Monday, September 16, 2013

Oops, I did it again...

A couple of times a month I will be sharing my reviews of the new recipes we have been trying as part of our meal plan.  In an unprecedented event in the history of meal plans, ALL of these recipes were not only successfully executed - they also all tasted great!  Lots of winners to share with you.  I'll be back doing the same with a few more recipes at the end of the month, so keep checking back!  I also repin the pins for all of the recipes I try through Pinterest on my board "I Made This" so make sure you are following!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup - I have been searching for a good broccoli cheddar recipe that didn't use fake cheese or a Cream of Whatever soup as a base.  It's actually really hard.  Especially if you search specifically for a Bread Co. copycat recipe which appear to always feature a lot of processed ingredients (and something tells me Bread Co. isn't using Velveeta...maybe I'm wrong.)  So, when I saw this recipe, I vowed to make it immediately.  It looked super easy and super yummy.  I was right!  The only change I made to recipe was that I didn't notice that it called for whole milk, so instead I just used the 1% we had at home.  Didn't really seem to affect the recipe much, I probably just had to simmer it a little bit longer before it thickened.  I knew that we weren't really the puree types (plus, though I love to use it, I despite cleaning out my food processor) so I just mashed up the broccoli a bit after the soup was done and the broccoli was all soft and delicious.  Definitely a winner.  I think it was maybe just a bit bland, so perhaps next time I'll add a bit of garlic or even a little bit more onion.  I was also impressed by how quickly it all came together.  The perfect weeknight meal!  Who knew?

Cilantro Lime Pasta Salad with Chicken - Oh.  My. WOW.  My cousin posted this recipe saying she had fed it to her family and that they really enjoyed it.  As an afterthought, I went and pinned it thinking it would make a nice summer recipe and then promptly forgot about it.  BIG MISTAKE.  If I would have known, we would have eaten this every.single.night.  WOW.  Besides having a lot prep work (my mise en place took FOREVER), it is quite possibly the best recipe ever.  We made only two changes to fit our tastes: subbed another avocado for the mango (not big on mixing the sweet and the savory) and we added a bit more seasoning to the chicken (it only calls for salt and pepper).  My husband grilled it up outside (while I was busy cutting up ALL THE THINGS).  Everything about this recipe made us so happy.  I had two huge servings and I'm not even sorry.  (It's actually pretty low on calories and packs a TON yummy nutrients, so WIN WIN.  I should have had THREE servings.)  I also feel this recipe could be amazingly adaptable.  Throw in more veggies or different ones than you see here.  Omit the meat if you're so inclined.  I was a bit concerned about the spicy factor with both cayenne pepper and jalapeno, but it actually was the perfect level of heat, but you could probably let go of one or the other to take out a little more spicy just in case.  (I would leave one otherwise I could see this going from amazing to bland in about 30 seconds.)

Baked Artichoke Chicken - This was a surprisingly easy meal to put together and make for as sophisticated as it looks (and tastes!)  We're still trying to figure out our oven in this house so sometimes our cook times are a little longer than we expect.  This chicken took longer in the oven than stated on the recipe at 350 (and then boosted to 375 when I realized halfway through that it was still pretty much raw.)  I also used boneless/skinless chicken thighs for mine and I would really like to try it sometime with a whole chicken (I just get a little skeeved when cleaning them, so it isn't worth the battle on a week night.)  I wouldn't say it is something I will necessarily be jonesing for again any time soon, but it was definitely a success.  I found the flavor profile to be really interesting and we both really enjoyed the briny-ness of the artichoke paired with the richness of the chicken.  I omitted the tarragon simply because I had none, but I'm not sure I'd even know it if it was in there.  We served this with cous cous and steamed asparagus.

Pizza Soup - Sigh.  As predicted this was hugely popular with my husband although for me it was just okay.  I mean, I actually spent most of my life only tolerating pizza to begin with, so I don't know why I thought I would like it in soup form.  Oh well...  I did all of my chopping for my vegetables and browned the sausage the night before we were serving it and stored it all in the refrigerator so that I could just throw it together in the morning.  That will help you a lot since this really is a meal that can be thrown in the crock pot in the morning and will be ready when you get home. (I just want to HUG the people who come up with recipes like that.)  We also added one bay leaf to the crock pot, it is our favorite ingredient when making any sort of red sauce.  It makes an otherwise boring sauce have SUCH an interesting flavor profile.  Definitely check that out.  I would also recommend that if you are using pork sausage that you skim the grease off the top of the soup before serving it.  Oh, and tempting as it may be - take it easy on the mozzarella.  Though it adds to the overall pizza-ness of the dish, it gets all clumped up and doesn't really work the way it is supposed to if you get too much.  (Learned that the hard way.)  A little sprinkle is enough.

Cacio e pepe - I've been looking for awhile for a nice, simple, AUTHENTIC cacio e pepe recipe.  For those who do not speak Italian (myself included), "cacio e pepe" means "cheese and pepper" which is all this side dish really consists of: spaghetti noodles (we used whole wheat), freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground pepper (and maybe a tiny bit of salt.)  That's.  It.  Unfortunately, you'll find lots of recipes for it that involve more than these simple ingredients and they're RUINING IT.  What makes cacio e pepe so great is that it is so so so simple.  This is the perfect recipe for that.  Creating the correct cacio e pepe recipe is an art (one that I have far from mastered), but if you follow the link above, they give a lot of great tips for how to make a nice creamy sauce.  The recipe (which gives its measurements in metric - how's THAT for authentic) calls for about 14 ounces of spaghetti and 8 ounces of cheese (thank you conversion calculator.)  I just cut it in half to feed my family of 3 (and my husband had seconds and we still had plenty of leftovers.)

Grilled Street Corn Salad with Cilantro Butter Shrimp - Oops.  So, here's the thing (and the inspiration for the title of this post.)  When I wrote about making meal plans, I mentioned that flexibility was at the utmost importance.  Evidently, being realistic is of equal importance.  Because when I looked at my meal plan for the week of September 8-14, I was like "Who does this chick think she is?"  We had a lot of complicated meal planned for one week PLUS some of them (such as this one which features FOUR different components) was planned for a weeknight and I just don't see that happening.  (I tend to do this sometimes.  I have so many yummy recipes I want to try that I overextend myself without really realizing it until it is too late.)  Instead, I made this recipe for Shrimp and Guacamole Tostadas that we have had a million times and LOVE.  They were delicious (as always.)


Did anyone try any new recipes this month?  Let me know how they turned out.  I am ALWAYS looking for new things to try - look at how well it has been going for us!


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