where the carrots take more like 15.  I melted about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan, added 1/3 cup of water and the carrots.  Then I added in the juice of half a lemon.  I’ve made carrots like this before and I really like it.  The lemon juice brings out a fantastic sweetness in the carrots.

Meanwhile,  I cooked the couscous and when it came time to take it off the heat and cover it, I added in the magic.

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Honey!  I have become a huge fan of honey ever since I read in eating clean books and blogs that it’s a great alternative to sugar for sweetening things.  I’ve made some marinades with honey and spices, so I thought “Hey, the couscous has garlic… why not sweeten it up?”  I added about a quarter of a cup.

When the carrots were finished, I mixed them into the couscous along with the saffron.  Done!  Verdict?  Fabulous.  If a quarter cup of honey is too much for you, use a little less.  This dish is so much more exciting than regular couscous (or regular carrots, for that matter), and I think it’s going to make a wonderful side dish.

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Yum. Seriously. Yum.

Sweet and Spicy Couscous with Carrots

Ingredients

1 box couscous (I used the garlic and olive oil kind)

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into coins

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon saffron threads

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the water, lemon juice, and carrots.  Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, approximately fifteen minutes.

2. Cook the couscous according to package directions.

3. When you remove the couscous from the heat, stir in 1/4 cup honey.  Cover and let sit for five minutes.

4.  Once carrots are finished, stir them into the couscous.

5. Stir in saffron and sprinkle a bit on top.

 

Enjoy!  And as always – get creative and make it your own!