It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! I was assigned Cookin' Mimi - a blog full of comfort food and home cooking with lots of influences like Southern, Southwestern, and some International. The author is a Southern Californian with a Southern family - which explains the variety of influences! She doesn't remember a time when she wasn't cooking.
I was in crunch mode when I chose a recipe, on the search for an easy dinner. Mimi is a big fan of casseroles, like me, so I looked at this Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole and this traditional Chicken and Rice Casserole, but decided on this Cheesy Green Chile Chicken and Rice Casserole.
But back to the casserole! It is really straightforward and simple - combine chicken, green chiles, rice, and a sour cream sauce; top with cheese; bake; the end. But something in the recipe jumped out at me as unfamiliar - it called for par-boiled or converted rice. What the heck is that? I turned to the internet and found out that by par-boiling the rice, the nutrients of the outer parts are forced into the grain before they are removed - making it something in between brown and white rice. In fact, it supposedly has most of the nutrients of brown rice, an even lower glycemic index, and the soft texture of white rice, without getting as mushy. How had I never heard of this before?! It is perfect to use in casseroles and slow cookers because the texture holds up. It's awesome!
But, there is a downside - unless you are ordering it from Asia, most brands are grown in the Southern US and have high levels of inorganic arsenic, which is toxic. So, you know, don't eat a ton of it all the time.
I wanted to give a quick shout-out to a couple of my favorite local establishments in Chantilly, VA.
First up is 5T*Ice, an Asian dessert shop at Dulles Landing. I used to frequent Tutti Frutti, owned by the same people, but 5T opened much closer to where I live. Yay! In addition to frozen yogurt and gelato (including hard-to-find durian), they serve Patbingsu - shaved ice topped with ice cream, fruits, and syrups. I really like the coconut and ube bingsu with coconut shavings, sweetened condensed milk, and ube ice cream.
They also have bubble tea, smoothies, milkshakes, and other various similar drinks. I really like the Che Thai - a Vietnamese drink with coconut milk, grass jelly, coconut jelly, pomegranate jelly, lychee, jackfruit, and toddy palm. It is crazy good. If sweet is not your thing they also have steamed pork buns, sticky rice with Chinese sausage, and other goodies. And, no, I don't know what the name means - no one I know does!
This week, July 12-19, is Restaurant Week at the newly renovated Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA. You can check out the menus for the 5 participating restaurants here. As a member of the NoVA Yelp Elite Squad, I was invited to try out the restaurants ahead of time. We had such a fun time and ate SO MUCH FOOD, it was insane. Check out what we were served below, and make sure to stop by Springfield Town Center this week for great deals on yummy food!
Our first stop was Yard House, an American restaurant with a huge menu including a big vegetarian section, and tons of beers on tap.
They served us an Ahi tuna salad, mac and cheese, and a Moscow Mule. The tuna was really well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but I didn't care for the greens. The mac and cheese was AWESOME - the pasta was the perfect texture and it was loaded with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and truffle oil. So good - I definitely recommend it. The Moscow mule was light and refreshing, and really lovely on a hot day.
Next up was Chuy's - OMG CHUY'S!!! Words cannot express my excitement. You see, I am from Texas and this Austin based chain is my jam. The fact that it has migrated with me to VA is just the best. The manager here was super on point and spent a lot of time talking about how they make everything fresh in house. And yes, that is a giant strawberry margarita and pina colada swirl you see there.
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.
Well, Folks - it's been a great year! I look forward to keep sharing delicious and (sometimes) healthy recipes with you in the years to come. Until then - here are my most pinned recipes of 2013!
#1 - This healthy version of Shepard's Pie with Sweet Potato and Turkey. I find this funny because the photos from this post are so bad!
#2 - Homemade Meat Ravioli - yum!
#3 - Homemade Spinach Ravioli. The raviolis are popular!
This vegetarian/vegan meal that I made with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies is perfect for summer. It is light and fresh (but still filling), takes advantage of summer produce, and is packed with protein.
All you have to do is combine the ingredients - corn, tomato, avocado, bell pepper, scallions, jalapeno, black beans, cooked quinoa.
Then toss with a dressing of lime, olive oil, honey, and cumin.
Top with some fresh cilantro (or parsley if you, like me, are not a fan) and your perfect summer lunch awaits! You can serve it warm, cold, or room temp - doesn't matter. The ingredient list is also totally flexible, go with whatever ratio of quinoa to veg you like, take out the stuff you don't like, add in something you do, make it yours.
Back again with another vegetarian lunch team-up with Smells Like Brownies. This healthy enchiladas are made with whole wheat tortillas and packed with tons of veggies. There is plenty of protein from black beans, but you could always add some shredded chicken if you want. The sauce couldn't be easier - it's just a jar of salsa! Fresh, bright, and super filling - these are awesome and sure to please the whole family.
Step 1 - place a mixture of black beans, spinach, corn, and cheese onto a tortilla. We added in some diced zucchini, too!
A while back, I posted a super tasty enchilada recipe. Now that I am practicing healthier eating habits, I wanted to revamp that recipe to be lighter. I used whole wheat tortillas, fat free sour cream, fat free soup, and reduced fat cheese and they tasted just as great as the original!
Before I get into the main part of the recipe, I want to talk about a basic technique that I use all the time. A lot of my recipes call for "cooked, shredded chicken". You could acquire that in a number of different ways (and in fact, shredding a rotisserie chicken is one of the easiest) but I want to show you my favorite method. I like to poach big batches of chicken at a time (especially when I see a bulk pack on sale), shred it, and freeze it so that I always have some on hand.
To do this, place boneless skinless chicken in the bottom of a large pot. Toss a quartered onion, carrots (no need to peel), celery, garlic, peppercorns, a bay leaf, and herbs over the top. I like to use thyme and this year I grew some myself! Cover with water (just the chicken, the veg can be floating), bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partially cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat completely, and allow chicken to sit in the hot water for another 15-20 minutes. Doing it this way prevents is from being overcooked and keeps it moist and tender.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel has lots of great food options which was a nice bonus for staying there. My favorite has to be Holstein's Burgers, which has a huge selection of glam burgers and adult milkshakes. They also have a good bar with a whole menu of drinks based around my favorite liquor - St Germain.
This was my first meal at the trendy burger spot (yes, I went back) - The Billionaire Burger with Kobe beef, foie gras, port onion marmalade, frisee, and truffle mayo. Fan-freaking-tastic. I got it with sweet potato fries and the Drunken Monkey Shake (Reese’s, banana, malt, Frangelico).
Oh boy, you guys are in for a treat with this one! Creamy, cheesy enchiladas stuffed with shredded chicken, spinach, corn, and chiles; served up with some Mexican rice and refried beans - to die for! I love sour cream enchiladas - they are one of the first dishes (other than nachos and quesadillas) that I started eating when I began to get over my fear that all Mexican food was spicy.