For the eaters: Cajun chicken with a one-pot fettuccini alfredo

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been finding joy (or I guess maybe stability and comfort) in cooking lately. Because it feels like the only exciting thing going on in my life right now, it’s sort of flooded my instagram feed. I never really expected it to become a foodstagram account, but at this point I’m ok with that. However, in sharing so many food pictures, I’ve had some friends reach out and ask when or if I’m going to share any of my recipes.

I tried thinking of what could be a good venue for this, but in everything I considered, honestly, my blog is simply the best place. If you’re wondering why I was hesitant about using my blog… I don’t mind recipe blogs, I find them useful myself. But I don’t just go through and read them like I do other blogs. Actually, I usually skip the whole blog part and go straight to the recipe.

One of my favorite podcasts is The Sporkful, and it’s tagline is “It’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters.” Cooking is one of my passions, and I’ve really enjoyed getting into food studies. So I want to find a balance of sharing these passions without feeling like I’m turning this into just another recipe blog. But of course, recipes will be a part of that. Honestly, though, some of you will really laugh when you see just how simple my recipes are. Also, I don’t measure, I just kind of go on instinct. So that creates another challenge when I attempt to put a recipe to paper.

The recipe I’m sharing now, is honestly one of my easiest. It’s a go-to: chicken on top of a grain/carb. Because my moods and stomach tolerance can change quickly, it’s also a nice one because I can use frozen chicken. No thawing, no planning ahead of time. All I need is 45 minutes and spices. No joke, this is how I cook chicken 90% of the time.

 

 

Cajun Chicken with One-Pot Alfredo

An easy no-hassle meal

Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings (ish)

Ingredients

Cajun Chicken

  • 2 chicken breasts frozen
  • Cajun seasoning
  • salt to taste

One-Pot Alfredo

  • 3 tbps butter
  • 4 1/2 tbsp flour enough to make a roux
  • 2/3-1 cup milk (I use almond)
  • 2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp garlic (or more!)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-4 servings pasta of your choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a greased or foil-lined pan, place your chicken breasts. Give a quick spray with cooking spray, then as heavily as you like it, cover the chicken with Cajun seasoning. (If you don't have Cajun, chili pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic, and cayenne work, too.) Bake for 45 minutes.

  2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to make a roux. You want a light roux, so only 3-4 minutes. Until it's a light beige and has really formed together.

  3. Whisk in the milk slowly. Once it is combined, whisk in the broth. Once that is combined, stir in the parmesan and garlic (and any salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes). It'll be runny, but make sure it's all combined well. Add more cheese if needed.

  4. Bring to a boil, then add pasta. If using something long like a fettuccini, you'll have to stir and readjust to make sure all pasta gets in the sauce. Let it boil on medium for a minute or so, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta does not stick to the pan. Cover with a lid, and reduce heat. Let it cook for about 15 minutes or until all pasta has cooked and sauce has thickened.

  5. If chicken finishes before the pasta, cover loosely and let sit. This will actually make it easier to slice later. Once pasta is plated (you can garnish with parsley), slice the chicken and top on the pasta. Depending on appetite, it can make 2-4 servings. (For four, divide the breasts up between the plates.)

Let me know if you try it and how it turned out! Also, if you change up the style of chicken, let me know as that’s my current experiment.

Meat Free Monday #4 & #5: White Bean Shakshuka & Pumpkin-Sage Pasta

Between school, my fitness motivation, and now general crappiness I feel likely thanks to my endometriosis… I got a little behind on my MFM updates. So I’m going to try to squeeze in last weeks and this weeks in one update.

Week #4
For breakfast, yet again it was another shake. I don’t think I’ve had any other breakfast since starting this. We had a busy day on campus with a faculty candidate visiting, so I went with an Amy’s frozen meal for lunch. This one has always been one of my favorites. Though, I maybe snarfed this down pretty quickly. By the time dinner came, I wasn’t quite sure what to make. I was going between a few recipes, and finally settled on this Smoky White Bean Shakshuka from Budget Bytes. I’d never had shakshuka before, but I’m all about some breakfast for dinner. It’s got North African Arabic roots, but a lot of recipes now will associate it with Israel (or sometimes, Palestine). What I can say, though, is there is a sort of perfectness in the simplicity of the flavors. I cannot wait to make this again! (Recipe at the bottom)


Week #5
Bet you can’t guess my breakfast… Yep. Shake. Eventually I might have to get another flavor. Never thought I’d get a little tired of chocolate. For lunch, I made something my mom’s loved for a while and is essentially the only things she gets at Panera: a hummus and veggie sandwich. However, it’s not so easy making a veggie sandwich when, oh say, you don’t like the texture of raw tomatoes or you get unpleasant, yet different, bodily reactions to things like mushrooms and bell peppers. It cuts down your options a lot. So for mine, I used some sandwich slims (though pita would have been good), spread on my hummus on both sides, and then sliced up some cucumbers and carrots. And that was it. It was good. And basic. But, you know, worked. Maybe next time I’ll add some grilled zucchini and spinach. I’ve looked at a lot of recipes for this challenge, and for dinner I decided to try one I’d put on the back burner for a while. I made this Quick Pumpkin-Sage Pasta from NY Times Cooking. I’m not going to retype the recipe here, since I really didn’t make too many changes. I used ground sage, and accidentally too much, rather than whole sage. Oh, and added some milk to the sauce. And added a ton of parmesan cheese to make up for the extra sage. It was warm, it was hearty, and now I have a ton of leftovers.


Going forward…

I don’t think I’m going to continue fully with the Meat Free Monday plan. I am, however, going to continue adding meatless meals throughout the week. It was a fun challenge, but just the whole day thing didn’t quite work out well for me. I am appreciative that this made me mindful of my food choices and kind of got me out of this rut of thinking I always need animal proteins for most of my meals (especially dinners). I had kind of gotten into a food funk, so I’m very happy his helped shake me out of it.

 

Shakshuka with White Beans

A savory and hearty meal perfect for any time of the day

Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • olive oil to coat pan & onions
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 can tomatoes (I prefer crushed)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 can white beans (I used Great Northern Beans)
  • garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • parsley
  • parmesan (or feta!)

Instructions

  1. Saute onions (and whole sliced garlic if that's what you use) in oil until translucent. Helps to use a deeper skillet for this recipe.

  2. Add the canned tomatoes, crush if you're using anything but crushed tomatoes. Add in the garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir so it's well mixed. Salt & pepper to taste. Let simmer and stir occasionally.

    *If you haven't noticed by now, I typically don't measure out my spices and just go "to taste" -- however, I put the original recipe's measurements so you could see the ratios I keep in mind when I made this.

  3. Drain the beans and add to the skillet, again, mix well. Simmer for a bit longer.

  4. Crack the eggs into the mixture and allow to poach in the tomatoes. Cover and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes. Cook until the whites of the eggs are fully cooked and set, and the yolk is to your liking.

  5. Top with cheese and parsley and enjoy! Crusty bread or toast goes well with this to mop up the sauce.

Meat Free Monday #3: lemon & goat cheese pasta sauce

Ok. I hit a point recently where I’m just not excited about food. It happens every so often — I’ve got a kitchen full of food, but yet I just have no interest making or eating any of it. Some of this is due to my stomach just not sitting well with the food I’ve been eating. Maybe I picked up a bug or something — or my anti-anxiety medications are having lingering effects after I quit them.*

Anyway. This MFM, and even more so just this week, I’m reminding myself that I don’t need to get all fancy or try new things. Sure, that’s fun and all, but sometimes you need to keep things simple or get back to basics. Plus, with my stomach still not sure what it likes, I just want to eat food and feel good about it. And for Monday, at least, not include meat.

Breakfast
Here I kept it ridiculously simple. So simple it wasn’t worth photographing. All I had was an English muffin with a little butter and cinnamon and sugar. I slept in a little, and so it was about 10:30 before I ate — something becoming a habit on my non-class days. But mostly I just didn’t want to eat a big breakfast that late then eat a lunch right after.

Lunch
Again with the simple. I still had leftover buffalo chickpea sandwich spread. Rather than just do a sandwich, I put it, with some lettuce, quinoa, and ranch dressing in a giant tortilla. It was huge. Still good, though.  I also decided to have some Triscuits — cracked black pepper, my favorite kind! The only downside to this meal (other than loading up my wrap too much!) was that everything had just come out of the fridge. My teeth aren’t that sensitive, but yeah, everything was maybe a little too cold for me. Also my fault for not letting things hit room temperature and just snarfing this lunch down a bit too quickly. I’m surprised I actually paused long enough to snap a picture before I chowed down!

Dinner
I decided to go back to an old staple. I haven’t really made it much here since I moved, mainly because any cheese that isn’t in a can or individually wrapped or just basic cheddar tends to be a bit overpriced. Seriously, most things here are cheaper than when I was in Chicago, but certain “special” foods are seen as “fancy” and thus marked up. But my lemon-goat cheese pasta sauce is one of my favorites. I’ve shared the recipe before. However, since then, I’ve adjusted the pasta recipe a little bit. I can’t wait to try it this summer when I get some fresh goat’s milk cheese from the farmers’ market! (And fresh spinach too!)

Lemon Goat Cheese Pasta

Creamy, salty, and rich! Also very adaptable.

Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 box pasta (less if using spaghetti or other ribbony noodles)
  • spinach frozen or fresh
  • 1 cup milk (I use almond)
  • 4 oz goat cheese crumbled
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or more if you like
  • 1 pad butter
  • pinch garlic to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.

  2. If using frozen spinach, you can add it in for the last 5-6 minutes with the pasta, but know you'll lose the smaller pieces. Or you can cook it separate and add it in with the sauce.

  3. In sauce pan, melt a pad of butter. Once melted, add in the milk. Be careful not to scald! (My original recipe used pasta water, which you can totally skip the butter and milk if you'd like! I just like the thicker, richer sauce.)

  4. Stir in the goat cheese and let melt. For a richer sauce, you can also add in some feta and parmesan cheese! Add garlic and black pepper to taste. Parsley is good too!

  5. Return pasta to sauce and add the spinach! When reheating, it may need a tiny splash or water or milk, but generally reheats really well. That is, if you have any leftovers! Bacon, prosciutto, capers, kale, asparagus -- those are all really good additions to this recipe!   

*This is the second time I’ve chosen to quit this particular medication since I was put on it about a month ago. The side effects — dizziness, extreme nausea — I just couldn’t take it. I know these take adjustments, but I lost my job from being too sick thanks to the adjustments. So when the side effects got worse even on a half dose, I just felt it was better to try something different. Whatever that may be.

Meat Free Monday #2: Buffalo Chickpea sandwich

One of the interesting things about starting this Meat Free Monday adventure is that I’ve had to remind myself that just because I’m not eating meat on Monday specifically, it doesn’t mean it needs to be a part of all my meals every other day. Like, it’s completely OK for me to eat vegetarian meals on other days of the week. I know it seems silly, but when you get so hyper focused on a specific dietary plans, well, sometimes common sense just kind of gets pushed aside.

Anyway. Still enjoying this challenge, and really having fun exploring new recipes! (Like the homemade instant noodle cups! If I don’t included on a MFM post, I’ll be sure to share the recipe on its own.) In fact, I’m finding so many different recipes I want to try or adapt, that I’m having a hard time deciding what and when I want to make things! In fact, even for this week’s dinner I had 3 ideas going through my head and essentially waited until about an hour before dinner to make my decision. (I procrastinated by making some granola.)

Breakfast
As it was the first day of the spring semester, I wanted something easy. Because I need to get in the habit of easy breakfasts that keep me actually eating breakfast on a regular basis. Thankfully I only have 1 class before 11am, and that’s only one day a week. For this one, I just went with a mini bagel. A mini Maple French Toast bagel. With brown sugar cinnamon cream cheese. For something small, it was very tasty.

Lunch
Even though I didn’t need to stay on campus for lunch — I don’t officially have classes on Mondays. Or Fridays — I did stay on campus so I could try to get some work done -slash- maybe get ahead on my readings for the rest of the week. Packable lunches can be a challenge, but I feel as though I’ve been getting better at it. For me the key is having specific containers just for packed lunches. It also helps with portioning and whatnot. Anyway. For the main part of my lunch I had a buffalo chickpea sandwich.

I’d made chickpea sandwich spreads before. People like to call it a replacement for tuna salad. It’s not. Chickpeas maybe have a similar color, but texture wise or even flavor wise, it’s not tuna. However, it does lend itself well for sandwich spread. The last one I made was a dill and mustard based one. Very good. But I’d been wanting something buffalo, and thought this was a good idea. These sandwiches are pretty easy, but very tasty. Mash chickpeas, add in wet stuff, and flavoring, and then make a sandwich. (Real recipe below!)

Dinner
As I mentioned, I had a hard time deciding on what to do.  I thought about doing one of my go-to pasta dishes. Then I had another idea — which I already forgot about, so it probably wasn’t that exciting. But even as I was starting to make my dinner, I saw another pasta dish recipe that sounded good… but, well, I was already cooking.

I’d seen a fair bit of recipes for veggie burgers, veggie nuggets, and veggie fritters. All of them sounded good. One of the reasons I wasn’t so sure I’d go with this recipe is because I kept forgetting to get buns. So, I decided to improvise. Make a pseudo brinner.

I combined a whole lot of recipes, so I can’t link a definite one for my inspiration. Not to mention, one of the ones I really liked, I couldn’t find before I even started cooking. Just as my chickpea spread isn’t a mock tuna salad, veggie burgers really shouldn’t be treated like mock hamburgers. You can blend a lot of different things and get some really neat and complex flavors. I decided for my first foray into this, to just keep it somewhat simple. Chickpeas and corn. And quinoa. Essentially you kind of have to get into the mindset that you’re going to make meatballs — you need binders. For me that was quinoa, breadcrumbs, and a couple eggs. I also chose to bake mine rather than fry. And served it up with sweet potato tots. Because if you can add tots, you should add tots. Just saying.

Originally I was going to share the recipe for this burger… However, I want to play with my ratios and perfect it a little more before I do that. Don’t get me wrong, this was a really good dinner and a great play on a burger. However, the patty on its own was just OK. Combined with the egg on top though? Yeah, I’m immensely pleased with my genius. I don’t know when I’ll get back to this recipe, but even if it’s not during MFM I’ll post it!

In fact, I’m thinking after this January run of moving these updates to Instagram and just publishing a select recipes every so often. As much as I love cooking, and I am actually doing my thesis on food, I do not plan on turning this into a food blog. But I’m kind of proud of some of the food I’ve been making.

Buffalo Chickpea Sandwich Spread

Meat-free sandwich with a little kick

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas drained & rinsed
  • 1/3 cup mayo (or greek yogurt if that's your thing)
  • celery chopped into small pieces
  • buffalo sauce (as much as you'd like!)

Instructions

  1. Empty chickpeas into a bowl, and use a strong utensil to mash them. A potato masher would likely be idea, though a wooden spoon or large fork work well too. 

  2. Add mayo, celery pieces, and buffalo sauce and mix well.

  3. Drizzle ranch or add in some blue cheese crumbles, if you like.

  4. Serve as a sandwich, or a wrap, or eat as is!

Meat Free Mondays #1: Honey-Garlic Cauliflower

As I mentioned in my 2017 goals, I wanted to attempt going meat-free for one full day once a week, at least through the month of January. As fun as I think this is going to be — simply for the excitement of exploring new recipes and protein sources — I found that I had to remind myself of this multiple times throughout the day. Especially in the morning. I found that sort of humorous because not often do I actually eat meat for breakfast.

Anyway. Since one of my other goals is to get better at taking pictures of food, I thought a good way would be to share my meals and some of the recipes I try out.

Pseudo-Brunch
I maybe got preoccupied that morning getting ready for the new semester, as well as making an attempt at narrowing down my thesis focus. Which sort of backfired because I came up with more ideas. By 10:30am I realized I hadn’t eaten yet, and so rather than have a traditional breakfast or attempt lunch early, I just went with a larger snack like meal: chips with homemade salsa. I like to tell myself this is healthy. I mean, salsa is just vegetables. (Also, since it’s homemade there’s no added sugar.) And yes, I am washing that down with a giant cup of orange flavored water.

I made a huge batch of salsa months ago, and am still eating my way through it. That salsa was a lot hotter than I typically eat it, so I’ve been using it as a mother batch and adding it to containers of crushed tomatoes. After that I give it another blend with my immersion blender because I am not a chunky salsa fan. Salsa’s actually really easy to make, so much so it doesn’t really require its own recipe card. It’s essentially tomatoes, onions, garlic, and peppers. For mine, I use crushed tomatoes, fresh sweet onion, garlic powder and salt, a little cumin, a little lime, and this last time I added three jalapeños and an entire little can of chipotle and adobo. That last part is why it was a bit much for me to eat as-is.

Real Lunch
Chips and salsa weren’t enough to hold me over all day. Which I knew. The hardest part of the challenge so far has been reigning back my desire to cook awesome meatless dishes for each meal. Unchecked, I’d end up with a fridge full of leftovers again — and I’m currently attempting to work my way through my last cooking frenzy’s leftovers. So I made myself keep it simple for lunch.

It feels like forever since I’ve had — or at least made — a baked potato. It’s was a common, quick and simple dinner at my mom’s house. I’m a fan of loaded baked potatoes, though. However, I tend to forget that extra toppings doesn’t necessarily mean extra work. I just topped mine with feta and almonds. Definitely didn’t require much effort at all. Definitely was pretty tasty and also filling.

Dinner
Finally allowing myself to explore recipes and cook something new, I really went at it. In my last cooking frenzy, I made a lot of casseroles and soups and stews. So I wanted something different this time. And I was craving cauliflower. Cauliflower can be a main dish, but often it’s designated as a side. I had to find a recipe that would be able to hold its own. So I chose to adapt this recipe: honey-garlic cauliflower. I adjusted the sauce a little bit. And unfortunately over-breaded the cauliflower. (I’ve never been good at getting panko to turn out like it does in recipe pictures. Mine look like some sort of mutant nuggets, actually…) Anyway. I plan on using the sauce on more thing — it’s a good sweet and a little spicy Asian-style sauce. Oh, and as you can see, I added green beans.

 

Honey Garlic Cauliflower

Sweet & spicy Asian-inspired vegetarian dish

Cook Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower chopped into florets
  • 2/3 cup flour (all-purpose, or whatever you prefer)
  • 3 eggs beaten with a little water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tps garlic powder (to taste; or 2 cloves minced)
  • 1 tps lime juice (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sriracha (or chili sauce of preference)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tbsp corn starch

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

  2. Toss the cauliflower in flour, then dredge in eggs, and then finally coat with the bread crumbs. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minute or until desired crispiness.

  3. In sauce pan, whisk together honey, soy & teriyaki sauces, garlic, and sriracha over medium heat. As that comes to a boil, in a small bowl, mix together water and corn starch until dissolved. After the sauce boils, reduce heat to simmer and stir in corn starch solution. Stir occasionally until it thickens. (2-3 minutes, ish)

  4. Toss cooked cauliflower in sauce, and either return to oven for a few minutes (original recipe suggest broiling for 2 minutes); or sauté in a wok with additional vegetables.

  5. Garnish with scallions or sesame seeds, serve with rice (or grain of preference)

 

Savvy Spork: Holiday Baked Brie

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One of my favorite things to make during the holidays (or for any sort of gathering) are baked bries. Warm, gooey cheese… what could be better?

There are a lot of recipes out there for bake bries. I think that’s one thing I like most about baked bries: there are so many opportunities to be creative with this one dish. I have 3 main recipes I use, one with mushrooms (which I’ve never tasted because I don’t eat mushrooms), one with sautéed pears and walnuts, and this holiday one I’m about to share with you. This one is pretty classic. I think my aunt found the recipe first — or possibly my mom — but it’s turned into a family favorite, and is on its way of becoming a family tradition.

Savvy Spork - Holiday Baked Brie

Holiday Baked Brie

Ingredients:
Brie (wedge or circle)
Pastry or crescent dough (Pilsbury actually makes a good crescent dough that’s not divided for individual rolls)
Apricot jam/jelly/preserves
Craisins (dried cranberries)
Almond slices
Optional: 1 egg

1. First thing you’ll want to do is preheat the oven to the temperature needed on the dough package. All you’re really doing is melting the cheese, but you need the dough to be completely baked before eating. You can go ahead and grease a baking dish too. (I tend to use those cheap aluminum pie tins, because I serve my brie on a nice plate and it’s easy to transfer it.)
2. Unroll the dough on a clean surface. If you want, you can very, very lightly flour it, as the dough is very sticky. Keep the center of the dough thick — do not spread or thin that part out. I use it as the top of the dish, so you want this to be able to hold up to all the fillings.
3. Take the brie container, and very lightly mark out your space in the middle of the dough. If you have the wedge, then take the cheese itself (since it won’t likely have a container, but just a wrapper) and lightly press it into the dough to get your area marked out. This is your working or loading zone, where all the fillings will go.
4. How I layer: sliced almonds, craisins, and then topped with the apricot jam. I tend to use a lot of these ingredients in each. Good, solid layers. Lastly, I place the unwrapped brie gently on top. Do not squish it. If you’ve not had brie, you should know it comes with a semi-hard white rind, which I always keep on. Not everyone likes the rind, though. If you want to cut it off, go for it… but it’s not something I would do.
5. Take the edges of the dough and wrap it up over the now top (will be bottom) of the brie. Make sure you just fold all of it over.
6. Very, very, very carefully flip the brie over so that end bits you just tucked on top are now on the bottom. Place the brie in a greased dish or pan to bake. Here’s the optional bit before you put it in the oven: you can beat an egg and create an egg wash over the top. It just helps seal it all in, and makes it look all pretty and shiny. You can also use some of the almonds and craisins to decorate the top as well. If you’re making multiple types of brie, it’s good to do this so you know what’s inside.
7. Bake for the allotted time on the dough package. Check it occasionally. Often this should only take 10-15 minutes, maybe 18… You want the dough to be a light golden brown.
8. When it’s finished, transfer it to whatever serving dish you’re going to use. If you’re not going to eat it immediately, wrap it well with foil to keep that heat in. You should really be serving this dish within 20-30 minutes of baking. You want it to cool just a bit before eating, so you don’t burn yourself on melted cheese… but you want it to be gooey still. Slice it and eat it as it is, in the dough, or serve along with crackers.

This makes a great appetizer or snack, or you can include it as part of your meal! I absolutely love it and it’s so much fun to make.

If you’d like to see me make one, you can watch this very, very awkward cooking video! This is from my first Savvy Spork livestream, something which I am hoping will be a monthly tradition. (And hopefully over the holidays I’ll be able to get a better webcam system, as I do like the multi-cam aspect for cooking streams.)

Savvy Spork: My favorite ramen upgrade

For part of the spring semester of my freshman year, I pretty much lived on salads and ramen. Lost a fair bit of weight that way too. But I was trying to avoid awkward/painful run-ins with my ex, so it was ramen in my dorm room for most nights. Back then I didn’t get fancy with it. Sure, one of my guy friends introduced me to my first ramen “hack” — and it was pretty amazing too, some simple veggies, coconut milk, and peanut butter… maybe some sriracha… but I never got the motivation to make anything like this myself. Probably because there wasn’t a kitchen in my dorm at the time, like his upperclassmen-only building.

Anyway. I digress.

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Upgrading your ramen is not new by any means at all. As long as there’s been instant ramen, people have been trying to improve it. A lot of times making it resemble real ramen. Hell, most people don’t know that these cheap packaged bricks aren’t real ramen at all, just an instant approximation. (Seriously, go google “authentic ramen” and look at that yummy goodness.)

Now that I’m back into a ramen phase — and without transportation to the one asian market in this area — I’ve gotten into dressing mine up a bit, mostly for flavor (rather than health — it’s packaged ramen, unless you make your own broth you’re looking at maxing out your sodium needs in one bowl). And because sharing is caring, here is one of my favorites. As per ushe with Savvy Spork recipes, this is pretty damn simple to pull off. Mostly just start off with things I already had lying around my kitchen.

Thai Curry Peanut Butter Ramen

Thai Curry Peanut Butter Ramen
My choice of ramen: chicken
Ingredients:
» Soy sauce
» Teriyaki
» True Lime
» Red curry paste
» Peanut butter

Directions:  Make the ramen as directed, only use maybe 1.5 cups or water rather than 2 cups as suggested. Go ahead and use the flavor pack. Add a tiny bit of soy sauce and teriyaki — low sodium varieties if you can. Use a teaspoon — and I’m not saying an actual measuring spoon but the smaller spoons you eat cereal with — and stir in the curry paste. I like not quite a full teaspoon, but use as much as you’d like/can handle. Clean off that same spoon and add your peanut butter. A small dash of lime powder (or juice). Stir, let it set up just a bit, and eat. The peanut butter will make the sauce thicken up and be really creamy.

Alternatives: Coconut milk, scallions, chopped peanuts, actual chicken. Basically whatever you’d find in a pad thai — this will not be exactly the same, but similar idea.

It’s got a little bit of heat, and the peanut butter thickens up the broth into a nice sauce. And the best part is that it’s crazy simple. If you don’t have the curry paste, some sriracha might work. The curry paste is easy to find, though. I get the Thai Kitchen brand from my grocery store.

What are your favorite ramen hacks? I’ll post more as I prefect some of my others.

Fandom Five: COMFORT FOODS. (with recipes!)

AdorkableMe: fandom five

I’m super excited about this Five Fandom Friday. It’s all about comfort foods. And I’m hoping people share recipes that I can add to my collection. I only wish I had more photos of these foods, apparently they’re so good I focus more on eating them than capturing the moment.

1. Beef Stew, or more accurately, my mom’s beef stew. This was always a favorite growing up. And of course, come to learn years and years later, apparently my mom put this through the food processor to make baby food for my brother and I. So I have definitely grown up on this dish. I go through phases with this. When I was little, the potatoes were my favorite part, then the beef chunks, and now the carrots. I mean, I love the soup as a whole, but it’s fun to get a bowl with more of your favorite pieces than not. And my mom, she makes this with big chunks and it’s awesome.

Ingredients:
3-5 potatoes, cubed
2-3 carrots, cubed, 1-inch chunks
½-1lb of stew beef, cubed
1 ½ cup tomato juice
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoon minute tapioca
Instructions:
Cut and layer your meat and veggies. Mix 1 ½ cups tomato or V8 juice with 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoons minute tapioca and pour over stew, cover and bake at 250 degrees for 4-6 hours.

One thing to note, apparently my lack of proper measurements in recipes also runs in my family. Go figure. So basically for this, my mom just sent me only the instructions. So…. I guestimated on the rest.

2. Potato Soup, and yes, this one is family tied too. I’m talking about my late stepmom’s potato soup. This was always one of my favorite dishes that Karen made. It’s creamy and a little cheesy, and could just make any day better.

Ingredients:
6 potatoes, peeled & diced
2 carrots, diced
¼ cup chopped onions
5 bouillon cubes
¼ cup half-and-half or milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions:
Take vegetables and cover with water in a large pot. Add bouillon cubes. Boil on med-high until potatoes are soft and could be mashed. When some water has evaporate, turn down heat to med-low and add dairy. Cook until cheese has completely melted.

3. Mashed Potatoes. Definitely another childhood favorite. I could probably eat my weight in mashed potatoes if given the chance. But though I love mashed potatoes just the way they are, the fun part is using it as a base for extra flavor. And right now, my favorite variation is Rosemary Ranch.

Ingredients:
4+ servings prepared mashed potatoes
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons ranch dressing
dash of minced rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
Instructions:
Prepare your mashed potatoes however you like — instant, from scratch, doesn’t matter. Mix in all other ingredients. Good to go.
This was adapted from a sauce/glaze you put on chicken before bbq-ing, so it has many, many uses and is a good one to keep around.

pasta with lemony goat cheese sauce recipe

4. Lemon Goat Cheese Pasta Sauce. In the timeline of comfort foods, this is definitely a newer one. It was also a sort of special recipe to me in that it reminded me that good food isn’t hard. Kitchen messes are definitely a bane, so I want food that won’t be a hassle as well as, you know, taste amazing. This recipe is just that. I know I’ve shared it before, but here it is again.

Ingredients:
2 cups uncooked pasta; I prefer farfalle
1 container of crumbled goat cheese
1 tablespoon (roughly) of lemon juice
½ teaspoon of black pepper

chicken sausage or spinach or capers or bacon or prosciutto if you’d like

Instructions:
Cook pasta. Drain but DO NOT get rid of the water. Set noodles aside. Add cheese to pan, slowly add in a little bit of the pasta water at a time. Melt the cheese. Probably 1-1 ½ cups of pasta water is all you need, just so the sauce covers all the pasta but isn’t too runny. Add in lemon juice and pepper. Stir in sausage or spinach or capers (or any other addition items you’d like). *Precook the sausage, but let the spinach cook in the sauce. Stir in the cooked pasta. Allow to sauce to set for roughly 5 minutes or so before serving. If you chose bacon or prosciutto, use as a garnish. Use more cheese, or grated parmesan cheese to thicken if you’d like.

5. Sweet corn. It was really hard to pick a 5th, because there are so many foods I love. However, I am an Indiana girl deep down, so it’s hard to beat a good ear of sweet corn fresh from the farm. And really, I just need a couple ears with butter and salt, and I’m all set. But in the heart of sharing recipes, here’s one for elote — a very tasty Mexican version of corn on the cob (or in a cup, as is how I make it most often.)

Ingredients:
Corn: either on the cob or 1 cup frozen
Mayonaise
Cotija or parmesan grated cheese
chili powder
cayenne pepper
paprika
lime juice
Instructions:
Cook the corn
On the cob
Put a layer of mayonaise on the corn. Then cover with cheese, sprinkle with ample amount of chili powder and cayenne. Tiny bit of paprika. Hint of lime to top it off.
It’ll be messy but awesome.
In cup
Mix all ingredients in bowl with cooked corn.

Very close runners up would be date, bacon and goat cheese empanadas, braunschweiger, and si ji dou.

What are some of your favorite comfort foods?

Savvy Spork: Get ready for Fall – The easiest Pumpkin Spice Cake ever!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, but will Fall on it’s way — and cooler weather in Chicago — well, I couldn’t wait to get an early start on it. And what’s more Fall than pumpkin everything?

Pumpkin seems to have become a polarizing part of Fall. Either you absolutely love it and have to have every single pumpkin flavored thing possible… Or you loath is so much you begin to despise the people who love it.

Anyway, I tend to fall on the love side of pretty much all squash. I mean, I’m just as excited about acorn and butternut squash as I am pumpkin. But, yes, I do love making some pumpkin stuff. And thus…

The easiest Pumpkin Spice Cake you’ll ever make. So seriously not joking.

Savvy Spork by AdorkableMe.com - Easy Pumpkin Spice Cake recipe

Ingredients:
Spice cake mix
Pumpkin puree

Yep. That’s it. That is completely it. I’ve done this trick with other cake mixes, but, well, this one was a little too obvious not to do.

All you have to do is mix the pumpkin puree with the cake mix, then bake according to the directions. And while the box emphasizes how moist it’ll be, any cake mix made with pumpkin are definitely really moist.

Now, tips I do have: wait until the cake has cooled before you ice it. I made the mistake of not waiting… so I don’t actually have any good pictures of the whole cake as a finished product… But here’s one slice — and please ignore the icing mess. (Which, cream cheese frosting is the best on this.)

Savvy Spork: easiest pumpkin spice cake recipe

Now, in previous times I’ve done this with just plain cake mixes, I add in the pumpkin pie spices. And generally chocolate chips.

Savvy Spork: White Bean & Kale

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One of the main challenges of returning back to work has been thinking out lunches that will 1) be tasty, 2) be simple to transport and heat up, and 3) be cheap. For the first week, I pretty much had a basic sandwich and baby carrots every day. Blergh central.

In going through Pinterest, I saw a recipe for white bean & kale soup — something I’ve had before, but has never wowed me. But this one was thick and well photographed. However, soups are not really easy to transport. I’ve got cheap tupperware. But rice and quinoa bowls are super easy. And they fill you up more.

Also, this makes a lot. I’ve got 3 massive bowls from this. (Granted, I made a lot of rice.) Which makes it cost effective.

white bean and kale recipe

 White Bean & Kale

Ingredients:
» 2 cans of white beans, liquid drained
» 1 cup or so of chopped kale (more if you’re really into that stuff)
» ½–1 tsp of chicken bouillon (you can omit)
» ¼ onion, diced
» Olive oil
» garlic or garlic powder (if using cloves, mash/mince)
» lemon juice
» salt & pepper, maybe a little cayenne

Directions:
1. Dice the onion and saute in a little bit of olive oil. If you’re using garlic cloves, add once the onions start to become translucent.
2. Add the chopped kale, seasoning with garlic powder if you didn’t use cloves. Also, I prefer to add the salt now to season the kale instead of letting the beans soak up too much of it.
3. Once the kale starts to wilt a little, turn down the heat and then stir in the beans, a little bit of lemon juice, and chicken bouillon. Seasoning as needed.
4. Serve over rice or quinoa or pasta, or however else you’d like it.

I made 3 cups of white rice, and like I said, this made 3 massive servings. I don’t overly like the taste of kale — I don’t mind it in things, but don’t want it to overpower the meal — so I seasoned it well with salt and garlic. If you wanted to add some cheese, feta would go nicely with this, or even your basic grated parmesan.