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 creative : desperate fridge dinner winner

This week’s picture comes with a recipe! It’s a 2 for 1 deal!

So last night. Dinner. Go out? No. Smoothie bowl? Been there, done that, more times than I remember…this week. Something healthy? And easy? And using up old groceries? YES.

I had frozen salmon in the freezer and quinoa in the pantry. The spinach and arugula expired a few days ago but what’s in a stamped date? Everything else was added on the fly.

Winner, winner, desperate fridge dinner!

Ingredients:

Spinach and Arugula salad base

For the quinoa:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa dry, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sliced scallions (about 2 Tbsp)
  • fresh parsley (about 2 Tbsp)
  • fresh ground garlic salt to taste

For the salmon:

  • 4 oz. salmon filet
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Boil the quinoa until water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. When just a little water remains, turn the heat off and let sit, covered, for another 5 minutes or so. Fluff with fork and add remaining ingredients.

While the quinoa is boiling, whisk together the maple syrup, mustard, and vinegar for the salmon glaze. Coat a grill pan with non-stick spray and heat to medium-high before adding the salmon. Cook each side for 4-6 minutes, adding glaze as you flip.

Make a bed with the salad, add the quinoa, and top with the salmon.

Healthy old groceries dinner in under 30 minutes.

As Nike would say, BOOM.

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 : 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 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!

staying hungry : ginger chicken with peaches

Another week, another dinner challenge that didn’t thrill me.

Man, I’ve hit a dry spell!

But I have high hopes for next week’s selection. Although I had high hopes for this one too…

In theory, this dinner rocks. In fact, I’m so sure of it that I’m absolutely convinced I did something wrong somewhere along the way because this really should have turned out much better than it did. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it this week? I’m not sure what the problem was, but one way or another it ended up being a bit of a flop.

Ginger Chicken with Peaches

from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:

1 bag (1lb) frozen peaches

1 red onion, halved and sliced 1/4″ inch thick

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, micro planed or finely minced

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

cooked brown or white rice

For the marinade:

1lb chicken breasts

salt & pepper

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, micro planed or finely minced

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions:

1. Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper. Combine ingredients for marinade in a large zip lock bag. Add chicken and marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place frozen peaches and onions in a large bowl then add ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and red-pepper flakes, and toss to coat. Pour into a non-stick sprayed 9×13 casserole dish. Nestle marinated chicken into the peaches and onions, and roast until chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.

Rating: 3/5. So much potential, but for some reason it just wasn’t my favorite. Bummer!

good things : necessity

First things first, I may have worked all day and night yesterday, but I still had a pretty wonderful birthday:

Thank you so much, everyone! You all make my life a wonderful place to live.

In other news:

IMG_2456

If necessity is the mother of invention, I’m certainly glad she parented this dinner.

Necessity = making a meal on a limited pantry over the weekend because I hadn’t been grocery shopping in 2 weeks and didn’t want to face the all-consuming decision that is ordering out so I opted for making something at home instead. Which ended up being farro tossed in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and basil on a bed of mixed arugula topped with goat cheese.

Not a bad dinner, all things considered! It’s definitely a keeper!

I didn’t know I had it in me (or my kitchen).

Necessity: 1, Pantry Famine: 0.

staying hungry : penne with turkey ragu

Picture of Penne With Turkey Ragu Recipe

(Um, totally did NOT take this picture : image credit)

Apparently I’m all about achieving new lows with the dinner challenge so far this month. I mean…I didn’t even take a picture of this week’s meal! Tragic, I tell you.

But really…it wasn’t really anything to write home about. My mom and I whipped this up one night for dinner while I was home last week from Food Network’s Light Issue. And while most recipes from Food Network are winners, this one was just so-so. It was good, not great.

Penne with Turkey Ragu

from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces ground turkey
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for topping
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus the rind (optional)
  • 12 ounces penne
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half

Directions:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic and turkey and cook, stirring, until the turkey browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add half of the basil and the parmesan rind and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Stir the half-and-half, the remaining basil and 2 tablespoons cheese into the sauce. Add the pasta and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if needed. Remove the parmesan rind and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon cheese and more basil.

Rating: 2.5/5. A good meal on a good night, but not a keeper. (Sorry, Food Network. I still love you!)