It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of making things that you know, so you can shop and cook on autopilot. Not that our go-to meals aren't good, but they're very basic - grilled meats, microwave-steamed veggies, and simple starches like potatoes or rice. I try to make things a bit more interesting with seasonings or sauces sometimes, but nothing too complicated. I find that when I go to some extra effort, though, it really livens up the week - I get excited about making dinner, and discussing the pros and cons of a recipe while we eat. So this week I finally got motivated, went through my Evernote recipes folder, and picked out four new recipes to try.
Brown-Sugar Glazed Salmon with Green Beans and Shallots, Real Simple Magazine
This one had a lot of promise, but I was a little bit disappointed. It was fairly easy to put together, especially the salmon glaze, which was just brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. I was intrigued when I first mixed it up, it made a gorgeous-looking syrup and I thought it would be perfect on the salmon. It was good, but it was very one-note, just sweet. Perhaps because my balsamic vinegar is aged and therefore pretty sweet? Not sure, but I think it would benefit from the addition of some more salt or acid, like GF soy sauce or rice vinegar. The green beans, on the other hand, came out really nice - the shallots and garlic made the kitchen smell amazing, and it really spiffed up boring veggies. It's one I'll repeat, but with some tweaks.
Cashew Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken, How Sweet It is blog
I make a lot of food from Jessica's blog, How Sweet It is. Her tastes are really similar to mine, and her food photography makes me salivate. I regularly wish I could join her table! This one was another win, with amazing flavor and color. My favorite part of it was the extra step to brown up the pineapple chunks - normally when I add pineapple to stirfry I just toss it in at the end to warm through, but caramelizing it is definitely the way to go. And the cashews in the recipe were amazing, they provided the perfect crunch. I added chicken to make it a complete meal on its own, and I ended up adding in some steamed broccoli because I didn't have scallions and wanted something green. I mess it up a bit though - I undercooked the brown rice very slightly, so the extra step of crisping the rice resulted in some hard, chewy grains. Hubs' take was that if we use brown, we should skip the crisping step, but definitely crisp it up if we go white. My take is that I should cook the rice properly next time!
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Herbs, Martha Stewart
I spotted spaghetti squash at a good price on a recent shopping trip, and decided to try to do something a little more interesting with it than my usual salt and butter. This doesn't go much above and beyond in terms of effort, but it was a huge payoff in flavor. Instead of roasting the squash whole, we cut it in half and scooped out the seeds, drizzled it with a touch of olive oil, then put it face down on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. After 45 minutes at 375 in my toaster oven, I had perfect squash, and it was way easier to handle than roasting whole and trying to cut it in half hot (plus took half the time). We sauteed some shallots and garlic in butter, then tossed in the shredded squash and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I didn't have the fresh herbs on hand, so I had to use a dried blend, but it still came out great!
Cheddar Turkey Burgers with Mashed Avocado, Real Simple Magazine
When I saw this in a recent issue of Real Simple, I immediately clipped it. I've actually never had avocado on a burger, and I just happened to have some ground turkey and Udi's gluten-free hamburger buns in the freezer, so I put it on the menu plan for this weekend. Unfortunately, this one was the big dud of the week. Not in terms of flavor - the burgers tasted absolutely fantastic, and I loved the avocado mash, it added great flavor and a buttery texture to the burger. The issue was with the cooking process. The patties pretty much glued themselves to the grill, and poor Hubs ended up coming in with one intact patty, one mostly intact patty, and a few extra small pieces that had been the third patty. The rest we lost to the inside of the grill. We're not sure what it was that caused the issue, since he used grill cooking spray and it wasn't fat free turkey breast, but we're thinking maybe it was the cheese mixed into the patty. I will make these again, but will do them in a nonstick skillet next time!