Chicken with Olives

Yum! My only mistake was overcooking the chicken. Next time, I’ll cook it separately like stir fry chicken so it only cooks for 3-4 mins. I also added a bag of baby spinach to boost nutrition. Would definitely make again!


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.
3. There is such a thing as too much sage. The second time I made this I really put in too much. Measure those two tablespoons!
4. It’s almost better reheated–it was a little dry straight out of the oven. Could consider adding in some cream or maybe just more ricotta swirled into the casserole mixture itself rather than dolloped in the middle.

crusty baked cauliflower and farro

Sweet Potato, Cabbage, Orange, and Pomegranate Salad

Yum! I think this has potential if you change the proportions a bit.

More oranges, cabbage, and dressing, less sweet potato. Also I used a whole pomegranate and I shredded the sweet potato because nobody got time to julienne.Make sure to chop the cabbage a bit so the pieces aren’t so long.

Would be great to take to a party, as it’s sturdy and keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

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.

Make sure to start pre-heating the oven right away. The prep doesn’t take all that long.

Eggplant Involtini

These were a bit time consuming, but the end result is both beautiful and delicious! Also, as always I’m sure it would take less time the second time around. A few tips for next time:

1. Cutting the eggplant into strips: this recipe is pretty forgiving. Some of my strips were a little wonky and misshapened, but they still roasted and rolled up beautifully. That being said, cut them a little thicker next time, as they get pretty soft and easy to roll in the oven.

2. Breadcrumbs: Skip them if they’re not fresh. The filling should turn out fine, not worth putting them in if they don’t add any flavor.

3. Baking pan space! I used every single baking dish in my home to fit all of the eggplant. Cutting the strips a little more thickly (see 1) and using the whole large cookie sheet plus my half sheet pan should hopefully work next time. I was worried that the eggplant juices would drip off the sides of the large cookie sheet without sides, but I don’t think this is much of a concern. Just don’t put the eggplant right up against the sides.

ALSO if you do end up having overflow to any nonstick baking dishes, make sure to grease them first. The eggplant got stuck to these guys and was difficult to pry off.

4. As usual in the winter, I didn’t have fresh basil, so I didn’t use it. I substituted dried thyme for the oregano and it turned out great.

5. The sauce turned out too acidic for my taste. Apparently adding baking soda a little bit at a time (1 tsp) can help cut the acidity (it’s science). It may up the salt content a bit so maybe hold off on the final salting until after adding the baking soda. Also, though slightly contradictory re acidity, I’d add a splash of wine at the very beginning of cooking to add a bit more depth of flavor. Adding at the beginning and just a touch should be fine.

6. I left the whole shebang in my cast iron skillet for over an hour and the skillet didn’t get damaged, despite the acidic tomato sauce.

Pressure Cooker Turkey Stock

Used the Thanksgiving turkey carcass for this recipe. It worked great! The cooking process really is very easy with the pressure cooker. It’s the rest of the job that takes some time, which it would no matter what the method. A few things to note:

1. Apparently I could have done this with half the carcass and frozen the other half.

2. The most annoying part is freezing the broth in cubes, since I only have 2 ice cube trays and I use them so very rarely that it seems like a waste to get more. It took 4 batches to freeze it all, but it will last for awhile.

3. To strain the broth, I placed my small metal strainer on top of a large metal bowl and placed it in the sink. I then carefully poured the contents of the pressure cooker through the strainer. Careful, the bowl gets hot!

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.

Pressure Cooker Risotto

This was easy and delicious! It does some out a little thicker than I’d like, and if you add more water the rice just seems to absorb it a get bigger. But still very good.

I added frozen peas and cooked shrimp at the end. Don’t forget to defrost the shrimp! And any wine will do. I used some red I had lying around that needed to be used up and it turned out great.

Pressure Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Cheap, easy, and makes a ton! I know this is going to be even better next time, because it was delicious even without the thyme and a mediocre sausage.

1. Halve the sausage to 1/2 lb, increase the beans to 3/4 lb.
2. Salt the beans while you’re soaking them.
3. Use spicy Italian sausage, casings removed. Add in some chipotle peppers, since even with 1lb of sausage it wasn’t that spicy.
4. Use paper towels to skim off the fat the goes to the top after cooking–it’s kind of gross.
5. It took around 15 minutes for the pressure cooker to reach pressure, for a total of nearly 30 mins of pressure cooking time. Then a slow release of 20 minutes.

Pressure Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Pressure Cooker Baba Ganoush

My broiler is kind of non functional, so I was excited to try this as my first pressure cooker recipe. Admittedly, you don’t get the smoky flavor of true baba ganoush, even though you at least sear the eggplant in the pressure cooker before cooking it fully. However, the time savings pretty much make that worth it. 3 minutes at high pressure (plus 4-5 mins to reach pressure) is pretty amazing.

Also, my pressure cooker easily fit two large eggplants.

Next time, don’t forget the lemon juice. And add a ton more fresh garlic at the end. Other than

Pressure Cooker Eggplant and Olive Spread