Curried Lentils

Another Julia Tershen delight.

This turned out absolutely flavorful and delicious. I think it’s the ginger plus toasting the spice in the beginning. It also comes together pretty fast, you just have to let the lentils cook for a while but that’s hands off.

I made a huge batch with a mix of red and green lentils and threw in all of the veggies in my fridge since I’m about to leave on a trip. Having it with yogurt is worth it. Yum!

Braised Chicken and Leeks

Julia Turshen, Small Victories.

This chicken was juicy delicious and the recipe is super versatile (with suggestions for alterations in the book). I would make it again for sure.

But, it did take forever–butchering, seasoning, and browning the chicken probably took a good 45 minutes (brown in 2 batches with 8 minutes for each side = 32 mins of browning), then you have to cook for another 30 minutes. I might try just using skin on breast or thighs next time to skip the butchering part. Though there is something satisfying about using a whole chicken.

It also suuuuper smoked up my apartment, I had to open a bunch of windows. Make sure to close the bedroom door to cut down on your clothes smelling like chicken the next morning:)

Finally, it all comes out a bit brown since the chicken is brown and the leeks go from green to brown during the cooking process. I added in some carrots, but some more color would be nice. Something to think about.

Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime, and Ginger

I loved this! So refreshing but also filling. The most time is taken up preparing the veggies.
Next time:

1. Double the sauce recipe.
2. Veggies: added 2 shredded zucchini, a cucumber, and shaved carrots
3. Ribboned Omelet: This was surprisingly easy and delicious. Though after 4 days I think the salad was past its prime from the eggs, so eat this up sooner.
4. Could add in some crunch: toasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, etc.

cold noodles with miso, lime and ginger
sesame soba and ribboned omelet salad

3 Ingredient Stovetop Mac & Cheese

Delicious and so fast! And you can throw in whatever veggies you have lying around. I used up some green pepper and cauliflower I had, plus added some frozen peas.
1. Double the recipe. It only makes 2 servings.
2. If using, heat up and add frozen peas at the end. If you add them frozen to the mac and cheese, they get overcooked and turn a gross green color. For leftovers, just add the frozen peas directly to the tupperware containers.

Chicken Pelau

From Small Victories, page 176.

This was awesome! It turns into a thick, flavorful, and delicious rice and chicken dish. I didn’t have sweet paprika so I used smoked, and I also added in some cauliflower that I sauteed with the rest of the veggies (you can add a whole standard size cauliflower, it’s not too much). Yum! And I use butter beans because I couldn’t find black eye peas.

Baked Cauliflower and Farro

Wow, this was incredibly delicious! It’s also very easy to make, though it took me about an hour start to finish. It’s easy to prep as you go, chopping the cauliflower while the (quick cooking) farro is cooking, grating the cheese while the cauliflower is sauteing, etc. Also, I made it all in the large stainless steel skillet. A few more notes:

1. I added some chopped spinach and white beans.
2. Cut back on the salt. I added some to the cauliflower while it was sauteing, and some of the caper juice ended up in the dish, so maybe avoid doing that next time but keep the same amount of salt the recipe calls for.

crusty baked cauliflower and farro

Smoky Sweet Potato Black Bean Casserole

Wow! This was incredibly delicious and satisfying. It was also pretty easy to make, and made a lot of food. Would definitely make again.

Yes, it probably would have been even better with smoked mozzarella as the recipe implores you to buy over smoked gouda, but smoked gouda was all I could find and it was still amazingly yummy. I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella, so…

It is also very packed with flavor like a curry, so I would recommend eating it with rice or some other grain.

I also did a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and a can half non-fire roasted, and it was just the right level of heat for me. Two cans of fire roasted would have been too much.

A Dinner Party for 12!

Hosted my first large dinner party ever, in my tiny apartment! It went pretty well, but I definitely have some pro tips for next time. Things I’m glad I did and things I would do differently.

First of all, I couldn’t believe how much work it was, and I made very easy dishes I had made before! The menu did turn out well: pasta with turkey bolognese, roasted green beans, and brownies for dessert.

Things I’m Glad I Did
1. Start thinking through logistics a week in advance. I.e. for this party, I needed insulated cups for hot cider and didn’t have enough mugs for all of my guests. So I bought some cute green insulated cups online for the party.

Really think things through. Less obvious was I also figured out I didn’t have the right lid for my slow cooker to keep the cider warm, and ended up having to borrow a friend’s. But I wouldn’t have realized this unless I actually tried a test run with water two nights ahead of time.

2. Start the cooking BEFORE the day of, and even with that, you’ll need ALL DAY to prepare, plus you’re going to have to make a second trip to the store, probably even a third. Give yourself a break, it’s going to happen, so don’t stress about it!

3. Cook all of the dinner food ahead of time, then start heating it up right before guests arrive. Pasta sauce and pasta (separately) can sit on the stovetop on low and by dinner they will be mostly ready after cocktail hour. Make sure to check in on them once or twice to make sure they are heating well. Next time I might try something casserole-y that I can make ahead of time and just dump in the oven right before party time and set a timer a few times.

3. After all of the dinner food is cooked, you’ll need at least 2.5 hours to item patrol the house, set up the tables, get the appetizers together, and do your beauty treatment.

4. Party hats! Aka fun silly things for guests to wear at the party. I bought some silly cheap Christmas hats at the crap store and they were a hit.

5. Paper plates and cups! Just do it. The dishwasher isn’t big enough to hold all of those dishes, so do yourself a favor and cut corners here.

6. If people offer to bring things, say yes. An extra appetizer or bottle of wine can be really helpful.

7. Have fun planning! I mostly adhered to this. It can be a fun process if you let yourself get into the fun aspects of it. Remember, you’re choosing to do this, so it should be fun!

Things I’ll Do Next Time
1. Pro tip: Count YOURSELF in the head count. Daaah!
2. For appetizers, the cheese plate was a total bust. Skip it entirely next time. Hardly anyone ate any of it, and since I’m a germophobe, I throw things like that out if there are any leftovers. I think it’s just hard to deal with when you’re not seated and are milling around instead.

Instead, go for finger foods people can pick up individually. The TJ’s spanikopita when fast! I’d also try some crostini with cream cheese and some sort of savory spread. Or maybe some olives on toothpicks or something. It’s more work, but I think people would actually eat it. And a friend brought spinach artichoke dip that was easy to scoop out with a spoon and eat with chips. Also the sweets didn’t go at all either, so skip those too.

Though I do think if it was a smaller affair where people were mostly seated during appetizers/cocktails, the cheese plate would be a fine choice.

3. Scale your recipes carefully, and double check your math and your supplies! I realized the night before I accidentally bought two instead of three pounds of meat (the packages were 1 lb not 1.5 lb), so I had to go to the store (yet again!)

4. HYDRATE. Get a couple of ceramic or sturdy glass pitchers for water. I was certainly dehydrated and my guests probably were too.

5. A toast! Do a toast at the beginning of dinner, it’s a nice touch:)

6. Pictures! Don’t forget to take some pictures, I always love having them and wish I took more.