Ben and I have been married for 26 years and we've certainly had our share of disagreements - usually over something extremely important like the proper way to cut a bell pepper. I actually think that the root of most of our conflicts can be traced back to the food that we eat and how it's prepared. 😂
Our food preferences couldn't be any more different. While I crave fresh fish and vegetables from the garden - the love of my life prefers red meat and carbohydrates. Our diverse tastes aren't really an issue when we go out to eat because we're both pretty adventurous eaters and we can find something to eat on almost any restaurant menu but preparing meals at home is a whole different story.
How do you prepare 1 meal for a meat and potato loving carnivore and a healthy, calorie conscious, non-red meat eater? I've tried serving different grilled chicken recipes for weeks at a time but it didn't take long for my beloved to catch on to my chicken games. Despite by best intentions, he was not thrilled about eating smoked chicken, chicken tacos, chicken soup, chicken salad and shredded chicken sandwiches all in the same week. 🍗 I don't know why? Who wouldn't love 6 straight chicken meals in a row? 😂
I can't guarantee that my sweet husband and I will ever agree about how to properly julienne a carrot but I over the past 26 years, I have been able to prepare more meals at home that we both enjoy. The trick is to fix meals loaded with vegetables AND lean proteins. We both agree that this Coconut, Cashew, Chicken and Cabbage Salad is the perfect combination of healthy, filling and delicious. It's a meal for me and a perfect compliment to a thick, juicy steak for him.
Coconut, Cashew, Chicken Cabbage Salad
1/3 cup flake coconut
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup chopped cashews
2 cups fresh basil
2 cups cilantro
The jalapeno, garlic, lime and soy dressing on this salad is AMAZING. You will want to eat it on all of your cabbage salads from now on. Take my word for it - you'll want to make extra.
I'm not sure who is in charge of naming squash varieties but kudos to whoever it is. Names like butternut, honeynut, spaghetti, gold nugget, banana, sweet dumpling or sunburst make it sound like I'm consuming something way more decadent than a nutrient rich gourd. On the other hand maybe someone should tell the tomato namers that eating something called Mr. Stripey, a Hillbilly or a Moneymaker diminishes my eating experience. 🍅 🤷🏻♀️ Just a thought.
The honeynut squash can best be described as the "mini me" of butternut squash. It's a smaller, more flavorful and more nutrient rich version of the butternut - but it's also somewhat illusive. I searched for this squash in the supermarkets where I normally shop, in my local Trader Joes and pretty much everywhere that they sell food within a 50 mile radius but with no avail. There was not a honeynut to be found in all of east Atlanta. So if you can't find honeynut squash - substitute a butternut in this recipe, like me.
I used to serve roasted squash as a side dish but it's really become the star of a lot of our meals. I throw together a green salad and put out a couple of whole grain rolls to round out our squash dinners. If you haven't jumped on the squash bandwagon - you need to give it a try. It's more filling and satisfying than you might think.
This squash is really different than the squash recipes that I've made in the past. I was intrigued by the sweet, nutty flavor of the squash paired with the heat of the serrano and the acidy of the vinegar. My go-to squash is spaghetti squash so I was anxious to try out a new variety on my somewhat gourd hesitant family.
Roasted Honeynut Squash
1 honeynut squash, cut in half
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons chopped dried apricots
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
Serve with toasted walnuts.
I'm not going to try and sugar coat my review of this recipe or try and spin it so that you're left wondering how I really feel about this dish. I was NOT a fan. I thought that the squash had a nice texture but the apricot compote was way to vinegary. Maybe I should have waited until I could find a true honeynut squash.
I typed "peanut butter cookie recipes" into the search bar of my web browser and I got 66,800,000 results! 🥜 THAT is a lot of peanut butter cookie recipes. I dove right into that peanut butter cookie recipe rabbit trail and I discovered everything from 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies to flourless versions of the sweet treat to cookies stuffed with snickers and pretzels. 😳I've got to say - they ALL sounded pretty amazing. If you like sugar dusted, crispy peanut butter cookies or buttery soft and chewy peanut butter cookies - you're sure to find one that fits your needs.
Well google, get ready because I'm about to submit Peanut Butter Cookie recipe number 66,800,001. I figured, why not throw one more buttery, soft, packed with peanut butter cookie recipe in with the rest? 😋This recipe came from Cook's Illustrated so you know it's been tested and perfected.
Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup peanuts, chopped fine
Roll dough into balls and place on on silpat lined baking sheets. Bake 12 minutes at 350.
Let cookies cool 6 minutes on baking sheets before moving to a wire rack.
You probably noticed that my peanut butter cookies don't have the trademark criss cross fork marks on the top. I have no idea where that tradition started or why in the world people still add a hash tag. My guess is that it's just for nostalgic purposes but I really don't see any added benefit so I usually don't add it. What do you think? Is a peanut butter cookie without the criss cross, still a peanut butter cookie?
I have a burning question tonight. Do you cook with good wine or do you save the good wine for drinking and cook with the cheap stuff? I'm genuinely interested in hearing your opinions about cooking wine. 🍷 This is what my brain dwells on - food and wine.
There are professional chefs that swear that your finished dish will only be as good as the individual ingredients that you add. I can only assume that they believe that inferior wine will result in a less than superb product. Can a cup of two buck Chuck really ruin a good batch of meaty marinara or Coq au Vin? I really don't know and before I mess up a perfectly fine batch of short ribs, I need to find out.
Maybe the answer isn't as black and white as I'm trying to make it. Perhaps there are some recipes where expensive wine is necessary and others where boxed wine would suffice. White wine used as an ingredient in the sauce over fresh mussels might require a higher quality wine than the red wine in beef stew, for example. As for me, I use whatever wine I happen to have open on the day that I need it for a recipe. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit it, but I've even been known to swap a white for a red in a recipe if I"m trying to use up the last few drops in a wine bottle. 🤷🏻♀️
This recipe for Pork Ragu only calls for 1/2 cup of red wine which seems like an insignificant amount but it plays a really crucial role in how all the flavors of this dish come together. The pork, the tomatoes, the pancetta, the wine and the herbs all have to marry together in perfect harmony to create a tasty dish. Altering just one of the ingredients can throw off the whole balance of flavors and really lead to a displeasing result. So do I roll the dice and take a gamble on a cheap wine or go all out and use a full bodied red wine?
Slow Cooker Pork Ragu
2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound cooked pasta
Stir in parsley. Toss with pasta and top with parmesan cheese.
I know that you're all waiting with baited breath to find out exactly what type of wine I used in my Pork Ragu. 😂 It was a half cup of my dad's homemade red wine. I'm 60% sure that it was a cabernet but to be honest, the sharpie markings that my dad uses to identify his different wines had been rubbed off the neck of the bottle. Soooo - whatever it was - it was good. Both in the ragu and in my wine glass. 🍷
Twizzlers! It's our go-to road trip food. For some reason the twisted strawberry licorice just makes spending hours at a time in the car - more tolerable. (Or maybe the steady supply of sugar just makes me a more pleasant car rider. 🤣) Regardless, we don't often start off on a road trip without it. We drove to Valdosta in December for a weekend and I forgot to take my purse BUT you better believe that we had our twizzlers for the trip. Priorities?
If you ask my family how I feel about road trips, they have no reservations about describing how miserable I am as a car rider. I accidentally took too much Benadryl before a road trip to St. Augustine last summer and I slept for the entire 7 hour trip! I honestly don't remember anything after getting in the car and my family claims that it was our best family road trip to date. 😂 I blame motion sickness for my undesirable car riding attitude. I can't do anything productive while I'm in the car. I can't read a book or look at my phone or write anything down without feeling queasy and that makes me very grumpy.
We road tripped so much in December that even the twizzlers weren't helping with my negative attitude. The sugar seemed to have a reverse effect on me after hour 10 of being stuck in a cramped vehicle on a crowded highway. 🚗 I reached a level of entrapment that no amount of sugar could cure. 🤦🏻♀️
We don't eat a lot of fast food - even on road trips. I am the queen of packing enough snacks to last us at least 2 weeks. 🍎You know, in case we should get stranded somewhere - Hallmark movie style. 😂 On our trip home after Christmas - I couldn't stomach the thought of eating any more of my supply of road trip snacks, more twizzlers or fast food. We opted instead for a quick stop at a grocery store along our route to pick up some sustenance. I chose a bowl of freshly cut fruit, a container of hummus and some naan bites. Not your typical road trip fare but it hit the spot for me. I had forgotten how much I loved hummus.
Ultimately Creamy Hummus
15 ounce can chick peas
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon fresh parsley
Adjust to consistency of yogurt by adding additional water.
Season with salt and extra lemon juice to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with fresh parsley, reserved chick peas and extra olive oil. Let sit 30 minutes before serving.
Anyone else prefer warm hummus to cold hummus? I love to eat hummus when it's freshly made but I wasn't a big fan after it had been refrigerated. Soooo, I've been warming my leftover hummus in the microwave for a few seconds before diving in. If you're on the fence about hummus - try warming it. You might be surprised how different it tastes when it isn't cold.
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