Tag Archives: cooking

Broken Oven (or Putting A Wrench Into My Plans)

After writing the post yesterday, I felt extra motivated to get my butt back into gear. I don’t want to play the victim, and when I read my post after writing it that’s exactly what it felt like I was doing. I don’t need to be a victim and I have no plans on being one.

So I went back to the food plan that I created for this week and decided to figure out what I could do to shift things around so that I could still pretty much follow the plan. I needed to move some of the dinners to other days and shift around a few other meals, but it still seemed pretty reasonable to me and I figured I could get it to all work out for me.

So last night, I knew I would need to do some cooking. I’ve been making these really great muffins out of garbanzo beans that taste really decadent for breakfasts and lunches a lot and needed to bake those. And I also wanted to make meatloaf muffins to have for a few dinners. I decided to make the meatloaf first since I needed those for dinner and got to pre-heating my oven. While my oven was pre-heating, I mixed up all the ingredients for the meatloaf (with almost more veggies than meat) and got it into a muffin tray.

And then I tried to open my oven.

For some reason, my oven would only open on one side. The other side seemed stuck and I couldn’t open it no matter what. My oven doesn’t have a self-cleaning option so it wasn’t stuck because of that (which is what everything online seemed to say) and I couldn’t see it stuck on anything. And then, the oven door slipped and somehow one side fell off the hinges.

I’m glad I had turned off the oven before the door fell because it wasn’t too hot when it fell down. I tried with everything I had to get the door back on the hinges, but there was no way that it was going to go back. And with one side falling off like that, the oven was starting to tip over so I figured out how to get the door totally off the over and put it on the kitchen floor.

Fortunately, my neighbor let me use his oven to cook the meatloaf so that at least I didn’t have to throw all that out. He said I could bake the other things that I needed to too, but I didn’t want to worry too much about it and figured that hopefully my oven would be fixed soon enough.

My landlord came by to see if the oven could be fixed, but he doesn’t think it’s possible. I’m waiting for a call from another repair person to see if they are going to be able to fix it or if I’ll need to get a new oven. I’m not sure if I want a new oven because I finally have this one figured out (basically I need to set the temperature almost 100 degrees higher than I need it to be so it’s right). And hopefully I’ll find out within a day or two what will be happening.

I hate that when I get things back on track in my head, there is something that stops me. There are several things that I wanted to make this week that involve using my oven. And yes, I could probably go back to my neighbor to use his again, but I don’t want to inconvenience him. If my oven if fixed soon, it shouldn’t throw too much off. And again, I have rearranged my food plan to see what I can make and how I can get things to work out. I may need to make a grocery run to get a few other things that I know I can make in the microwave or on the stove, but I should be able to be ok.

And even though this isn’t a fun situation, I’m still trying to look on the positives. At least I rent and I don’t have to spend anything to get my oven fixed. My oven broke before I put my food in, because if it broke when the food was in there I’m pretty sure everything would have been burnt. And not having an oven isn’t that horrible. It’s a setback, but a super minor one compared to everything else I have dealt with. And hopefully soon, I’ll have a new oven that will work perfect to use for all the cooking I know I need to be doing!

Vegan Fudge (or Another Super Easy Recipe)

I’ve been testing a few new recipes lately since I’m working on meal planning and cooking at home. I usually am trying one new dinner recipe each week or every other week. I’m trying to find simple recipes since I don’t want to have to buy a ton of ingredients that cost a lot of money or something that takes forever to cook. So my searches tend to be for pretty basic stuff. And sometimes, I need something to inspire me to find a new recipe.

A friend of mine had a loss recently and I wanted to do something nice for them. They are vegan so most of my guilty pleasure foods wouldn’t work for them so I did some searching for good vegan treats. So many of them had lots of ingredients that I don’t have or don’t use. It’s not worth it to buy something that will just be used in that one recipe (the problem I’ve had with cooking in the past) so I just kept searching for something easy to make. And finally I came across the perfect recipe!

I found a very basic recipe for vegan peanut butter fudge that pretty much only had ingredients that I already have! It was so easy and fast to make and so good that I know this will be something I will be making for lots of people in the future! And as I have before, whenever I find an awesome recipe I want to share it with you all!

Vegan Peanut Butter Fudge (from Spoon University)

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup natural nut butter (this was the only ingredient I had to buy because the only peanut butter I had in my house had honey which is not vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened or melted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

What to do:

  • Combine all ingredients and stir until combined
  • Pour into a container that is lined with parchment paper
  • Put container in freezer and freeze for 45 minutes
  • Take out of freezer, cut, and enjoy!

That’s it! It’s so simple that I can’t believe that I haven’t made this before! I actually have not been able to get the fudge to my friend yet (so they might be finding out that I made something for them by reading this blog), but I know that they will be a hit!

This isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing to eat, but it’s so much healthier than most desserts that I know how to make. And I’m sure this recipe is easy enough to switch things up so the basic recipe can be used for a bunch of different things. I was thinking that this could be a really good topping to the gluten-free brownies I know how to make. Those brownies are sometimes used as the base for triple layer brownies with brown butter frosting. But I think using this fudge as a frosting could really be amazing! I might have to try it out sometime.

Every time I try a new recipe, I’m so anxious that it’s not going to turn out ok. I had that happen a few weeks ago with a new soup recipe that I tried. I thought it was going to be amazing and I was so excited about it. And then I tried it and it was horrible. I tried to fix it but there was no saving the soup and it had to be thrown out. I felt awful doing that because it is a waste of food and money (and I did try to see if any of my neighbors wanted it), but I knew I couldn’t eat it.

Having a recipe go wrong was a blessing in disguise because it wasn’t the end of the world like I thought it would be. It was unfortunate, but nothing horrible happened because I made something that tasted horrible. I’m not as scared now as I was before that I will do something wrong. And more often than not, the recipes will turn out awesome (like this one did) and it will become something that I will want to keep making!

The trial and error in my kitchen continues each week. But I know that this vegan fudge is going to be something that I make over and over again.

Tacocity (or A Book Review And Giveaway!)

I’m so excited for today’s post! Not only do I have an amazing book recommendation for you, but I’m giving away a signed copy too! I recently had the opportunity to read “Tacocity: Los Angeles” which was written by my friend Rob Gokee. I’ve known Rob for a couple of years through various friends. He’s an amazing composer, big user of twitter, and obsessed with tacos! I feel like almost every picture he posts online is of tacos.

So when he started mentioning that he was writing a book about the tacos of Los Angeles, I wanted to read it! I’m not a huge taco person, so if I’m going to go get a taco somewhere I want it to be the best. And since Rob tested out dozens of taco places for his book, I know any place he recommends is going to be one of the top spots to go to.

Rob gave me a copy of his book to read (full disclosure, he gave me a free PDF version to review but the review is all my own) and I was very happy when I started reading it.

Tacocity

Obviously, I knew that the book was going to review taco places in Los Angeles, but I didn’t know much more. I was happy to see in the table of contents that he actually breaks down his reviews geographically so you can look at the area of Los Angeles that you happen to be in. Where I live in West LA, there aren’t a ton of awesome taco places. But while there were some familiar names in the West LA section I loved seeing that there were some places I hadn’t gone to yet and I immediately added them to my list of restaurants to try.

West LA

For each of the restaurants that Rob reviews, he includes a little bit about each place and what they are best known for. He also gives some tips about what to order, when the lines might be shorter (or in some cases if you should go to the outside line or inside line), and sometimes advice on parking which can be tough to find in LA. I loved hearing his stories about what he tried at each place and all the photos that were in the review section made me want to go have everything!

After the reviews of all the taco places around LA, there is a recipe section with some of Rob’s favorites. As you all know I’m working on trying to cook more at home, so I hope to soon have a recipe post for you all of me trying one of the ones from the book! This mole taco one might be the one I have to make because I keep coming back to the picture from the book and thinking it looks incredible!

Mole Tacos

I think this book is perfect for anyone who lives in LA or might be moving to LA soon! It’s a great guide to amazing food in the city and I think even people who have lived here their entire lives will discover a new restaurant in the book. And even if you don’t live in LA but love tacos, this is a great read from the recipes in the back as well as giving you inspiration for a LA taco trip (I’m sure if you tweet at Rob he can help you plan a taco crawl).

Now for the fun part! You can enter to win a signed copy of “Tacocity: Los Angeles”! There are a ton of ways to enter this time (just make sure you leave a blog comment as that is the required entry). While most entries are only one-time things, you can tweet every day for extra entries! Rafflecopter will randomly be selecting the winner at the end and you will be getting a signed copy of the book from Rob!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and I can’t wait for you all to read the book too!

PS: There will be a book launch/signing for “Tacocity: Los Angeles” coming up on August 22nd from 5:30-8:00pm at Salazar (one of the places Rob writes about in the book). I hope to see a bunch of you there!

Home Cooking (or Getting Into A Routine)

I haven’t really written about food on here lately. Meals used to stress me out so much and I knew I needed to work on it. So many nights I would either forget to go to the store to get groceries or got home so late that I was too lazy to cook. So I’d order delivery food or get some take out from a quick service type place. I know that I wasted a bunch of money (and ate a bunch of calories that I didn’t need) doing that, but I just couldn’t get into cooking.

I tried cooking a bunch of different times and different ways. I thought meal planning would work for me, but I ended up losing inspiration or not feel like eating what I was supposed to eat that night. Bulk cooking worked for a bit, but I got really bored with it and if I didn’t have time to bulk cook I couldn’t seem to get back on track. I would hear about what other people would do, and it would seem so simple. But for so many reasons I just couldn’t get into cooking. A lot of it does have to do with the amount of work and cleanup required to make a meal for just me, but that really is laziness.

I knew something needed to change and I set my monthly challenge in March to be to not get delivery food for the entire month. The last time that I ordered delivery food was actually in the middle of February and I’m happy to say that I haven’t gotten delivery food since. I have gone out of dinners and I’ve gotten take out from places like Chipotle or a salad place, but since delivery food was the bad habit I wanted to break I’m pretty happy that it’s been this long since I’ve gotten it. There have been a few times where I’m feeling super lazy and think it would just be so easy to order something in, but I have been working really hard at keeping easy to put together foods or ok frozen dinners at my house for those nights. While frozen dinners aren’t the best option, they are significantly better than anything I could get delivered to me.

My cooking hasn’t been anything too crazy. Most of my dinners have been a turkey burger and some veggies like broccoli or sweet potatoes.

Healthy Dinner

If I start cooking the potato in the microwave and finish it in the toaster oven, I can put that meal together in less than 20 minutes. I also do make more recipe type dinners from time to time. A lot of time I make meatloaf because it’s pretty basic to put together. The last time I made it, I did about half meat and half chopped veggies so it made a lot of meatloaf for not as many calories.

Meatloaf

I make meatloaf in muffin tins so it’s easy to portion out and put some aside for leftovers for the next day or so. After the prep work, there’s not that much cleanup since the muffin tin is a disposable one. So I’m usually able to clean up while the meatloaf is in the oven and I don’t have to worry about cleaning up after I’m done with dinner.

I have no clue what really got me to cook more often. Nothing really has changed in my life, it just happened. But I think a lot of things in my life have happened that way. I would have been trying to kick a habit that I didn’t like for years (like chewing gum or drinking soda) and then one day it stops and I don’t really think about it. I don’t missing chewing gum at all, but there are the rare occasional times that I do miss soda. Fortunately, that craving goes away pretty quickly so I’ve been soda free for several years now.

The same thing happened with cooking. I was trying to force the change to become a home cook for a long time. And while I would get into a habit of it for a bit, it never stuck. This time, it just feels natural and right for some reason so I don’t see any reason for me to stop. I do still have so many changes that need to be made about my food habits, but I’m so glad that I’ve been able to make this change now and hopefully other changes will fall in line too.

Cooking Routine (or Adding Flavor)

I’m working really hard at cooking more at home. With my challenge for this month being no delivery food, I must have better options in my house to eat so I don’t fail at the challenge.

I think what I really struggled with in the past was the sheer number of options for foods to make. I have dozens of cookbooks (I recently gave some away so I think it might just be under 2 dozen cookbooks now) and all of them have lots of recipes that seem super delicious and I know I could probably make them. I’m a good cook and I can follow a recipe, so I don’t worry too much about not being able to make something (although I do worry about something not tasting good if I make it).

I think the other problem with a majority of the recipes in the cookbooks are the number of ingredients that a recipe requires. Maybe if I had a huge kitchen I’d keep a ton of ingredients on hand to be able to make anything with very little grocery shopping required, but that’s not my situation. My kitchen is a small but functional and I don’t have much storage or counter space. So I have to keep things limited that I store. So many of the recipes seem like I would have to fill an entire grocery cart with the ingredients just for that meal. That’s expensive, that’s a lot of stuff to store, and chances are most of it would spoil before I used it up.

So a lot of the things I’ve been making in the past have been pretty plain. I do a lot of the same veggie bowls that I made a year ago on the cleanse I did. Even though the meatloaf I make is a bit fancier, it’s still not a ton of ingredients and it’s really easy to put together. I keep lots of things that are easy to make (like turkey burgers and veggies) in my freezer so it’s not too difficult to put together a basic dinner. And I’m glad that this is a habit that I’m still sticking with.

But I’m still looking to bring more variety into my cooking because even though basic foods can be healthy, they can be boring. And I know that if I get bored with something I won’t keep eating it (that’s why I stopped making veggie bowls for so long). So I’m working on easy ways to add variety to the flavor of my foods but don’t require too much effort or shopping.

This past week I had a couple of different meals that worked out really well. Toward the beginning of the week, I made a turkey burger for dinner (which to me is perfect just plain on its own). But I knew I’d want a good side dish to go with it. I had picked up some broccoli because I figured I’d make broccoli at some point, so I figured this was as good of a time as any. I steamed the florets in the microwave and then put those into a bowl to cool a bit. Then I browned some butter in the microwave (it’s a bit messy, but the flavor is totally worth it) and after that was done added some fresh lemon juice to it. My mom does this to broccoli all the time and it’s one of my favorites. And it made a delicious and nice looking dinner that night.

Turkey Burger

Next time I’ll make more of it because I ate so much of it and I need to do some adjustments to the flavor of the sauce (I needed more lemon), but it was really good and reminded me how good healthy food is.

Then on Wednesday night after my workout I knew I needed to cook dinner. I used to hate cooking dinner on workout nights, but I’m starting to be ok with it. In the past, I might microwave a dinner or get delivery after a workout because I was tired. But honestly it’s not that much harder for me to cook (I know, everyone has been telling me this for years but I didn’t believe it) and as long as I have things in my kitchen that are easy enough to put together I can get it done really quickly.

One thing that I’m a bit obsessed with right now are smashed potatoes. I use baby potatoes and cook them for a few minutes in the microwave. Then I smash them down with a paper towel and bake them until they are super crispy. I usually use my oven to bake them in, but on Wednesday I wasn’t using my oven for anything else. So I tried making them in my toaster oven. And to add some flavoring to them, I tried this new seasoning grinder I got at Trader Joes.

Garlic Salt

While the potatoes were baking, I cooked up some chicken sausages and thankfully I timed things out pretty well because the potatoes were done pretty soon after the chicken was. While I’ve made these potatoes a lot lately, adding this new garlic salt seasoning really made a huge difference and made them so good! I’m thinking maybe I’ll try this seasoning on some chicken next week.

While I’m super happy that I’m still keeping up with cooking at home and that I’m taking more chances and finding more things I enjoy making, I’m still worried that this is a phase and I will go back to my old ways. Maybe being cautiously optimistic is better than feeling overly confident that I’ve changed and will never go back to how I was before. I really want to keep making steps toward a healthier (and cheaper) life and I know that cooking is a huge part of that. Hopefully I’m able to keep this up.

Lack Of Planning (or No Home Cooking This Week)

After doing so well with cooking recently, this past week was a serious let down for me. I had ever intention of trying to do some real cooking this week, but that never happened.

Part of it is due to my schedule. I got back late on Monday night from my trip. And while I did go to the grocery store, I wasn’t going to cook at 9pm for the week. Tuesday after work I had my WIF meeting. Wednesday after work was my workout. And while I could have cooked after getting home from my workout, I wasn’t feeling up for cooking after taking over an hour to get home. Thursday I had a friend at my house after work and I didn’t want to be rude and cook while they were here. And tonight I’m supposed to be meeting a friend for dinner. It’s just not my week to have free time after work to prepare and cook meals.

I guess there were little places in my schedule that I could have cooked, but I don’t think I’m really the person to cook a meal that I don’t need to eat that night and to use all of it as leftovers. I’m still easing my way back into cooking and I think knowing that what I’m making is going to be my meal is more normal to me than just cooking and storing everything immediately. When I cook, I do get hungry (even if I just ate). So knowing that I will be eating that meal when it’s done is a way to stop the cravings to want to snack while I’m cooking.

Just because I’m not cooking doesn’t mean I’m eating like crap. I’m doing my lazy version of cooking with the easy to prepare things that I bought at the grocery store on Monday night. These aren’t the most balanced meals and I’m sure I could do better, but sometimes I need something easy like a waffle with peanut butter and a banana so I don’t get really hungry and order delivery food (which is almost never the good option). I’m finding better things to keep in my house to use as easy meals so I don’t feel like there’s nothing in my house to eat. A lot of these things are frozen, but I think that frozen food doesn’t have to be bad food. Trader Joes sells lots of good frozen veggie options and I love their frozen prepared brown rice. Those plus a protein (like the frozen cowboy burgers) are great meals that I can put together in minutes.

I’m lucky that breakfast is pretty easy for me, and dinner is easy enough (but I know it could be better). The place that I’m struggling is lunch. I used to miss lunch a lot because I would get distracted by work and forget (never good before having an after work workout), but I have an app that alerts me to eat by 1pm now. So at least I’m not forgetting anymore. But I’m still struggling about what to eat because it needs to be easy enough to prepare because I don’t want to step away from work for too long but also needs to be easy to eat since I have to take bites between customers if someone calls or starts an online chat.

I’m working on meal planning (but not looking at bulk cooking as the plan) right now. I know that if I plan things out better, I can grocery shop better (and probably spend less money) and I won’t have the “what can I eat” feeling at mealtime. While I had a decent plan going last year on the cleanse, I think that it worked for me so well because the lack of variety. I need more variety than what I had then, but too much variety is too overwhelming and too expensive. The balance is tough to find, but I’m working on it.

I know this weekend will not be including cooking because I’ll be out-of-town again, but I’m hoping after getting back from that trip I can get back into my groove and continue to enjoy lots of healthy, delicious, and easy meals that I cooked myself.

Still Cooking (or It’s Almost A Habit)

I’m scared to be too excited about this, but I’m happy to report that I’m still doing a lot of cooking at home. I’m not doing this because I have to for a specific reason (like a diet plan or limiting food options). I’m doing this because I want to.

Most of my cooking is still pretty basic. It’s not as much of a lazy thing, it’s more because I don’t want to have to buy a ton of ingredients or risk a recipe coming out badly. Turkey burgers and sautéed veggies are still a staple for me. It’s super easy and fast to put together and while it isn’t the most flavorful meal it keeps me full. And when I’m getting home late after a workout, I really don’t want to have to spend a long time putting together food.

But when I do have the time, I’m testing more and more recipes so I can have more things that are easy enough to put together and are very tasty. So many cookbooks seem to have dozens of ingredients (and things that I don’t always keep in my house), so I’ve been doing a lot of searching online for recipes that include a lot of what I already have (or something that I decided to pick up at the store that week).

This past weekend while doing my grocery shopping, I decided to pick up some ground beef. I honestly had no plan of what I would do with it, but I figured I could make meatballs or hamburgers or something. So I did some searching online for fun ground beef recipes and what came up most often was meatloaf. I’ve made meatloaf before and it didn’t come out so great because the outside was overcooked and the inside was undercooked. But then I started to do a search for meatloaf muffins and found enough basic recipes to put something together myself.

I made meatloaf (made pretty simply with a pound of ground beef and added a minced onion, diced a red pepper, added some ketchup (about 4 tbs), some Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tbs), a cup of bread crumbs, an egg, and some salt and pepper) and mixed it up pretty well. Then I took a disposable cupcake tin and divided the mixture into 6 portions. I baked it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees (I waited until a meat thermometer got to 160 degrees in the middle of one of the muffins) and they looked pretty amazing. I also made smashed potatoes (I microwaved baby potatoes until they were soft, smushed them onto a baking sheet, and baked them with some garlic olive oil while the meatloaf baked) and my food looked pretty incredible.

More Home Cooking

Between the prep time, the baking time, and the time to let things cool down so I could serve myself; it was only about an hour from start to finish (and I was able to do all the dishes while the food was cooking). That’s not bad at all and the food tasted pretty great! The potatoes could have used a bit more olive oil on them (and maybe some actual garlic on them too) and the meatloaf had a bit too much Worcestershire in it, but overall I was pretty happy. And I know the next time I make the meatloaf I’ll add some more veggies in the mix because you couldn’t tell they were in there at all. Maybe I’ll add some mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini since I usually have those in my fridge anyway. And the recipe is pretty easy to double, so I can always make even more and freeze them so I have easy microwave meals on days I’m too tired to cook (instead of having limited time to eat leftovers in the fridge).

I’m seriously proud of myself for cooking when there isn’t a specify reason I have to. This is the start of making cooking more of a habit for me. And I know that this habit has started and stopped for me a couple of times in the past, but this time things are different. I’m not trying to be trendy (by following a specific plan or tying to bulk cook). Those trendy cooking things work for so many people but I guess it doesn’t help me. I just need to cook when I feel like it, allow myself to have easy meals on nights that I don’t, and to have enough variety to not get sick of what I’ve made and want to go and order delivery food instead.

Doing More Cooking (or Maybe It Does Save Time)

I think we’ve all seen tons of articles that talk about how cooking from home is so much better than getting take out, delivery, or going out to eat. Obviously, it is cheaper (unless you are making something really elaborate or with a ton of ingredients). But there are also dozens of articles that I’ve seen over the years saying that it’s much faster to make your own dinner than it takes for a delivery person to get to your house.

Cooking has always felt like an event to me. Maybe it’s because I live alone and cooking for one person isn’t always that fun. But it’s never felt like part of the routine or natural in my day. I’m really working on fixing this because I was doing great cooking all my own meals while I was on the cleanse a year ago. It’s been really tough for me to get back into really cooking but it’s an effort that I’m working on right now.

After making my chicken dish on Monday, I was feeling a bit better about cooking again. It was my first big cooking thing in a long time and it did feel great to cook again. And since there were leftovers, I knew I’d have some home cooked meals for a few more meals.

I had ever intention of eating the leftover chicken for dinner the next night, but I ended up eating it for lunch and then feeling very uninspired to make dinner that night. I’m not happy I did this, but I ordered delivery food. While the delivery food tastes good while I’m eating it, I know my body doesn’t love it. I feel a bit sluggish after eating and I know that it is a big factor in my weight gain.

I don’t know why I ordered the food. Obviously I needed dinner, but I didn’t need to order food. It’s almost like an impulse or reflex that I didn’t think about until after the fact. I need to work on being in the moment or more aware when I do this, because I know that I could have done without the delivery food.

From the time I placed my order for food until the time I was eating was just over an hour. And the next day I was determined to prove to myself that I can do much better for myself in an hour with food that I had in the house.

The next day, after getting home from my workout and showering, I cooked myself some dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy. I cut up some zucchini and an onion and cooked those in one pan until the zucchini was brown and the onions were soft. And in another pan (yes, it was a 2 pan dinner!), I cooked a frozen turkey burger that I had in the freezer from Trader Joes. I started the veggies first and then the turkey burger and by some miracle they were basically done at the exact same time.

I have to admit that not only was it healthy and tasted great, it looked pretty nice too.

Home Cooking

I sat down and ate my dinner and then started working on the dishes. There were a lot of dishes to do (knives, 2 pans, cooking utensils, a cutting board, the plate and fork I used to eat) so that took me a while to clean and figure out how to fit everything into the drying rack since I don’t have a dishwasher at my house. By the time that I was done cleaning, I felt like it had been a big production to cook and clean. But I looked at the clock and it hadn’t even been an hour from the time I started cooking until the time I was done with all the cleanup.

I know it shouldn’t have surprised me, but I was pretty shocked. I figured that obviously cooking is faster than waiting on delivery since you can easily cook in under and hour and most deliveries seem to be an hour. But I wasn’t expecting it to be faster to cook, eat, and clean in the time I wait for the delivery guy.

I’m not going to say that I will never order delivery food again. That would be a total lie. I know I’ll order it again because it is delicious and there is nothing wrong with an occasional treat. But I need to work on making it a treat and not a habit. And now I know that the most important thing for me is to make sure my house is stocked with foods that are easy to put together. I’d love to make awesome meals all the time, but when I’m tired and lazy I just need something that is easy to make and will be healthy and fill me up.

I’m sure that at some point it may be possible that I will “forget” this lesson and go back into my bad habits. I’m hoping that won’t be true, but I’ve learned that setbacks are a part of life and I can’t let those get me down. I need to be able to have my setback and then get right back to the regular game plan right away. And I’ve proved to myself that I can do that.

Honey Dijon Chicken (or An Easy Sheet Pan Dinner)

I’ve been seriously slacking on cooking lately. I was doing so great doing bulk cooking and then cooking less often last year. But this year cooking just wasn’t something I felt like doing. I haven’t just been eating freezer meals or delivery, but my cooking was limited to making turkey burgers or something really easy to throw together. And I knew that I needed to get myself back into the cooking game because while I don’t know if I want to cook every night, I do want to eat more home cooked meals.

So the other day I was browsing through Buzzfeed (it’s something I do between customers at one day job after I’m done doing the other day job), and I saw a recipe that looked good to me. So I decided to test it out, and I’m actually super happy with how it tasted! It wasn’t perfect, but the chicken was super juicy and the flavorings were really awesome. So here it is!

Honey Dijon Chicken With Potatoes and Carrots

Honey Dijon Chicken

What you need:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 breasts)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium red bliss potatoes (about ½ lb), roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots (about ½ lb), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage leaves, divided
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

And here’s what to do:

  • Remove the chicken breasts from the fridge, dry them with paper towels, and season them with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Place the potatoes and carrots on a large sheet pan and toss them with ½ tablespoon canola oil, ½ tablespoon chopped herbs, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper.
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir together the remaining canola oil, the honey, mustard, the remaining chopped herbs, a big pinch of kosher salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Dry the chicken breasts again with paper towels. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl and toss everything together to coat. Place the chicken on the sheet pan with the vegetables, spreading everything out.

Before the oven

  • Roast in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through with no pink in the middle. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should read 165°F.
  • Let everything rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve.

Cooked meal

I used more chicken than the recipe asked for (I couldn’t find just 1 lb of chicken breasts at the store), so I decided to do more carrots and potatoes than it asked for as well. And the carrots at my store weren’t looking so great, so I used baby carrots instead. If I was doing this over, I’d cut the baby carrots in half (they were very crisp) and I’d cut the potatoes a bit smaller too. But nothing was tasting raw or not cooked, so I was happy. The only other modification I might do in the future is to change the herbs in it or add garlic since I love garlic so much.

I turned my cooking into 3 servings. I had the first serving on Monday night when I cooked it and then put the other 2 servings into storage containers in my fridge. I know that sometimes leftovers don’t heat up that nicely, but I ate this again yesterday for lunch and it was still just as good as the night before (and I was shocked that the chicken was still juicy and not dry at all).

The fact that this came out so nicely the first time I made it really made me feel great and made me remember how much pride I feel when I cook something from scratch. It’s not easy to do all the time, but I really do want to make more of an effort in the future. And now that I’m feeling more confident in my cooking abilities again, I think I’ll be ok with trying new recipes again (I’m always nervous that I’ll spend a ton of money on ingredients and then the food gets ruined or tastes bad).

I highly recommend this recipe (thanks again Buzzfeed!). It’s a nice meal to make for yourself, but it also looks impressive if you are making it for other people as well. This is definitely going to be saved in my collection of favorite recipes!

Thanksgiving Meal Prep (or Hopefully Everything Tastes Great)

Soon, I’ll be heading down to San Diego to be with my family for Thanksgiving. It’s probably going to be a long drive (a combination of holiday and rush hour traffic), but I’ve got lots of podcasts to keep me company while I’m making the drive.

My mom is making pretty much everything for Thanksgiving this year (technically my family is hosting it at the house we are renting in San Diego), but I really wanted to help out. I know that my mom works hard to get everything done, so if I can do a little of that work for her I know that she’ll have some extra time to be with everyone.

I first offered to make the feta, pine nut, sun-dried tomato dip that I made last year. I know that it’s a pretty easy recipe and that everyone seemed to like it when I made it last year (although I personally think that my mom makes it better than I could ever do). I also said that I’d make the blueberry banana bread since everyone likes that too and it can be breakfast for a couple of days. Then I thought about what else I could make in advance that my family might like. And I decided to make the black bean dip that I love for veggies. I’ve personally been adding salsa to the dip to make it a bit spicy, but it’s doesn’t last as long that way (maybe it’s too watery?) so I made it the normal way.

The only time I’d have before driving down to make all the food was on Sunday, so I made that my cooking day (even though only one thing actually has to be cooked). The first thing I got done was the blueberry banana bread since I figured I could do the dips while it was in the oven. It’s simple enough to make and within about 10 minutes I had that recipe done and in the oven to bake.

Next I worked on the black bean dip. Again, it’s super easy to put it together. I think the most time consuming task was to drain and rinse the beans. I got that done and in a disposable Tupperware container to bring with me.

Then I ran into a big of a snafu. I only have one food processor bowl and both of the dips needed to be made in the food processor. I had washed the bowls for the bread and the food processor after finishing the bean dip, but I used my kitchen towels to dry the bowls (not sure why I did that but I did). So I couldn’t really dry my food processor. So I took a break while that dried and then about an hour later got started on the feta dip.

I’m hoping that the feta dip turned out ok. It seemed more difficult than last year to make. The food processor didn’t want to process it. I had to start and stop several times and try to mash things down myself. I finally got it to look the way I feel it should look (it’s a bit smoother than I like it to be), and it seemed to taste ok to me. It has a few days for the flavors to meld together. Hopefully it just gets better with time.

I know that making 3 things for Thanksgiving is much less than most people have to make. But for someone who has been struggling to make more things from scratch, making 3 things from scratch in one day is a lot! But I think that it all looks pretty good to me!

Thanksgiving Food

Hopefully when my family gets to eat them that they enjoy them! I’ll have to let you all know how it goes when I do my Thanksgiving recaps next week!

The next few days of posts will be written before Thanksgiving, so they won’t totally be Thanksgiving related. But I want to share with you all what I’m thankful for this year, the gift that I had made for my mom that she will be getting tonight, and what my mom, dad, and I worked on to give to everyone in my family this year for Thanksgiving.