Living And Learning As We Make Restaurant Meals At Home

Achievement: #30. Make 50 New Recipes

With Restaurant Week just on the horizon (omg omg omg I can’t wait), I thought it was time to update everyone on where we are with regard to our cooking Achievement.

As you may recall, we set out to try 50 new recipes by the year’s end, and then after posting about the first one… we forgot entirely about updating the tally. Lucky for me, that made writing this entry like 600% harder, because I had to try to remember what the hell all these dishes were, 6 or 7 months after the fact.

Shrimp Pasta
But you all know I love a challenge. (Okay. That photo has nothing to do with cooking. It’s my Jeff-Reed-beating-up-a-Sheetz-towel-dispenser impression. But I think it adequately expresses my love of challenges, even those dished out by inanimate bathroom furnishings.)

Shrimp Pasta
Recipe #3 was (I think) herbed linguine with shrimp, a recipe from Cooking Light.

Shrimp Pasta
This was a pretty simple recipe, and tasty. We substituted Yinzer chip dip for sour cream (a swap we often make, since sour cream rarely stays in-date in our house, but chip dip is always in season). Michael added a little bit of milk at the end to thicken it, and if I had to do it all over again, I would have left that out. It was creamy enough with the chip dip.

Shrimp Pasta
I also made garlic bread with this meal, but that doesn’t count as its own recipe, because I make garlic bread with everything.

Panko Flounder
Next, I got this really fabulous issue of Self magazine that had a whole section on ‘detox foods.’ I made several of the recipes in this issue, starting with this breaded flounder. The original recipe calls for halibut, but we had flounder in the freezer, so we improvised. The breading is panko, which is my favorite breading of the right now: so simple and crunchy and light.

Panko Flounder
One of the best things about these Self recipes is that they give you your whole meal: not only did we have the fish, but we had a little salad (with homemade olive oil & lemon juice dressing), garlic toast (see above comment), and a fruit cup for dessert. The recipes are also single-servings, so you can expand up as much as you need.

Recipes
I’m a total sucker for those big Giant Eagle Lenten fish sales, and I try to stock up. This year, I got something called a Pollock fish. I was pretty excited, since that dude is my favorite painter ever. Turns out, unlike it’s namesake (just kidding, I totally doubt it’s named after Jackson Pollock, although a girl can dream, right?), Pollock fish is commonly regarded as a ‘boring’ fish that needs to be dressed up. I made a SparkPeople recipe called lemon pepper parmesan pollock bake.

That was simple, so what I focused my effort on was this potato side. This is another Cooking Light recipe, oven-roasted sweet potatoes and onions. While the flavor was good, I can never seem to get the texture of sweet potatoes right when cooking. (And yet, I still try over and over.) This is baked in the oven, and I wonder if frying it in a pan would help the texture problems.

But one type of potatoes I always manage to rock are purple potatoes. I love them. (It’s a long story that began with a cute, tall boy from Food Not Bombs at a war protest back in 2003… I know, I know, I’m a total hippy. No secrets there.) Lucky for me, Whole Foods has been keeping tons of purple potatoes in stock!

Recipes
This is a recipe from Eating Well, roasted garlic mashed purple potatoes.

(Full disclosure: if I can’t put garlic or bourbon in it, I’m probably not going to cook it.)

Anyway. These potatoes were magnificent. I made a TON so I could eat leftovers for like a week after. God I want those potatoes right now.

Recipes
On Cinco de Mayo, rather than gorging ourselves at Cuzamil as is our standard (nommmm), we did a home-taco-station. Just a brief note about the Ortega whole wheat taco shells: flavor-wise, these are magnificent, but out of all of the boxes we’ve bought, only one has been mostly intact. These shells break like crazy, so just be warned that some of your tacos might turn out to be taco salad (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Recipes
Our recipe of the night was the Cooking Light skinny margarita (they had a whole feature on healthier margaritas!). While this was quite tart (straight lime juice, so lacking in all the sugar of the margarita mixes – which is how you lose the calories), it was delicious! Close enough to the real thing that I have switched over entirely to making these instead of buying those super-sugary store margarita mixes!

Recipes
Once summer squash was coming back into season, we made a simple pork dinner and accented it with these squash discs that I love so much. I have made these a few times now, and they’re a variation on the spice-roasted butternut squash with smoked sweet paprika recipe from Food.com. I use slices (or ‘discs’ as I call them) instead of cubes, and I bake it in my toaster oven instead of roasting. This is a very simple side, but it’s got a big punch of flavor with the paprika.

Recipes
But not every recipe has been a winner, unfortunately. I tried to recreate this amazing summer dish I’d had at my favorite restaurant, Sausalido. It was a pasta with spinach, artichoke, pine nuts, cheese, and chicken. Mmmm soo good, and I’ve been craving it ever since I had it last (back in 2009!).

Recipes
The recipe I tried was from food.com, and something just went horribly wrong. Looking back on it, I think it was that I used frozen spinach instead of fresh, and that flavor (despite rinsing it multiple times) just overwhelmed the whole dish.

Recipes
It’s a total bummer, because I was way excited to use my new kitchen scale and everything.

Recipes
I was excited to have a good vegetarian dish, but I could only taste the yucky formerly-frozen spinach. Not impressed!

Recipes
Which brings me to my two favorite recipes of the year. The first is another Self recipe that I have made a TON of times now, and recommended to friends as well. This is the salmon with citrus salsa recipe. It is so easy (bake salmon; chop up an avocado and orange; mix with lime juice and garlic, serve) and soooo good. It’s one of those rare foods that you eat and feel really cleansed having eaten (everything is so fresh and healthy!). I like to serve it with garlic bread (duh – but seriously, the recipe recommends this!) and a little side salad. It also goes pretty well with sweet corn, as it’s paired in this photo.

Hush Puppies
But I think my favorite of the new recipes I’ve made this year is my new favorite hush puppy recipe. I had a REALLY hard time finding the *right* hush puppy recipe (having tried like 4 different kinds), and I finally settled on this recipe from Emeril, of all people.

What makes this so good is the presence of the green onions (yum yum yum yum), eggs, and milk. The other hush puppy recipes I’ve tried have gone easier on the eggs and milk, but I think those really help make them fluffier. The real secret though? I made a honey butter to go with them. (Honey butter is really easy, it turns out: I make it with Smart Balance 50/50 sticks to save on calories, and do a 1:1 ratio of bear-honey to soft butter. It tastes just like the honey butter you get at calabash restaurants in the south!)

I liked this hush puppy recipe so much that I took the ingredients and my deep fryer to Wisconsin when we went to see DMB. Nothing caps off a good concert like hush puppies!

So there you have it: an update on our recipe Achievement. I think there might be a few more recipes lying around for me to find (I made another purple potato dish and a reeeeeeeally bomb bourbon salmon), so I will add a few more to this shortly. It turns out, I’m kind of enjoying cooking…

(Please don’t tell anyone I just admitted that hahaha)

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