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Posts Tagged ‘30-Minute Meals’

Jared and I had dinner at our sister and brother-in-law’s place this week (corned beef and cabbage for an early St. Patty’s day celebration – yum!). My sis Jessica was telling me all about her adventures learning to cook since she got married this past August. When Jared and I got married four years ago (next week!) I didn’t really know how to cook other than the typical choices of baked chicken and mashed potatoes, spaghetti, stir-fry, etc. I slowly learned what flavors tasted good together and how to multitask in the kitchen.

My love for all things culinary dates back to my childhood, however. I can remember being in elementary school and conducting my own “cooking shows” in our kitchen – I would mix together a ridiculous combination of spices and liquids in a large bowl, all while carefully narrating my steps to my “audience.” (Thank goodness no one ever ate it!) I also used to love watching Great Chefs and being mesmerized to see different courses from around the world made right in my living room.

I don’t even need to mention Rachael Ray and 30-Minute Meals. I used to watch her almost every weeknight in high school. Her cookbook was one of the first I ever received 🙂 I still watch her show sometimes while I’m cooking – even if I’m not making the same dish she is.

In 2006, I was cast in my church‘s production of Godspell. I had a great time singing, dancing, and performing again. When it was over, however, I was bored! I had been so used to being busy that I needed an activity to fill my time. Ever since, I’ve renewed my love for cooking. I go through phrases where I cook more or cook less, but I always have found it to be a stress reliever. And I love experimenting with new ingredients and flavors.

I’m not sure where the journey will end. Maybe I’ll go to culinary school. Maybe I’ll own a restaurant. Maybe Jared and I will drop everything and move to Paris and eat and drink for a living a la Julia Child. Whatever it is, I’m enjoying learning along the way.

One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it can’t be fixed. (Julia Child, My Life in France)

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I recently mentioned my new love for the often-ignored vegetables, fennel and leeks. The recipes I told you to try are not posted online, so I wanted to write them here. My favorite out of all three is the orzo with steak.

Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works

(p. 252, 365: No Repeats; makes 4 servings)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. skirt steak (I just used regular steak from Costco)
  • 3 tbs. balsamic vinegar (eyeball it)
  • 2 tbs. EVOO, plus some for drizzling
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 lb. orzo
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (a couple of pinches)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (I actually didn’t have any, and it still tasted great!)
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a couple of generous handfuls), chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (a couple of overflowing handfuls)

Coat the skirt steak in balsamic vinegar, a good drizzle of EVOO, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper and marinate in a nonreactive dish for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor grill or ridged grill pan to high.

Bring a large sauce pot of water to a boil to cook the orzo. Once boiling, salt the water and add the orzo. Cook until al dente, with a bite to it, about 12 minutes.

While the water is coming up to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 2 tbs. of EVOO (twice around the pan); add the onions, garlic, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the veggies are slightly tender.

Season the steak with salt and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the meat to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

To the veggies, add the chicken stock and grape tomatoes, bring up to a bubble, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the grape tomatoes begin to burst. Add the cooked orzo, basil, parsley, and grated cheese and stir to combine.

Slice the meat very thin on a sharp angle. Serve alongside the orzo with the works.

My Friend Frank’s Famous Chicken

(p. 138, 30-Minute Meals; makes 4 servings)

  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • EVOO
  • 1 large bulb fennel, halved, then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, sliced into strips, lengthwise
  • A handful golden raisins (about 1/4 cup packed)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) no-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • A handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Toasted pignoli (pine nuts) to garnish

Rub the balsamic vinegar into the chicken to tenderize it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Go twice around the pan with EVOO. Cook chicken breasts 5 minutes on each side and remove from pan. Add fennel and onion. Cook, shaking pan every so often, until onion begins to caramelize (sweeten or turn caramel-golden in color), about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Add raisins, broth, parsley, and salt and pepper. Heat through. Pour dish out onto a serving platter and granish with toasted pine nuts.

Shrimp Primavera Pasta With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

(p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals; makes 2-4 servings)

  • Salt
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbs. EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 lb. medium-to-large shrimp, peeled and deveined (you can also substitute chicken for the shrimp)
  • 3/4 to 1 lb. asparagus (1 bundle), trimmed to 4 inches then cut into thirds
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbs. butter, cut into small pieces
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup shaved or grated Romano cheese
  • Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Place a large covered pot of water on the stove and bring it up to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the spaghetti to al dente.

While the pasta is working, trim the tough green tops and the roots from the leek. Halve the leek lengthwise and dice it thin. Place the leeks in a colander and rinse them vigorously to release any grit. Drain the leeks well.

Heat the EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for a minute. Add the leeks and shiitakes and cook until they are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat a little, and bring it up to a bubble. Once the stock bubbles, add the zest and the shrimp and cook it for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus and peas to the pan and cook them for 2 minutes more.

Melt the butter into the sauce, add the drained pasta to the pan, and toss to combine the shrimp and vegetables with the spaghetti. Season with a little pepper, adjust the salt to taste, and garnish with the cheese and parsley.

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I get tired of using the same vegetables over and over again in dishes – peas, green beans, corn – they taste great, but I need a little variety in my life! Enter two new vegetables that are quickly making their way to the top of my list: fennel and leeks. I was very intimidated the first time I purchased them at the store, not knowing how to cut, clean, or prepare them – but they were ingredients in two dishes I wanted to make so I plunged in headfirst!

First up – fennel. I shouldn’t be surprised that I love this vegetable, considering it contains many of the same flavorings as anise, which is behind the black licorice jelly beans I covet every Easter! Fennel comes in bulbs (often two that are connected) with large, feathery, leafy fronds emerging from the top of the bulbs. I have never eaten the leaves, although they are edible; the white bulbs have a less pungent flavor that does not overtake a dish. Rachael Ray has two dishes that made me fall in love with fennel: Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works (p. 252, 365: No Repeats) and My Friend Frank’s Favorite Chicken (p. 138, 30-Minute Meals). She also has a Fennel, Sausage, and Potato Stoup recipe on her Every Day With Rachael Ray site that I’m dying to try!

Next up – leeks. I always thought of leeks as a vegetable your mom would force you to eat (even though I am part of the minority crowd that enjoys brussels sprouts). Their light, oniony flavor is actually refreshing – if you can get past the time-consuming cleaning process (soaking in water until the grit has washed away). Rachael Ray’s refreshing, light Shrimp Primavera With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks (p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals) is a great summer supper. I cooked it for 12 people during our beach vacation – serve it up with a side salad and some white wine, and it’s delicious!

In doing research for this post I came across this recipe for Red-Pepper Fennel Soup With Pita Chips, which includes both fennel AND leeks! The best of both worlds 🙂

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I realized tonight that it’s the second time in a week that I’ve made a soup that was featured on one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes ever, The Soup Nazi. Last week I tried Rachael Ray’s version of Jambalaya (“Jambalika,” p. 158, 30-Minute Meals) – who can forget Newman sniffing his soup and running down the street yelling “Jambalaya!” Tonight I tried Mulligatawny, a spiced Indian soup that was Kramer’s favorite on this episode. I served up a side of Indian flatbread (called “Naan”) to cut down on the spice.

This was a Weight Watchers recipe (from the same cookbook I mentioned in my post on Baked French Toast) and there was nothing but healthy, fresh ingredients in the dish – it was fantastic! My only complaint was that it didn’t make a lot of food, so supplementing the soup with some salad and bread will fill you up. Jared and I had a nice glass of Malbec with dinner – the richness of the red wine cut down on the spiciness of the soup. (Note – I’m not crazy about really spicy foods, but the Mulligatawny had just enough to make you feel it, but not enough that it takes away from the overall dish.)

  • 4 tsp. reduced-calorie margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped (I used a handful of baby carrots instead)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken breast (I used one can of cooked chicken breast from Costco)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

In a medium nonstick saucepan, melt the margarine. Saute the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and apple until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, curry, mace/nutmeg, and clove; cook, stirring one minute; gradually stir in the broth. Add the tomato and lemon juice; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Add the chicken and salt; heat to serving temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Facts (per serving): 187 calories, 7g fat, 15g protein. 4 Weight Watchers points.

I served this Weight Watchers recipe for Naan with the soup. It was great, but I recommend two things that I learned:  1) Make the dough the night before and refridgerate until you are ready to bake, and 2) Make sure you watch the bread as it bakes. I left it in for the recommended 10-12 minutes, but it browned a little too much for my liking. In the future, I plan to take it out after about 9-10 minutes (after the bread has started to “puff up”) to keep it softer.

  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda

In a small bowl, beat the milk and egg. In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. With the machine running, pour the milk through the feed tube until the dough forms a ball. Knead the dough by pulsing until it is smooth, almost 30 times.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray; place the dough in the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towl and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place three hours.

Place a large baking sheet on the center oven rack; preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour; turn out the dough. Divide the dough into eight pieces; flatten each into a 3/8″ thick teardrop shape. Transfer the teardrops to the baking sheet. Bake until firm; 10-12 minutes. If you like, run briefly under a broiler to brown the tops lightly. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutritional Facts (per serving): 122 calories, 1g fat, 4g protein. 2 Weight Watchers points.

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