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!

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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 : 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 : 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 : grilled raspberry balsamic chicken over roasted asparagus and pecan pilaf

So, I kind of cheated this week…again. But whatever, at least this one didn’t start out frozen.

Technically, these meals are supposed to be derived from recipes pulled from the endless stream of blog posts and magazines I hoard, but this recipe came straight from the aisles of Wegmans.

And I have no remorse about said circumstances because it turned out to be a darn good, though perhaps long-winded, meal.

The idea came from these places:

1. Wegmans is giving out samples of asparagus! I like asparagus. I’ve never purchased and/or cooked asparagus.
2. Asparagus = spring.
3. Chicken sounds good.
4. Oh my word what if I marinated the chicken in that dressing again??? That’s such a good idea!
5. Do I want to put it over a brown rice pilaf?
6. Do I want to put it over a roasted vegetable pilaf?
7. Do I want to put it over a wild rice and quinoa mix?
8. Do I want to put it over a brown rice pilaf?
9. Wait, did I already look at that one?
10. How long have I been standing in this aisle?
11. HEY! Pecan!
12. Man, I’ve been here for awhile.

And behold, a recipe was born.

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken over Roasted Asparagus and Pecan Pilaf

Or: Holy Goodness That Title Is Long

Ingredients:

Directions:

I’m so bad at this part. Here’s my best effort. Or an effort:

1. Marinate the chicken in the dressing for at least an hour. How much dressing, you ask? Oh, you know, that much. Enough to cover it well.

2. While the chicken is marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

3. Start the rice. Read the box. And then proceed as directed.

4. Put the asparagus in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender but not too tender.

5. When you have about 10 minutes of cooking time left, start grilling the chicken. Depending on the size of your cut it should only take 3-5 minutes per side to grill well.

6. Assemble: scoop of rice, a few stalks of asparagus, a few pieces of chicken.

7. Drizzle a little extra dressing on top.

8. Devour.

Rating:

4/5. I really, really, LOVE this meal – it’s 110% spring! Next time I’m adding goat cheese because I have issues and I’ll add goat cheese to basically anything. I think I’m also going to start adding this dressing to everything because oh my word…it’s so amazing. But overall: winner, winner, chicken dinner!

staying hungry : kashi steamed sesame chicken

[This is another fake post coming to you pre-trip as I am currently south of the Mason Dixon Line and loving every minute, I’m sure. Enjoy this post for now, more details to come next week!]

The time has come.

The time when I’m going to feature a frozen dinner as a Dinner Challenge post.

I’m sure y’all have never been prouder.

I’m also sure I’ve never said y’all in an actual conversation before but I’m preparing to go south for a few days so I’m trying to assimilate early.

But really…if I’m going to feature a frozen dinner on behalf of time/travel constraints…this would be the one to feature.

IMG_2876

This dinner is from Kashi’s new steamed entree line. I also tried the Chicken Farfalle, which was almost as good as the Sesame Chicken…but I REALLY LOVED the Sesame Chicken, so let’s not be too hard on the Chicken Farfelle. It was up against stiff competition.

Kashi Sesame Chicken

Ingredients:

One Kashi Sesame Chicken Steam Meal

Bed of greens of your choice (arugula, spinach, chopped lettuce, etc)

Directions:

Microwave the steam meal according to the package directions. Once cooked and slightly cooled, add to a bed of greens.

(Oh, yes. That “recipe” just happened. To anyone who felt less than confident about whatever recipe you are posting today, hopefully you can feel confirmed by this post that it’s actually better than you thought it was.)

Rating: 4/5. Although I prefer to make real food, this is about as good as microwaved meals get. Definitely worthwhile when you are in a pinch!

staying hungry : tuna, white bean, and beet salad with dijon viniagrette

For the love of all that is the Weekly Dinner Challenge…

We finally have a rave-worthy meal around here!!!

Now, it may not look like much, but this salad packs an AMAZING punch. It’s from the hallowed pages of Everyday Food, a sure source of winning recipes every time.

This recipe is from the May 2012 edition. Here’s the original ingredient list:

Tuna, Chickpea, and Beet Salad

Ingredients:

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cans light tuna

1 head romaine lettuce (I used a bag of spinach and arugula)

3 cups baby spinach (I used an arugula field mix…because I’m an addict)

1 package cooked beets (8 oz)

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (15.5 oz) (I used white beans instead)

Directions:

Here are my I’m-too-lazy-to-wash-multiple-bowls directions: Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, and olive oil in a medium bowl. Add in the flaked tuna, chopped beets, and beans. Toss to coat. Add equal portions on top of salad mix to each bowl.

Apparently my kitchen motto is “Less is more.” Only when it pertains to dishes. Not when it pertains to chocolate.

Rating: 4.5/5. This salad is going to be a lunch staple this spring/summer. Light but filling and packed with protein…and the dressing just takes it over the top! THANK YOU, Everyday Food, for redeeming these Challenge posts!