The Secret Recipe Club may be over, but the Fantastical Food Fight is just beginning! Instead of being assigned a blog, secret Santa style, we are given a theme (similar to the Improv Cooking Challenge that I also participate in). For our first month, the theme was deviled eggs - yum!
I knew that I wanted to do a fun take, and while I looked at Caesar Salad, Curry, Mexican Street Corn, and Crab Rangoon variations, I was really drawn to a Smoked Salmon idea. Filled with the flavors of a traditional Lox bagel, this twist is as delicious as it is pretty.
May has five Mondays this year, which means - themed Secret Recipe Club post! Falling on Memorial Day, the theme for this reveal is Picnic/BBQ and my assigned blog was A Day in the Life on the Farm. Wendy and her husband are former police officers who moved out to the country and became farmers. They treat their animals humanely, are part of an organic CSA, trade with other farmers, and live sustainably as much as possible - I am so jealous! I dream of being a radical homemaker, but don't have the commitment. I was on a specific mission this month, but I look forward to perusing the blog more thoroughly.
I actually made three recipes from Wendy's blog this weekend, in order to have a full meal for the holiday. She had tons of recipes that are appropriate for the challenge, and I chose BBQ Beef Sandwiches, BLT Pasta Salad, and Black Forest Trifle. Each of these was easy to make with the help of store-bought ingredients, so that I didn't have to spend a full day in the kitchen. And each of them was a big hit!
It's time for another Try The World Post! Finishing up my Japan box, I used the okonomiyaki mix to make... okonomiyaki, of course! It's a savory pancake made with flour, yam, eggs, scallions, and cabbage; and topped with all kinds of things, but most commonly pork belly, bonito flakes, seaweed, okonomi sauce, and mayonnaise.
The kit came with batter mix, powdered yam, shrimp tempura crisps, and dried seaweed. Plus instructions in Japanese and English (thank goodness).
First step, chop cabbage. It really should have been finer than this, like shredded, but I was lazy. Add scallions. In a separate bowl, make the batter according to package directions. Then combine it with the veggies, tempura, and eggs.
It's my first Secret Recipe Club post!!! I had been wanting to join the SRC for a while, but wasn't sure that I met the posting requirements, because I don't always post every week. I also didn't have a recipe index for a long time, so that is something that I have been working on. I finally felt like the time was right and asked to join, and here I am with my first post! Yay!
My assigned blog was Renee's Kitchen Adventures, and I had such a great time looking through it. Renee is a stay-at-home mom and former nurse (labor and delivery - what a special unit!), and her story reminded me a lot of my mother. She talks about trying to be healthy and lose weight, and posts healthy recipes based on Weight Watchers points. I, too, am trying to be healthy and lose weight, so I loved that about this blog. Even though our ideas of what constitute healthy food are a bit different (I think fat is healthy), I think this blog will be a great resource and inspiration for me. I also love how accessible and family friendly Renee's recipes are. I think I tend to only post about the really complicated stuff, which maybe isn't so great.
As I was reading through Renee's most recent recipes, I saw a lot that I wanted to try. I love that she has a lot of s'mores recipes, and especially that she made s'mores krispy treats - because I did the same thing! I also really liked the sound of this Almond Joy Poke Cake made with coconut oil, coconut oil is the best! She writes that she isn't ashamed to use boxed cake mix as a shortcut, and I feel the same way! I don't post about them much, but I love to make poke cakes or dress up cake mix in other ways (pro tip: use 1 extra egg, milk instead of water, melted butter instead of oil).
I've been baking way more than usual lately, though, and what jumped out at me the most was this Creamy Lemon and Fresh Basil Chicken Salad. It has been super hot and humid lately, so this is exactly the kind of thing I want to be eating right now.
Now that I am settling into my new place, and Melissa has welcomed her baby daughter to the world, we are getting back into our lunch schedule. We started with this gorgeous Spring inspired egg salad. This is really customizeable, and you can add whatever you find fresh in your area.
We started by finely dicing some celery, scallions, chives, parsley, and dill while we boiled some eggs. You can use whatever combination of herbs you prefer. We also separated the greens from a bunch of radishes.
To that, we added chopped eggs and avocado, caper, garlic, lemon zest, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard.
Last month, I signed up to bring pasta salad to a potluck. In typical me fashion, I decided that I had to make it myself. After cruising the internet for a bit, I came across a recipe with smoked gouda, which was all I needed to be sold. Roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts? Total bonus.
I choose to use gemelli for my pasta because it is my favorite and it is really structurally sound - it holds up to anything. While that was boiling, I diced up my roasted peppers and artichoke hearts (I was lucky to find grilled ones at the store). I had a couple of tomatoes hanging around, so I chopped those up and threw them in too. After I rinsed the pasta in cold water (normally a big no-no, but good for pasta salads), I tossed it with the veggies and the cubed gouda.
Then came the dressing, where I inexplicably decided to take the opposite route and go quick and easy. I used mayonnaise and bottled Italian dressing and it came out just right - light and flavorful. You are of course welcome to make your own dressing from scratch. Top with fresh herbs and go! This is hearty and fresh and super yummy - it was very popular at the potluck, thank goodness!
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
You know that cheesy broccoli and rice casserole that makes it's way to every potluck ever? That is so bad for you, but so yummy, that you eat heaps of it and you tell yourself that it's got broccoli so it's okay? Well here's your chance to pig out, because this version (made with quinoa instead of rice) is a lot better for you.
Of course, to convince my husband to eat it (and because I wanted more protein without having to make a separate dish), I threw some shredded rotisserie chicken in there. You can see in the photo that I just threw big florets of steamed broccoli in there. I ended up wishing that the broccoli was more evenly spread throughout, so I will recommend chopping it first.
This is hearty, and creamy, and just plain awesome. Kids (and big kids) will gobble it up.
Kanikama is the imitation crab meat you find in cheap sushi rolls. It is made from white fish (pollock usually) that is formed and colored to look like crab. Sounds gross, but is actually pretty tasty - and way cheaper than real crab. Kanikama salad is a pretty typical way to prepare imitation crab outside of sushi rolls. It usually involves kanikama, shredded vegetables, and mango in a light mayonnaise based dressing and is sometimes topped with tobiko.
My version is kanikama and mango over lettuce, served with avocado (I meant to get tobiko, too, but I forgot!) This is really light and refreshing, and a little bit sweet - perfect for summer. It's important to realize that Japanese mayo is different from American - it is lighter, thinner, and made with rice wine vinegar. For my dressing, I bought Yum Yum sauce thinking it would be good as is (it's a mayonnaise based sauce that they use at Hibachi grill restaurants). But when I tried it out, it was a bit too sweet and bland. So I added a splash each of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and toasted sesame oil (easy on that last one, it is very strong).
I don't really have a recipe - it's more of a play with seasonings til you like it kind of thing. You could add in julienned carrots, cucumber, even summer squash. You could dice the avocado and fold it in with the mango (which I did on subsequent days). You could toss the lettuce in the dressing as well, instead of setting the dressed kanikama on top. There are lots of ways that you can make this your own. Leave a comment telling me how you like your kanikama salad!