Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Good Eats

Yesterday I realized again that I like to cook! Its been too long since I've actually pulled out a recipe and made something. Recently, however, I have felt the desire to be healthier in my lifestyle and eating well is obviously a part of that. My roommate and I have decided to trade off nights to cook dinner. I pulled out my collection of long accumulated recipes and chose about four to buy ingredients for and I made up a shopping list for what I needed and after work yesterday we stopped at good ol' Maceys and loaded up on some foods. Eighty-seven dollars later I had a nice myriad of resources to put my creativity into some intriguing recipes. As I was planning my day, I had everything worked out for when we would get home from the grocery store and how long it would take me to make dinner and then exactly what time we would sit down to eat and then when we would be done so Bradford and I could get to our 7:30 appointment. Needless to say, nothing stuck to the schedule like it should have and I was only barely able to get everything done in time for us to only be 20 minutes late... whoops. Regardless, it came out pretty well I must say. Bradford, my darling boyfriend/best friend in the entire world, and Kathi, my previously mentioned roommate, were donned my critics for the meal. However I think I was the harshest crtic overall. The meal included a main dish of honey mustard chicken breasts, a basil, mint, and fresh green bean salad, and some french bread. I figured I'd share the recipes since that seems to be common blogger ettiquette:

1/3 cup dijon mustard (I just used whatever mustard we had in the fridge)
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I had Miracle Whip so I just used that)
1 tsp. steak sauce
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat the grill for medium heat.

In a shallow bowl, mix the mustard, honey, mayonnaise, and steak sauce. Set aside a small amount of the honey mustard sauce for basting, and dip the chicken into the remaining sauce to coat.

Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken over indirect heat for 18 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until juices run clear. Baste occasionally with the reserved sauce during the last 10 minutes.

*I don't have a grill so I did it in a frying pan over med-low heat and just basted the chicken every so often. I used a lid too to keep in as much moisture as I could. It made for a nice sauce to serve the chicken with too so that was a plus.

(I don't have the salad recipe on me, but it was pretty simple and I can remember it I think... here it goes!)
6 cups water (its just to cook the beans in so I didn't measure how much water I used. just enough to boil the beans)
1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed if preferred
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup shredded fresh mint leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt (I used a salt/herb mix that I had in my spice cabinet)
*I also added some edamame because Bradford likes protein and I was introducing a new option for him to get some more of it. I probably used about 1 1/2 cups? I didn't measure, I just added some until it looked good.
*I also used spinach to make it more substantial because the leafiness seemed a little scarce to me, plus it was on sale for 69 cents a bag :)
**I also didn't measure the mint and Basil, nor did I shred them. I just did what I thought looked right. And I lied. I did tear up the mint now that I think of it, but not the basil.

Bring the water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add the green beans, and bring to a boil again (I also added the edamame at this point.) Reduce heat to a simmer for 7-8 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender (whatever that means...). Add garlic to last minute or so of simmering. While beans are simmering, toss leafies, and red pepper in a large bowl. Once beans are ready, drain and toss into the other ingredients (I also ran cold water over them until they were cool so that they didn't wilt the other stuff). Then add olive oil and salt (I ended up using about three tablespoons of olive oil to compensate for the spinach and I didn't measure the salt...). Mix until coated.
*I also stuck the bowl of salad in the freezer for a few moments while I was getting everything else out onto the table, to give it a slight cool.

The last thing I did was the bread. I would have loved to try my hand at making some French bread from scratch but given my time crunch I opted to just buy a ready made loaf at the bakery and then I sliced it up in about 1 inch thickness, and laid them on a cookie sheet. Then I melted some butter, drizzled it over the peices, sprinkled some shredded parmasean (not the powdery stuff), sprinkled some garlic powder, and then some dried parsley. I was going to use fresh parsley but its a lot more potent than the dried stuff and I didn't want it to conflict with the basil and mint in the salad. I would have just left it off altogether but the parsley added a nice color. Then I set the oven on broil and put them slices in for probably 3-4 minutes and they were perfect.

It took a total of approximately 45 minutes to make everything. Even though I got clock-shock toward the end, which meant I forgot to add the garlic to the simmering beans (so I just added it straight into the salad and it ended up being fine), and I forgot to turn the oven on to broil so the bread was just sitting there for a while (good thing it didn't take very long to toast! we just had to have it half way in to our eating... but it was good!) it was a pretty darn good meal. And if my camera wasn't charging at the time I would have taken a picture. It looked pretty and colorful on our plates.

We all agreed that I should have taken the soy beans out of their pods (Duh), because it made for a not-so-enjoyable toughness in the salad (we ended up taking them out individually ourselves as we ate, and it actually added a lot to the whole asthetic appeal of the salad). And, of course, the chicken was a little dry. Next time, when I have more time allotted to cook, I'll bake it to keep it juicier. Other than that there were no complaints. Bradford gave the chicken's sauce 5 out of 5 stars, the chicken itself 3 1/2 stars (because of the slight dryness), and he said he would have liked the green beans to be cut in half because they were so long. I kinda liked how they looked though with their length, but it would have made them easier to consume if they were cut. I would have added some of that shredded parmasean cheese I used on the bread to put on the salad if I'd had a moment to think about it. That would have been yummy. Or maybe even some crumbled feta or something. I also should have trimmed off the very ends of the beans because they were like eating grass... All in all though, the salad was really tasty, I loved the zestiness of the mint and basil, and the bread was great (you can't really go wrong with garlic bread), and the chicken with its kinda musky mustardy flavor was really a good compliment of flavors to the unique variety in the salad. These are some dishes I will definitely make again.

I'm looking forward to continuing this cooking idea. It not only provides me with better nutrition but it also makes me feel a small sense of accomplishment which is always greatly appreciated. I'll keep adding the recipes and let you know how they all work out, the good and the bad.

Now... next time its my turn I think I'm going tackle a seafood pasta dish... any suggestions for sides?


Taffers Dawn said...

Dinner was very yummy. You probably were the harshest critic. I loved the chicken and the bread!! SOOO good! Good job julie!

Kimberly said...

Your dinner sounds yummy. I wish you had pics but next time will have to be good enough! :) Guess what? I'll be seeing you in just a few short days! Got any extra room at your house? I am homeless for a few days until my apartment is available...I think I'll go visit the Hadleys, but there are still a few scraggly days there...

Bradford said...

I loved this meal. The sauce was absolutely mind-bogglingly delish. I think my brains came out my eyes when I ate it, it was so good. Salad was awesome too. :)

Curtis and Courtney said...

I wanted to say that I decided to try your salad the other night when I made spaghetti (not as fancy as you with the special chicken). Oh, and I did have bread stuffs too. Curtis really liked the salad... but, not so much for me. I'm making myself eat greens lately and I'm still not in favor of them, yet. Maybe in time my tastebuds may change their minds.