Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken Spaghetti

This week for dinner I mad Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti (you can find the recipe with pictures here).


But I lightened it up.  First I only used boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Second I used lightened ingredients: 2% cheddar cheese, 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup, whole wheat pasta.  Third I cut down the amount of cheese.  Fourth, and not really a lightener, but I didn't use pimentos but that was because I couldn't find them in the store.


In all honesty, the first night I was not impressed with this dish.  It was eh.  I had had a little cayenne pepper/cinnamon incident while cooking (as in I added a bunch of cinnamon, not cayenne pepper - GROSS, I know - on accident.  I scooped it all out but I just couldn't shake that from my mind).  


But the second night.  And the third.  That's where the money was.  Again for a couple of reasons.  First all of the stuff had time to sit.  Second, I added a bunch of Frank's hot sauce to it before I zapped it in the microwave.  Best improvement ever.


I'll probably make this dish again, but I'll add the hot sauce from the get go.  Also, I'll probably top the casserole with a cheese/breadcrumb mixture so its nice and crunchy and gooey.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An A-List Dinner!

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to cook a little bit more for myself.  If you've never had the pleasure of doing so, cooking for one is hard, and a little depressing.  I'd cook my favorite meals for myself, and then feast on the leftovers for the rest of the week.  While this was good for my wallet and for my waistline, it was not as good for my morale.  After about the third night of the same thing.  Again.  I'd get sick of whatever it was.  It would then sit in my fridge until I decided that I had gone bad and would toss whatever left overs into the garbage.


But not anymore.  I've decided, no resolved, to cook a little bit more for myself.  Like multiple meals in a week.  Freezing leftovers for later when I was no longer sick of whatever it was I had been eating for the past week.  This idea has kind of evolved into a two-meal/week concept.  I'll cook two meals a week, more than likely one on Sunday and one on Monday.  It'll be a refreshing change from the same thing every.single.night but not so much that I can't manage cooking twice.  Plus hopefully I'll have a few things stored away in the freezer when school does get to be too much to cook twice a week.


Tonight was my first night!  I made this couscous/shrimp/sausage thing and it was good!  Here's how its done:


First things first, I bought a package of turkey sausage but of course didn't get a picture until it was too late.  Anyways, I froze half of the package but browned the other half in the new frying pan I got for Christmas:




I got kind of worried about getting trichinosis from consuming under cooked pork, so I cut up the sausage to make sure it was cooked all the way through (next time I think I might just buy the roll of turkey sausage, it would have been way easier):




Once I was pretty convinced the sausage was done, I took it out of the frying pan and started prepping some of the other stuff.


First I made the couscous.  If you've never had couscous its kind of like rice, but smaller and more granular.  This is the brand I used:




I prepared it according to the directions on the back of the box.  When it was done I let it sit in the covered pot until I was ready for it.  This is what it should look like when its fully cooked:




While this was cooking, I did all of the prep work I would need for the rest of the meal.  First of all I got the shrimp ready.  I bought jumbo shrimp that had already been peeled:




All I did was removed the tails and washed the shrimp really well.  Just a tip: when cooking with shrimp, always, always, always, always use cold water.  Shrimp cooks very quickly so anything warmer than cold water will start the cooking process.  


Once the shrimp were de-tailed and fully cleaned, I turned my attention to this cast of characters:






Now I have been taught at least 6,000 times how to properly cut both a bell pepper and an onion so that all of the pieces are even and nice looking, but its one of those things that my brain just does not want to remember.  So chopping veggies is always a bit of an adventure for me.  


Anyways, I chopped up one green  bell pepper:




And half of an onion:




And then crushed garlic until I was tired of using the garlic press (the phrase "too garlicky" like "too chocolatey" is a foreign concept to me).  I'd say I probably crushed about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic:




When it was all done it looked like this:




Now I sauteed these bad boys in the same pan I had used for the sausage.  Sausage grease and all.  Once they veggies looked like this I stopped (the onions should be a little translucent):




Once I reached this stage I added one can of crushed tomatoes:




I brought all of this to a simmer and let it simmer some more.  Then I added the shrimpies, which made my pan look something like this:



I covered the pan and let it cook for a few minutes until the shrimp were almost all the way cooked through.  Remember what I said earlier?  Shrimp cooks quickly, they went from raw to almost fully done in about 3 minutes.  At this point I added the sausage:




And then I let this cook down a little bit too (notice a pattern?).  The sausage was already cooked by the time I added it back to the mixture, but I let everything simmer together for a little bit.  Then I added the couscous:




The couscous was great.  It really absorbed all of the liquid, much better than a pasta would have.   I mixed it all together and got this:




Which was at least as good as it looks, if not better.  I used shrimp and sausage because that's what the recipe called for, but this would have been equally good with chicken.  I definitely recommend this easy, one pot meal!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hellooooooo 2011!!!

I can hardly believe that 2010 is over and gone.  It was a great year for me.  A lot happened, both good and bad.  But 2010 was a really different year for me.  I felt like I found myself again, and I didn't even know that the real me was missing.

While I'm sad to see the year go, I'm excited to see what 2011 has in store.  I know its going to be an even better year!

But what's New Year's without some New Year's Resolutions?  Here are a few that I made for 2011:

  1. Be optimistic.  This was a resolution I made last year, and I thought it was a really great one.  It was one I actually followed through on, and it made a huge difference in my life.  So I'm going to recycle it for the next 12 months.
  2. Finish a half marathon.  Hopefully I'll be able to cross this one off my list at the end of February, since that's when the Disney Princess Half Marathon is.  Goal: to cross the finish line and still be breathing.  Bonus points if I can cross the line with a smile on my face.
  3. Take a few minutes each day for myself.  I'd love to get a little bit of reading done each night, do a crossword puzzle in the morning, or some other stress reliever each day.  
So here's to 2011!  Which will hopefully be the best year yet!