Getting Back to Home Cooked Meals

One or my goals for the year was to keep up with cooking dinner twice a week.  Needless to say with 5 weeks of travel and Ryan gone for 6 weeks before that, this goal has taken a back seat.  Now that I am back home and Ryan is here, I felt ready to recommit to this goal.  Ok, I'll admit, or rather confess, I know this goal will not be met for all weeks left in the year because I still have 4 more weeks of travel planned in 2012.  However, I can say that for the weeks when we are both home, I will be working very hard at cooking dinner for us twice weekly.

When I first made this a goal it was because I wanted to make sure I had the skills down prepare nutritious home cooked meals even with my very busy schedule.  This is important to me because when we do start a family I want to be able to provide meals for my whole family that doesn't rely on convenience or fast foods (we don't really do a lot of fast food, but we do eat out often, especially living overseas).  Being realistic, I set my goal at 2 nights each week.  This doesn't mean we don't cook at home more often, just that 2 nights during the week I take care of the meal planning, prep and cooking myself.  Other times Ryan and I cook together, or he may cook the meal himself.

To kick this "back to home cooked meals" adventure off, I looked to my new Pampered Chef goodies, which were delivered when I returned home from Europe.

There are tons of great recipes in this cookbook, so I was more than happy to pick one and give it a try. My choice? Chickpea and vegetable curry!
I made sure to select something that I knew would require me to use my new chopper.  I'll admit to trying the Slap Chop, but not surprisingly, it didn't work that well.  This one from Pampered Chef is absolutely amazing.
Within seconds I had finely chopped onions.
Olive oil?  No problem!  I brought 2 bottles of good quality olive oil home with me and I was ready to use it.  This one was actually free from the conference expo.
The recipe called for 3 cans of chickpeas, but I knew this was way more than we needed for 2 people, so I used 2 cans and figured we could have leftovers.
The recipe called for lite coconut milk.  Well the commissary didn't have that, so I improvised and used 1 can instead of the 2 the recipe called for, and then I added a little water.
Yum!  Curry powder...check! To this I added cauliflower and peas.  The recipe also called for a sweet potato but somehow this was not written on my list and so I didn't get one at the store.  It's ok because this turned out perfectly without it.
I made basmati rice in the rice cooker to serve with my curry.
Perfect!  This was so good that we immediately placed this on the list of things that we need to make again.  Plus, it made amazing lunches for the rest of the week.
The very next day I decided to experiment with a recipe I had been thinking about for a few months.  I wanted to make sure we were both home when I made this.  I wanted to try the basic black bottom recipe, but swap out the chocolate chips and replace with cherry pie filling.  I was glad to find that the commissary carries a reduced calorie pie filling product.

Never heard of a black bottom?  It's a chocolate cupcake bottom with a chocolate chip cheesecake on top.  So my variation was to make a chocolate cherry cheesecake cupcake.
First up I made the cream cheese filling.
Then I worked on my chocolate cupcake base.
The chocolate goes in first, and then I added the cream cheese.
Then I dropped in a little pie filling and baked according to the recipe for black bottoms.
Oh wow!  Ok, a little messy.  I may have overfilled them just a little.
Looks good to me.
For the next batch I tried another method to avoid a big mess.  I placed the pie filling inside and then the cream cheese on top.  
This batch I sent to work with Ryan.  I also feel good about feeding our troops!  Anytime I have too much food, I know I can send it to work with Ryan and the guys (and girls) will eat it all.  Nothing goes to waste this way.

Later that week I made something from this wonderful cookbook.  Look closely if you haven't seen this before on my blog.
I am a fan of the built in portion control with using the muffin tins to create each of these recipes.  I picked the salmon cups with a yogurt dill sauce.  To up the fiber, I subbed in brown rice.
The first step was to cook the rice with zucchini.
Then I added in the salmon coated in greek yogurt with dill.
They continued to bake according to the directions, and before I knew it these salmon cups were ready to be enjoyed.  Yum!
By the time the next week rolled around I realized I had some left over zucchinis, but no real plan for them and they were going to go bad.  Solution: Chocolate zucchini bread.

I had all the ingredients necessary, so I got started.
Looks like a nice batter.
After this was mixed up it was time to get the zucchini ready and add it to the batter.
Needless to say this recipe made 2 loaves, so I knew this was going to be too much for just me and Ryan to enjoy.  
Solution:  I sent one to work with Ryan.  They loved it!  I was so glad to know that both the cupcakes and the zucchini bread were hits with Ryan's coworkers.  Not to mention this was also a huge hit in our own home.  This was the first time Ryan had tried chocolate zucchini bread, and he said it was great.  I guess I'll be making this again too.
Afterwards it was time for me to get started on cooking another meal.  I have a stack of Cooking Light magazines piling up, so I knew I needed to start making some of these recipes too.  This picture on the cover did the trick and I knew that tacos were in order.
I went with the Cumin Tilapia Tacos.  I had bought the whole cumin seeds that this recipe called for, but then changed my mind because I wasn't able to grind them in a coffee grinder.  So plan B was to use powdered cumin.  Only problem was that when I went to pull it out of the cabinet it was no where to be found.  Plan C? I toasted the whole seeds as the recipe called for, and then went old school and ground the seeds myself using a mortar and pestle.  Let me tell you this was not the easiest thing to do, but in time, I ground up the toasted seeds.
The spice blend was mixed with garlic and then rubbed on the fish.
In the meantime I worked to prep a mango salsa to top the tacos.
I am not a fan of cilantro, so I passed on this.  I know Ryan would have liked it, but I have some allergies to herbs and therefore I am just not a fan.  But the mango and red onion with lime juice worked well anyway.
Before I knew it the fish was ready.  It smelled so wonderful.  I am a huge fan of cumin.
The final touch was slicing some avocado.
All I can say is WOW!  Ryan and I both really enjoyed these.  Yes, this is added to the "make again" pile.  They were so good.  I actually was surprised by how well these turned out.
QUESTIONS:  How often do you plan and cook dinner each week?  Where do you get your meal ideas?  Do you send food to work with your significant other to share with coworkers?


Special K said...

When I am at home, I cook for myself 6 nights out of 7....

hey, those salmon cups look great. Do they HOLD up okay (meaning after you take them out do they hold their shape? Thinking of serving an appetizer with that rice bottom, with tomato, zuchinni and an eggplant creme on top and need an easy way to cook them all the same shape without using an egg.

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