Though I know how to cook fairly well, I was having a hard time adjusting to cooking for one. (You’re shocked, I know.) So I broke down and tried one of those meal kit services. Cons: pretty expensive, excessive packaging and the produce quality was laughably bad (especially as ‘fresh’ was in the name). However, I did discover 1. how to cook for one (though current life has pitched that right out the window) and 2. that a delicious sauce dresses up any dinner. This goat cheese sauce is amazing on literally anything – white meat, fish, green veggies, root veggies, bread, rice (if you can find it) – and takes very little effort. We’ll all be cooking from home for a while – might as well fancy it up a bit.
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 – 2 T olive oil
3/4 – 1 cup white wine
4 oz goat cheese
Heat small saute pan over medium heat. Add oil, let heat 30 seconds, then add shallot and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until both are fragrant.
Add wine to pan, scraping any bottom bits of shallot/garlic, until wine reduces by 1/2 (about 5 minutes).
Crumble in goat cheese and stir continuously until melted into sauce (there will still be little clumps, that’s fine).
Drizzle over anything! (Ok, ice cream would be weird, but you get the idea.) Note: if what you’re drizzling over isn’t seasoned, you might want to add a bit of salt and pepper to this.
If I invite you to dinner at my house (so, if we’ve ever met, because I invite EVERYONE to dinner at my house), there’s a 70% chance I’ve never made the dish I’m serving before. Every “hostess tip list” says this is a terrible idea, lest you screw up/it takes too long/you stress yourself out. I say to hell with that – if my friends are there, even falling flat on my face is fun.
But most of the time, I don’t – because I have my own tricks. 1. I always have an appetizer. And let’s be clear, that “appetizer” can be as simple as straight-up cheese or chips and salsa. In fact, if you actually show up on time, you’re probably making the munchie plate. Anyone can unwrap cheese, and everyone feels more at home when they help. (Plus, I totally expected you to be late.) 2. Have a back pocket plan. I can whip up a pretty fantastic pasta with marinara sauce in less than 10 minutes, which covers basically every disaster ever.
And let’s be clear – this trial run? Won a gold medal. This pork tenderloin was so good half of us ate dinner standing, because we forgot to leave the island. We ate the “leftovers” with our hands as the night continued – still never leaving the island. Topped with maple bourbon pumpkin butter and served with roasted Brussels Sprout quinoa bake, the only falling you’re doing is in love.
1 package (2) pork tenderloin
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 t ground ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
3 T Dijon mustard
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything (except tenderloin) together in a small bowl.
Lay tenderloin on a baking rack with a baking sheet underneath. (You can lay it right on the sheet, but it’s harder to flip.)
Brush both sides with 1/2 the glaze and roast for 20 minutes.
Pull meat out and brush with remaining glaze. Bake 10-15 minutes more, until thickest part of tenderloin registers 155 degrees.
Tent with aluminum foil and let the meat rest 10 minutes before cutting.
Serves 6 – no, really, the 6 of us devoured this. Conventional serving sizes may tell you otherwise, but trust me on this.
So here’s the deal: yes, making super fancy food can be a super-hella-blast. I like it more than most. But sometimes, I’ve had a long day. I want to come home, put on my jammies and eat something that warms me from the inside out. I want it to be real, wholesome, homemade – and good for me. And cheap-ish is always stellar. (I’m kinda needy, even on jammie night.) So here it is, the warm-you-up, fill-your-heart-without-busting-your-pants-or-budget ultimate meal: roasted chicken. Mashed potatoes. Broccoli.
Roast chicken, you say? Well that’s some boring dinner, Amanda. I submit to you, it is not. It may not photograph perfectly (see lack of finished dish photo) but you perfectly roast a chicken with nothing but salt and pepper – I am telling you , your life will change. And mashed potatoes? Do not have to be laden with fat and cheese. (I mean, they’re super good when they ARE, don’t misunderstand, but they don’t HAVE to be.) And broccoli gets a bad rap, but I’m here to tell you, if you make it like I instruct below, you will turn the staunchest of green-things hater into a believer. (And I should know – I’ve done it). So bust out your yoga pants and hoodie, pour a glass of wine and put on the jazz. Or blues. Or teeny-bopper pop, I’m not here to judge.
12 cloves of garlic, minced (Yes, you read that 12 right. Garlic’s good for you.)
3 T basil
2 T thyme
1 T rosemary
1 T oregano
1 lb of your favorite potatoes, cubed (I like the Klondike rose, which is a redskin … skin… and a yukon gold center.)
2 T butter
1/2 cup milk (I use skim because that’s what I drink – sometimes I use buttermilk. Use what you have.)
4 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I said they weren’t laden with fat and cheese, I didn’t say they had no flavor.)
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets and stems discarded (Unless you’re into that sort of thing, but me and the stems are a no-go item.)
Salt and pepper
Check inside – if there is a bag of innards, remove and pitch. (And be grateful it’s already in a bag for you.) Pat chicken dry. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place chicken in a roaster pan (I like to keep it up off the bottom of the pan by putting it on a roasting rack or even a cooling rack, so if you have one, cool. If not, no worries.)
Combine green spices, salt and pepper and half of garlic with 1/4 cup oil and rub chicken down. No for real, give it a good massage.
Stuff the inside with your citrus fruits, just until it’s full. Some people like to truss the bird (which means tying its legs together so the fruit stays inside). But it’s PJ night and I’m lazy. So I don’t.
Now go and wash your hands, or my sister will have a fit.
Tent chicken with aluminum foil and bake 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the chicken comes to 165 or 170. (It ‘should’ be 180, but it will keep cooking after you pull it out of the oven.)
Remove tent in last 15 minutes or so of cooking, so the skin gets all nice and brown.
Once you hit the magic number, pull out of oven and cover with aluminum foil tent, resting for 10 – 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, back at the counter – your chicken’s in the oven. Broccoli and mashed potatoes won’t take you more than 30 minutes or so. Take a break! Put your feet up, make some tea, read a book. Ok now come back, we still have work to do.
Lay broccoli on 9 x 13 cooking sheet (love my stoneware sheets for this, but anything works.)
Drizzle with remaining oil, half of remaining garlic and salt/pepper.
When you pull the chicken out of the oven, pop in the broccoli and roast for 10 minutes, or until it’s really, really green.
Boil a pot of water on high.
Add potatoes, turn down to medium, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until a fork just pierces the potatoes (but they still have some give).
Drain potatoes and return to hot pot.
Add rest of garlic, cheese milk, butter and salt/pepper, and mash with a potato masher until potatoes are your desired consistency. (I like mine chunky. For super smooth, add more milk or cheese and use a hand mixer.)
So big shocker, the small town where we grew up did not have a Thai restaurant. In fact, the Chinese buffet in the next town over that opened during high school was a huge deal. Any other Asian restaurant of any kind was at least 40 minutes away. Which means my first experience with anything resembling authentic Thai cuisine didn’t happen until a few years ago. My friend Amanda actually made an incredible Thai feast during one of our marathon cooking days – lettuce wraps and a Thai noodle dish with a peanut sauce. I love the marriage of the sweetness and the heat, and peanut butter! In a sauce! I thought this was brilliant.
David was a bit more…apprehensive. But another friend made the most amazing peanut sauce for dipping chicken skewers and he seemed to enjoy that, so I thought I could combine all the flavors I love about Thai food in a dish he loves – pizza. It was a total win. Peanut sauce makes up the base, and the toppings are what you mind find in a Thai curry. These are what I like, but feel free to add your own.
Peanut sauce base
½ can coconut milk
½ cup peanut butter
2 jalapenos, diced
1 T ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, diced
1 T soy sauce
1 crust, whatever you like. (I love this crust – I mean, REALLY love it, it’s perfect every time – and I sub in whole wheat flour when I can.)
Sweet Asian chili sauce, to drizzle
Combine ingredients in peanut sauce together in a small saucepan and boil for about 15-20 minutes, until sauce is reduced by about ⅓.
Spread sauce on crust, add all toppings (except for peanuts, sauce and cilantro) and bake for 15 minutes, until crust is cooked through.
Add peanuts cilantro and drizzle with chili sauce.
Everyone grows up having that one “dish” they love. I have a few – my dad’s roast, my mom’s carbonara. My dad’s steak is so good we call it “daddy steak,” and I refused to order restaurant steak until I was well into my 20s (and still only do about once a year.) David’s was his mom’s “beef paprika” – basically a spin on beef stroganoff that uses a tomato-based sauce. I tried to make it at least 3 or 4 times – now understand, I know my way around a kitchen and this is not a complicated recipe – but I could not get it right! It wouldn’t thicken up right, or the flavor would be off – so very odd. So I did what any self-respecting cook does – I stopped cooking it and went to work creating a new favorite dish for him. Not to replace his mom’s, but so that he could at least have one awesome thing he loved that I could actually make him. Not only did I succeed, but this is one of the easiest dishes I make. On the nights I really want to wow him, I make homemade pasta – but the stuff from the box makes this a super fast meal choice.
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
5-6 cloves of garlic, diced (ahem, or more. You know, whatever bakes your cookies.)
Boil pasta according to your tastes (I like a good bite in mine, David prefers a little less al dente.) About two minutes before pasta is done, add broccoli to steam in pasta water. Drain pasta/broccoli and add to sauce.
For the sauce, saute garlic, onion and chicken (if using) in butter/olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Deglaze with wine and let reduce for 1-2 minutes, then add cream.
Once it comes to a boil, add Parmesan cheese and let melt. Add pasta/broccoli to sauce, heat through another minute and add seasoning. Serve it up on a huge plate with extra cheese for the top.
So, my summer officially started about a week ago, and I’ve been doing what I do best when I’m on summer break – have people over for dinner. A. Lot. I may joke about my … mild dislike for children (as a general species you understand – I’m sure I’ll love my own, and I love my friend’s kids – but the thought of helping in a kindergarten class makes me want to fling myself screaming into a vat of boiling oil), but I love having sounds in the house of people having fun. I love creating something people like, refilling wine glasses, fetching beers and pretty much everything that comes with entertaining. Minus the clean up.
(I also like my quiet time, which is why any of these dinner parties is accompanied by David retreating to his man room and me unwinding in front of whatever music I happen to be obsessed with at that moment.)
Also, (and I know this may shock many of you) it seems I’ve fallen into a bit of a recipe rut. Back when David and I first got married, we tried one new recipe every week. This was stellar, as we had few flops and MANY favorites out of this idea. So, I’m bringing it back old school, four years later. This week has LOTS of new recipes planned, but for now, I’m going to share a tried and true favorite with you, the result of the “recipe a week” challenge.
This particular meal is easy, can be grilled or roasted and is good at ANY time of the year. It’s a super big fav of the hubs, who requests it at least once every other week (considering the number of new things I cook, that’s pretty popular.) I’ve made it for countless guests and never gotten anything but rave reviews. The best part? It’s healthy. Also, it uses frozen tilapia (cheap and easy). Also, it can be customized based on what you like. So yeah, we’re fans – hope you are too!
1 package (lb) tilapia
6 red potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cans artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
2-3 handfuls kalamata olives, roughly chopped
4 T capers
4 handfuls green beans/2 bunches broccoli, chopped
2 lemons, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T dijon mustard
2 T olive oil
The prep is the most taxing part here – the slicing the ingredients. It does take some time, especially if you are not used to working with a knife. Feel free to shred the potatoes in a food processor to make faster work of it, if you like. I just really, really like to cut things.
Spray 4 foil sheets with non-stick spray.
Layer on potatoes, green beans or broccoli, artichokes, olives, capers and fish (in semi-equal portions).
Whisk together last four ingredients and pour over packets.
Top with another layer of foil and seal.
Bake at 400 (or on medium high heat grill) 20 minutes, until potatoes are done.