25 October 2014

The Cook's Critique featuring: Plated

Remember that time you had hours and hours with nothing to do and so you sat down and made a thorough shopping list with the exact quantities to portion out all your meals and not waste anything and have it all be healthy and delicious?
Me either.

Other than that one time last year when we tried to eat clean. Remember that? I told y'all to dedicate the time and plan stuff out? I bet you read that like "pssshhhhh, you cray"

I know, I know. I am.

I tend to get these ideas about how I could improve my life and then just throw myself at them. I'll wake up one day and be like "You know what would make my life so much better? Doing yoga for 30 minutes every morning before I get ready for work!" Which inevitably results in me twisted into weird positions while my dog tries to lick my face/sit in my lap/wrestle, and then I give up.
Or I'll be like "I am not going to dink any wine at all during the week" (bahahahahahaha).
The trouble is, quite plainly, that my life lacks a certain level of convenience that I think everyone craves. There exists a need for simplicity of routine. Especially on week nights when time seems to be scarce.

Without question the activity I spend the most time on is cooking dinner. Finding or coming up with the recipes, going to the store, preparing the meal: when all is said and done, I've devoted hours each week.

So, in a effort to simplify things, I've decided to give the folks at Plated a try.
Plated is an at home meal delivery service. You fill out the information, they send you the exact ingredients and recipes you need. To your door. In a lovely package.

This week I got my first box. I did a promotional trial, so I got to choose two recipes and they sent me enough to make two servings of each dish, and because of the promotion, I only had to pay shipping ($20).

This is your moment of glory. I love you, Plated.

The box is full of wonderfully fresh ingredients, all labeled and neatly packaged. It comes to you with plenty of ice packs to keep everything inside fresh. Not to mention, look how beautiful the recipe sheets are!

I chose mushroom-crusted flatiron steak with cauliflower mash and butter-basted redfish harissa, crispy kale and polenta. 

My box arrived on Tuesday and I opted for the steak first.

The recipes are wonderful. Everything is explained plainly. You never feel like you could be interpreting something wrong which provides a certain level of confidence that even those of you who don't spend quite as much time in the kitchen could make any of these like a pro. They provide some information in the form of a glossary and cook's tips, that I love. I'm hungry for any chance to learn something new!

On the whole, it took me more like 45 minutes to make this dish rather than the 20-30 that Plated estimates, but in all fairness, I'm stopping every so often to take photos, so that slows me down. This meal was delicious, and there was definitely enough food. In fact, I was able to divide this out into 3 meals, so I'm really looking forward to leftovers tonight!

I'm not going to post the recipe for this today. If you want to try it, you should head on over to Plated and get yourself a trial! (Provided they're still offering one). I am going to continue getting a Plated box, at least for a few weeks, and then I'll post my absolute favorites for you guys to try!

Check back for my thoughts on the Redfish later this weekend!

21 October 2014

Dishes with Dee: Autumn Quinoa

I got new boots!
I've been wearing scarves!
I guess it must be Fall, you guys.

Let's talk about all the reasons why Fall is the best, aside from the boots and the drink that elicits a cult-like following. There is football, pumpkin beer, pumpkin carving, pumpkin anything, Halloween, my birthday (the best part), drinks spiked with rum and that amazing smell Fall has. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to come experience Fall in the Midwest. Stat.

Also, there are roasted things. You guys- roasted things are e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. in Fall.
Roasting vegetables brings out their rich sweetness in a way that says comfort food without the love handles, ya feel me?

So, as I often do, I was day dreaming about food on my way home from work one night. It was the kind of day dreaming that has you turning the opposite way off your exit, heading into Whole Foods, and accidentally spending this week's wine allowance. (YeahRightLikeIPutAnAllowanceOnWine.) I wandered through produce with two things going through my mind:
1. Butternut Squash
2. Brussels Sprouts! 
So of course, I ended up with both in my basket. I started thinking about what flavors reminded me the most of my favorite season, and I ended up with an awesome collection of ingredients.
And then, Autumn Quinoa was born,

So here's what ya need:
2 c. cooked quinoa 
1 small butternut squash
1 bag of brussels sprouts
1 medium-large honey crisp apple
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1/8 c. toasted pecans
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh sage
1 tsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp grated parmesan
A small dish of olive oil and a brush.

And here's what ya do:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with a light cooking oil. Wash and trim your brussels sprouts. To do this, simply rinse under cool water in a colander, pull off any outer leaves that are discoloring and trim down the stems. Take extra care to dry them, as they will roast better if they're completely dry. Then cut them in half length-wise. Peel and cube your butternut squash into about 3/4-inch chunks.
Click here to have Martha show you the easiest way to prepare a butternut squash.

2. Put butternut squash on the other baking sheet, brush with regular olive oil, and sprinkle with a little bit of salt, and cinnamon. Roast for about 30-35 minutes, agitating every 5-7 minutes. Place the brussels sprouts cut-side-down on one of the baking sheets and lightly brush with olive oil. I used some roasted garlic oil for these, but if that seems like it might be too rich, just go for regular. Sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 18-20 minutes or until you start to see them browning.

3. While the vegetables roast, chop the sun-dried tomato into about 1/2 inch length pieces, core the apple, and cut it into 1/2 pieces as well. Coarsely chop all herbs.
**Note: All three herbs can usually be found packaged together in a "poultry pack" of some kind rather than buying them each individually** 

4. Once the vegetables finish roasting, immediately add quinoa, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes, and apple in a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Then, stir in the herbs, pecans and parmesan. Plate and serve.

I served this with grilled chicken sausage.

***Note: Cook the quinoa in chicken stock for a more flavorful grain***

03 March 2014

Dishes with Dee: Open-faced Italian Breakfast Sandwiches

So it's Saturday morning.
You were kicking adult life's ass last night. You grabbed dinner with some friends at "Trendy New Tapas Place", had 2 glasses of wine, and then came home before 10:00 to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix while you drank Sleepytime Tea and fell asleep before midnight.
Not only did adult you win at Friday night, but you woke up at 8:00.
You went to the gym!
You went to the grocery store!
You did a load of laundry!
And its only 11:00!

Get after it.

So, now what? That yogurt and protein bar you had this morning has stopped doing its job, and you want something that will keep the good vibes going.

The answer is simple: Open-faced Breakfast Sandwich.
One of my favorite things about these sandwiches is that there is very little cooking, so you can have them on the table in under 15 minutes. 
Plus, they look fancy for how easy they are, so they're always a crowd pleaser. 
Invite some friends over and share the love.
It doesn't matter what you put on one of these suckers, just as long as you cover the basics:
I'm talking meat, egg, good bread.
From there, you do what ever your together-twentysomething heart desires.

I posted before about open-faced breakfast sandwiches made with egg and salmon.
Still a favorite. 
But this time I knew what I had to do. And what I had to do was use prosciutto. 
1. Because I had some in the fridge (along with salami and capicola) 
2. Because, duh.

So what do you do when you have 3 kinds of Italian meats in the house?
Make an Italian breakfast sandwich, obvs.

Open-Faced Italian Breakfast Sandwiches

Here's what ya need:
1 loaf of bakery style Italian bread. Go on and get the good stuff. I got rosemary and olive oil from Fresh Market.
Red Onion
Buffalo Mozzarella
Italian meats- Use whatever you like. I used prosciutto, salami, and capicola because, meat.
Salt and Pepper, and a little bit of olive oil.

And here's what ya do:
1. Using a bread knife, cut yourself a few thick slices of bread. (I didn't use the end piece.) You'll need a slice for each sandwich. In my case, three. Slice the mozzarella, tomato, and onion. 

Note: Why don't you cut up those ends of bread into chunks, toss them with oil, and toast them at 350 for 5- 10 minutes to make some croutons? 

2. Drizzle the sliced bread with a little bit of oil (I used roasted garlic olive oil), and grill using a grill pan until slightly charred. About 3-5 minutes per side over medium heat. Check them as you go, flipping as needed.

3. While the bread grills, cook an egg for each sandwich, sunny side up. About half way through cooking, sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

4. When the eggs are finished, all you have to do is layer everything.
I went:

Make yourself a cup of coffee Bloody Mary and toast to your awesomeness while you soak in what it feels like to finally have your shit together.

Today, anyway. 

(1 slice of bread and 1 egg for each sandwich, and these serve as many people as you want.)

11 February 2014

Dishes with Dee: Baked Avocado with Chicken

So you know I've been busy when my blog posts come to a screeching halt.
Lately, I've had so much going on that I have barely had time to cook, let alone write about it.

Guys, blogging for a hobby is so much harder to keep up with than blogging for a job.
(Cue tiny violin)
Sometimes I get home and there is a sofa there.
And I can't even.
But, I cook and you all like to hear about it (I think) so here I am.

I've posted before about some go to meals for week nights when you are in a rush, like my kimchi and fried egg or chicken tostadas made with rotisserie chicken.

It is my firm belief, that while I love to spend hours in the kitchen sometimes, having some awesome recipes that get you in and out of there is crucial to your sanity.
Especially on weeknights. When you have to work out. And go to a charity meeting. And dog training. And it's Wine Wednesday (yes, its important).
Kitchen time takes a backseat to Wine Wednesday, amiright?

So adding to our growing collection, I offer you baked avocado with chicken. In fact, when you know you have a busy week, make one of these the day after the chicken tostadas so you can use left over rotisserie chicken.  Perfect for a super fast, tasty dinner on those nights where you want something healthy, but ohmigawd, everyone is going to at the wine bar in 20 minutes! skjfhauhvjd

Baked Avocados with Chicken

Here's what ya need:
1 just ripe avocado- halved and pitted
Shredded chicken
1 tomato diced
Shredded pecorino ramano
1/4 a shallot- sliced.
Salt and Pepper.

And here's what ya do:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Season avocado with salt and pepper, layer on chicken, tomato, cheese, and top with shallots.
Place in a baking dish and bake for about 10 minutes.
Literally, that's it.

Here it is in photos, y'all:

I make these all the time when I'm in a hurry. I have snap wear that is the perfect size for baking just a half for a quick pre-workout snack too.

Have this for dinner and get all your other "I totally have this adult thing down to a science" stuff done too.
Go on, super woman.

07 February 2014

Dishes with Dee: Quinoa and Steak Lettuce Wraps with Mango Salsa

I bet you thought we broke up, huh?
Don't worry, we didn't.

Big changes going on in CincyDee's world y'all.
I've been super busy moving and a few other things.
I'll tell y'all about it very soon.

But, I know that you are really just interested in the food right now.
I mean, looking back I have probably given you 2 or 3 recipes in like 2 months.
No good, y'all.

So I rarely eat beef. I don't know why exactly, because I like it, but I just don't like is as much as my other choices.
I mean, I will choose sushi over a steak dinner every time. Every. Damn. Time.
I just prefer fish.

Every now and again though I get a craving for some steak.
Now, we could go all steak house style and get pretty unhealthy with this.
Buttery mashed potatoes with heavy cream, burgundy mushrooms, roasted asparagus with bacon.
Believe me, I've made that meal.
And it is delicious. Add a stick of butter to wet cardboard and it will be delicious too.
But there are ways to have steak and not require a quadruple bypass.

Protein packed quinoa, a citrus and sweet salsa and some bibb lettuce make for a dinner that doesn't totally undo your entire week of salads and workouts.

Quinoa and Steak Lettuce Wraps with Mango Salsa

Here's what ya need:
1 mango- cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tomato- seeded and diced
about 1/4 a red onion- diced
1 jalapeno- seeded and diced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
about 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (plus more for topping)
1/2 c. uncooked quinoa
1 c. chicken broth
1- 1 1/2 lb flank steak
2 tbsp tamari sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 garlic clove- minced
salt and pepper
1 bunch living bibb lettuce

And here's what ya do:

In a gallon size freezer bag, combine ginger, garlic, and tamari sauce.
Lightly season steak with salt and pepper and place in bag.
Close and massage to coat steak in marinade.
Let it sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients and mix well.
Set aside.
Salsa's done, babe.

If you have never worked with a mango before, here is a great video from Martha Stewart on how to cut one up.

How to cut a mango

Cook quinoa in chicken broth according to package directions. If you make your own chicken broth ever, I definitely recommend using it for this! I did, and it was amazing.

Finally, cook your steak.
Remove it from the fridge about 10 minutes before you plan to cook it, so right before you start the quinoa.
Cook over medium-high heat in a grill pan until desired temperature.
Flank steak tastes the best at medium-rare, so about 4-6 minutes per side will work.
Note: the trick with steak is to only turn the meat once. Be patient, and let each side cook.
Turning too many times creates and searing effect and will cause the steak to cook very slowly.

Once cooked, let rest for about 10 minutes and thinly slice. Against the grain of course!

I do these DIY style, so I'll set everything out on the table and let each person make their own.
Just simply layer the quinoa and steak on a piece of lettuce and top with salsa!

These will serve 2-4 people, so call up some friends and cook 'em dinner!

Also, they're messy, so get the napkins ready and be prepared to have someone tell you that you have quinoa stuck to your cheek.

10 January 2014

Get Moving: Girls and their shoes.

Let's talk about fitness goals.
You've got all this awesome stuff going on lately.
You're trying to make the right choices in the kitchen.
You've been doing the 30 day challenges.  You keep doing them even when your arms are like jello.
So. Many. Push-ups.
You're getting out there, getting active, and seeing results.

Like many people, my goals have started evolving as I'm getting further into fitness routines and taking care of my over all health.

Don't worry, babes.  I'm not going to tell you about New Year's resolutions.
Frankly, I don't get them.
Just get up and do what you want to do.  You don't need a whole new year to start going after your goals, just to get your butt to the gym or start saving, or whatever it is you want to do.

But, I am going to talk about how things are changing for me.
What I want to get out of my workouts is different than it was six months ago.

Six months ago I wanted to get "toned".
I wanted a workout that wasn't too hard on my body.
Honestly, I wanted something that wasn't too challenging.
Something I knew I could do.

So, I signed up for 6 months at Pure Barre.
The workout I know and love.
Don't misunderstand me here, I think Pure Barre is a great workout if it lines up with your goals.
But, as time goes by, it just doesn't work for me anymore.

Now, I want to be strong.
I want to be fast.
I want to surprise people.

Being little, people always assume that I can't do things.
I want to prove them wrong.

So the first step for me was to challenge myself, and pick a high-intensity workout that pushes me to the limit.
I'm getting out of my comfort zone, and doing something I've never done before.
And I'm doing it alone.

Starting in February I'll be taking boxing classes at The Punch House, and I can't wait.
I'll definitely be sure and let you guys know how it goes.
It's guaranteed to be an adventure.

But before that, you guys:

I cannot even begin to tell you how badly I need new shoes.

My athletic shoes are terrible.

First of all, they're 5 years (at least) old.

Secondly, the heel cup on my right shoe is all smashed in.

Thirdly, I'm fairly certain they don't actually fit.

This is a real tragedy, you guys.  I sold fancy orthopedic shoes for five years in high school and college.  I should own the proper athletic shoes.
It's a disgrace.

So I started doing some research on it.  And by research I mean I asked a certain CrossFit guy what he recommends.  I want something that I can use for running but will also work well when I start boxing.

We landed on the Reebok Crossfit Nano Speed.

They're multi-purpose, light-weight, and durable.

But really, ugh, the colors.
They aren't the best.

But we're in luck!
You can design your own!

All the colors, girl.
I've gone a little freaking crazy with it and have 16 designs so far ( ! ) but here are some of my faves:

Mostly, I think the rainbow ones are obnoxious, and that's why I like them.
What do y'all think?

Oh, go ahead and design your own here.

Have fun, and let me know all about your favorite designs.

06 January 2014

Dishes with Dee: Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Carrots

So, little did you know, we live in the arctic.
-2 degrees, you guys.
Negative 2.

Talk about needing a meal that is hearty and will warm you up.
Something satisfying that doesn't undo all your hard work in the health department?
Girl, what you know about roasted vegetables?

I love roasted root vegetables the most. They develop a sweet flavor when roasted and just remind me of this time of year.
In an "I'm cuddled up under a big blanket with a roaring fire going" kind of way, not an "I had to brace my foot on the side of my car this morning to yank my driver-side door open because it was frozen shut" kind of way.

Pair roasted carrots and a pork tenderloin with my go-to quick arugula salad and you've got a balanced meal that will totally make you forget what it's like outside right now.

This recipe needs very few ingredients and involves very little work.  Perfect for week nights.
Keep in mind, you can buy pork already seasoned, or you can season it yourself.  If you are planning to season yourself, you'll want to do that the night before.  It needs to set anywhere from 4-24 hours before cooking.

Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Carrots  

So here's what ya need:
1 1/2-2 lb pork tenderloin- You can find them already marinated by your butcher or prepackaged. If you want to save time, go this route, but remember- read the ingredients to make sure you're keeping it healthy
1 medium bunch carrots
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper

I posed about the arugula salad here. It has become my standard side salad because it is super fast, easy, and delicious.

For the salad:
Here's what ya need:
4 c. arugula
About 1/2 c baby bellas- sliced
About 1/2 shallot- thinly sliced
1/4 c Parmesan
2 tbsp roasted garlic olive oil
1 1/2- 2 tsp champagne vinegar
Juice of  remaining 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper.

If you plan to season the pork yourself, you'll need:
4 additional garlic cloves
2 tbsp of peppercorns
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil- Roasted garlic flavor if you have it
A dash of salt

And here's what ya do:

If you're going to season the pork yourself:
Combine the garlic and sage and mash using a mortar ad pestle if you have one.  (If not, just use a medium bowl and the back of a spoon).  Add in your peppercorns and crush coarsely. Stir in oil and salt until combined.
Rub onto pork tenderloin and tightly cover with plastic wrap.  Let sit in the refrigerator over night or at least for 4 hours and bring out about 30 minutes before you're planning to cook it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook the pork on all sides for about 2 minutes each side. It should be lightly browned.
Transfer to a pan and bake for about 20 minutes.  You want the temperature of the pork to be about 150 degrees when you remove it from the oven.  Let rest about 10 minutes.
It's important, you'll recall, don't skip it!

While the pork is in the oven, trim the green tops off your carrots, and wash.

Halve carrots length wise and put on a baking sheet with the garlic cloves- peeled and whole.
Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until carrots can be easily pierced with a fork.
Remove from oven and squeeze over with the juice of 1/2 a lemon.

While the carrots cook, prepare your salad:

Combine the last 4 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk.
Add arugula- you know by now to hand toss.
Add mushrooms, shallots, and cheese.

Once your pork has rested for 10 minutes, slice into about 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Plate everything and serve.

Don't you just feel all warm inside now?

A few notes:
If you needed to go the simple route and bought your pork already seasoned, simply cook it according to the instructions from your butcher or on the package.  My only note is that you actually want it to be about 5 degrees lower in temperature than what is recommended.  The temp will rise while it is resting, and pork should be slightly pink.  It has a tendency to dry out quickly, so be careful not to over cook.

Seasoning the pork yourself comes from this recipe.

You could serve 2-4 people on these numbers.
Bonus: about 22g of protein in 3 oz. of pork!