staying hungry : mango tilapia with watermelon feta salad

Let’s cut to the chase here:

You can probably skip the mango tilapia. It’s just parchment-paper baked tilapia with a dollop of mango butter, some parsley and scallions, and a few spices. Good in theory, not terribly exciting in reality.

What is terribly exciting, though, is the salad that accompanies it.

Oh my word. I honestly don’t want to eat anything else for the rest of the summer except for this salad.

I take that back. It’s almost nectarine season. And, hello, we’re right smack dab in the peak of ice cream season.

So, basically, I’ll be eating nectarines and ice cream and watermelon feta salad until the leaves start to change.

Amen.

The journey to this salad began with this pin, which I found in, like, January.

Tabbouleh with Watermelon: Watermelon replaces the traditional tomato in this Middle Eastern salad, giving it bursts of sweetness. Goat cheese, another new add-in, provides creamy contrast, Wholeliving.com #healthylunches

pinned here via here

Having to wait a whole 6 months for it to be seasonably appropriate to make was cruel and unusual punishment.

I made a mental note to make it as soon as the temperature rose above freezing (so, yesterday), and had intended to make it sometime in the next few weeks, but luckily Annie of Annie Eats was kind enough to take this salad to a new level of supremacy. When she posted a recipe last week using quinoa instead of barley I had no choice but to make it immediately if not sooner.

I made it as a side to the fish…but it totally stole the show. So much so that I made a big batch it all by itself for dinner one night this week.

People: make this. Immediately if not sooner.

Quinoa Salad with Watermelon and Feta

slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats

Serves 4 (hypothetically…)

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

For the dressing:
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. freshly lemon juice
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 cup watermelon, diced
3-4 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
3-4 tbsp. sliced scallions
Lemon zest, to taste

Directions:

Rinse and boil the quinoa (add about 1 and 1/2 cups water to quinoa and simmer for about 15 minutes, letting sit, covered, for 5 additional minutes to soak up remaining water). Whisk together the dressing and chop salad ingredients while the quinoa is boiling. I like to fluff the quinoa with a fork, add the dressing to the quinoa (once cooled slightly), and then add the salad ingredients to the quinoa. It’s best when served chilled.

Rating: 4.5/5. A small deduction for the fact that it’s only a summer dish and I’ll spend 9 months pining for it once September comes. Other than that, this one’s a home run!

staying hungry : leftover pulled pork wraps

Yes, I’m serious.

Sometimes, dinner is a challenge. Some other times, lunch is also a challenge. These are the weeks when you find yourself eating yogurt and granola bars for lunch three days in a row because you failed to plan a vegetable situation. These are also the weeks when you find yourself taking leftover pork out of a takeout container, sticking it in a wrap, and calling it a recipe.

These weeks are this week.

That’s grammatically painful but realistically true.

This isn’t so much a Dinner Challenge meal as it is a Public Service Announcement, a plea to take your leftovers home after going out to eat even if you don’t think you’ll have enough for a meal. People, please. You can always make a meal out of leftovers!

Case in point: the above.

My general rule of thumb when I go out to eat for a substantial meal is to split everything on my plate in half with the plan to eat half then and take half home. It’s good for the waistline and for the budget.

So at Sticky Lips on Sunday I ate half of my sandwich and took the other half home. My mom also donated her leftover sandwich half because they were traveling for a few hours home and nothing says long car ride like eau de pulled pork.

I also ate half of the corn and fries. I didn’t heed my own advice to take them home because I thought they wouldn’t reheat well. Um, duh. They would have made a killer breakfast scramble.

Lesson of the day: always take home your leftovers.

Always.

Back to what I did take home: Monday dinner arrives and I have a takeout box with two half sandwiches inside my fridge. Good news! But rather than reheat both and call it a meal, I opted to switch things up a little bit. Since I don’t routinely consume restaurant-sized meals at home, I made it a little more my style by adding a generous side salad (spinach & arugula, blueberries, dried cherries, walnuts, goat cheese, balsamic) and applesauce…because it’s been sitting in my fridge for months and because who doesn’t love the combination of apple and pork?

The bun on the pulled pork had seen better days so I swapped it out for my favorite wrap and used some of the balsamic vinegar as extra sauce.

I think I might have enjoyed it even more the second time around!

And, by splitting up the leftovers like this, I got TWO meals instead of one! And if I had just taken home the corn and the fries I could have had three or probably four! (The time to let it go has already passed, but really…it frustrates me.)

Rating: 4/5. Lame? Yes. Delicious? Yes! I’ll deduct a point for level of difficulty and call it a darn good meal.

staying hungry : cake box cookies

Let me show you something that will make you want to hug me:

Let me tell you something that will make you want to rise up and call everything and everyone blessed:

There are 4 ingredients in these cookies…and one of them is boxed cake mix.

AND THEY ARE AMAZING!!!

I’m not even kidding. These rank among the best cookies I’ve ever had. They are perfectly textured – soft yet chewy – rich, and decadent. And they’re definitely the easiest I’ve ever made. I think I’m bringing a version of these to any and every social event I attend from now until eternity. Amen.

Thanks to Cookies and Cups (and Lovin’ from the Oven) for originally posting this recipe!

Cake Box Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix (I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate with Pudding)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • Mix-ins (I used the mini Reese’s because on Fridays I don’t have the patience to unwrap 30 bite size Reese’s)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Empty the cake mix into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and the oil (I skipped this step…don’t do that). Stir the wet mixture into the cake mix until just combined (it will be thicker than thick), then add in the Reese’s or add-in of your choice.

I made 12 big cookies and baked them for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through because my oven hails from earlier times (think covered wagons) and tends to heat unevenly (think Pisa).

IDEAS:

My brain is exploding with other ideas. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies! Vanilla Candy Bar Cookies! Marble Chocolate Chunk with Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cookies!

I think I might have to steal the corner market on cake box cookies because oh my word…I’m in love.

Happy baking! Let me know what you discover!

staying hungry : maple mustard (aka man pleasin’) chicken

People, we have a winner.

Over the past 6 months of the Dinner Challenge I’ve made some meals that were good. Parchment paper salmon and Beef and Tomato Stew come to mind. Some will stay starred and highlighted and exclamation pointed as keepers in my recipe binder – we’re talking Salsa Chicken and Chicken Stir Fry with Goat Cheese and Raspberries.

But even though we’re only half way through the year, I already know that this week’s meal is going to be my ultimate favorite. Because OH MY WORD…it’s the kind of meal that is going to appear on the table at least once a week month for the rest of my life.

And that meal is Maple Mustard Chicken. Or as the original recipe states, “Man Pleasin’ Chicken.”

Since I’m fresh out of men, I just tried it out myself. And let me tell you, it’s “Woman Pleasin’ ” too! There is no gender inequality where this dish is concerned.

But really, when I am not lacking a man, this is what I’ll feed him. All. The. Time.

Without further ado:

Maple Mustard Chicken

originally posted by Witty in the City

Ingredients:

  • About 1.5 lbs chicken breast tenders (the original recipe calls for thighs; I’m sure that would be great too but this is what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • fresh rosemary (DO NOT skip this! I debated cutting it because for some reason I have a hard time shelling out $1.99 for fresh herbs, but seriously, this flavor combination makes the meal, and I’m not even a huge fan of rosemary!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 and line a medium sized baking dish with aluminum foil. Whisk together the maple syrup, mustard, and vinegar. Add chicken strips to the marinade and toss to coat. Pour strips and marinade into your lined baking dish and arrange in a single layer. Bake at 450 for 40 minutes (or until fully cooked) and baste half way through. Rest for 5 minutes after cooking and serve with roughly chopped rosemary and a spoonful of sauce from the pan.

Then, pen a song of praise for this meal…and all chickens, everywhere. It’s going to happen.

Rating:

5/5. My life has changed for the better. Thank you, Man Pleasin’ Chicken (and Witty in the City!).

staying hungry : two protein-packed meals

As we chatted about on Tuesday, I’m currently channeling my inner body builder and doing P90x. Which means that protein is my new BFF.

I’ve been upping doses of the usual suspects: egg whites, greek yogurt, beans, and all things carnivorous, for starters. But these two meals have helped to mix things up a bit!

This bowl is kind of like a thick smoothie you can eat with a spoon. Which means it’s basically ice cream you can eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner. And who isn’t on board with that?! Here’s the basic rendition:

The Beginner Bowl:

  • 1 frozen banana, cut up into chunks
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • sliced fruit for toppings

This is so easy: put everything (minus the fruit) in the food processor and blend until smooth. Top with fruit and you’re good to go!

But really…if you want to have a good day…you want to make this one:

The Real Deal:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 Tbsp dark chocolate cocoa power (1 more gram of protein!)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (5 grams of protein!)
  • slice fruit for toppings

Same situation. Blend and enjoy!

Next on the list: quinoa! My lunch feels weird if there’s nothing green on my plate. I just really like vegetables, especially in the middle of the day. To up the protein quotient of my normal salad I made this savory quinoa to go along with it (if you’re feeling especially in need of protein you could add grilled chicken or fish, too!):

Lemon Balsamic Quinoa:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook your quinoa as per usual. Once cooked, fluffed with a fork, and slightly cooled, add in the balsamic, lemon juice, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to your salad and enjoy!

Do you guys have any suggestions for protein powerhouses? I’m always looking for new ideas! Shout ‘em out in the comments!

staying hungry : kashi mayan harvest bake

This is happening.

Hero

Behold: this week’s dinner challenge meal.

You know, going home for the weekend always throws me off my game when it comes to the weekly dinner challenge. Through every fault of my own, I jump right into the week without grocery shopping or planning and mostly make do with what I have in the fridge.

Luckily, Kashi came to my rescue yet again.

The Mayan Harvest Bake really was a lovely dinner! It was completely different from any meal – frozen or fresh! – I’ve ever had. Here are the details:

Plantains with roasted sweet potato, black beans and kale. Spicy ancho sauce with pumpkin seed garnish served over Kashi seven whole grain polenta, plus amaranth.

I would have taken a picture but I was too hungry and it was too good.

Which means you’ll just have to pick one up and try it for yourself!

Rating: 3.5/5 – Respectable stand-in for a real meal. Bonus points for creativity! Minus a few points for only 9 grams of protein (consider switching the amaranth out for quinoa, Kashi!)

staying hungry : favorite repeat! salsa chicken! and more!

I was a whirlwind of kitchen productivity on Sunday.

Two hours yielded a decent bounty. To the tune of:

1. Salsa Chicken

Yes, this is my dinner challenge meal this week. And yes, it’s totally a repeat. But I can’t help it! I’ve been wanting to make it again ever since I made it the first time in January!

2. Lunch Salads

I came home from the farmer’s market very enthusiastic about fresh greens. So I decided to make all of my salads for the week, because, you know, that’s not crazy. In the mix: Spinach, Arugula, Beets, Blueberries, Tuna, Sheep’s Milk Feta, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Apple Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette. It just works.

3. Raspberry Peach Iced Green Tea

This was such a happy accident. I started off making peach tea but didn’t have enough tea bags. So I thought I’d just throw some raspberry bags in and call it a day. But I didn’t have enough of those either. So in went two green tea bags just for the heck of it to complete the tea bag to water ratio. And of my goodness…a star was born. So good.

4. Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies

These guys need no introduction. Please make them soon. For your own sake.

I know some people don’t enjoy cooking, but I think for me it’s active therapy. Seriously. The combination of productivity and healthy food and creativity and Sunday sports and/or good music in the background…it’s like all of my favorite things in one place. Sunday afternoons in the kitchen fill my heart up and keep me sane.

Anyone else?

staying hungry : coconut tilapia with summer quinoa salad

It worked out well that this week’s dinner challenge meal was shelved for a week. It’s PERFECT for Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start to summer!

It’s one part real recipe, one part creative grocery aisle decision making.

Let’s start with the real recipe, this summer quinoa salad from Iowa Girl Eats!

Summer Quinoa Salad

mildly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 small red onion, minced
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled & diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (I omitted these because I forgot them!)
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off cob (I used 1 cup of canned corn)
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook the quinoa as per directions. In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients. After quinoa has cooled slightly add to the rest of the salad ingredients. Mix until combined.

Now, for the tipalia!

Coconut Tilapia

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 tilapia filets, about 4oz each
  • 4 tsp coconut oil
  • 4 handfuls cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Roll out a square of parchment paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon of coconut oil and a handful of cilantro.

Then pick up the sides and roll them down together until they form a seam on top of the fish and tuck the open ends underneath. Like this!

Then bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until fish is entirely cooked through.

Rating: 3/5. I liked this one! Very summery. I found out that I preferred the quinoa salad cold and the tilapia hot. But march to the beat of your own drum! Do what you like temperature wise, and enjoy!

staying hungry : grilled chicken salad

I blame Park Ave for this week’s dinner challenge meal.

I had a perfectly good meal planned for this week…and then I had Magnolia’s Strawberry Spinach Salad. And it was SO GOOD that it was all I could think about. And I was still planning on making my previously scheduled dinner challenge meal until F. Oliver’s changed my life. And then…it was a done deal. I had no choice but to go to Wegmans and put this week’s previously scheduled meal on hold for this beauty:

Oh my word…great decision.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Directions:

Start with 2 cups of spinach and arugula mix, then add sliced strawberries and grilled chicken. Sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Rating:

4/5. Perfect spring salad, definitely hit the spot after craving Magnolia’s fantastic rendition.

staying hungry : YouBars!

The amazing family I nanny for gave me the perfect present for my birthday…literally something that I’ve wanted to order for EVER…

YouBars!!!

As per their website, YouBars are “fresh, customized energy bars based on the belief that nobody else should decide what tastes good to us or what is good for our bodies.”

And this is what makes them so wonderfully different:

With You Bar®:

  • You choose the ingredients and the bar size.
  • You view the nutrition facts of your custom energy bar while you are creating it.
  • Your box of custom nutrition bars is hand made fresh-to-order and shipped to your door with a satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t love your custom protein bars, you’ll get a new box free of charge.
  • Your customized nutrition facts and your chosen protein bar name are printed on each individual protein bar package.
  • Friendly telephone customer support is available to answers questions and provide helpful recommendations.

YouBar has a bunch of popular bars to choose from, and they also make customizable trail mixes and protein shakes. But I think the beauty of the company is the build-a-bar service, which is what my gift certificate let me try!!!

People. This was a wonderful experience.

Ok, so, first of all, there are like a million ingredients to choose from. Give or take a few. But you get to choose a base, proteins, nuts, fruit, sweeteners, seasonings, grains, and super healthy infusions…basically everything you could ever ask for in an energy bar. What I loved most about the process was that they keep a running nutritional profile on the side so you always know what the nutritional content of your bar is based on the ingredients you’ve chosen. How helpful! I wish this were possible in my own kitchen when I’m making up recipes!

After an absurd amount of time and decision making…here’s what made the final cut in my YouBar

And here’s another thing I loved – after you order, you get a reordering code so that if you love your creation you can reorder the exact same concoction all over again!

And love my creation I did:

It may not be pretty, but it sure is good.

SO GOOD!

YouBar, you did not disappoint in the least. I will definitely be placing another order soon!!!