Mujadarra

Click to see the pin!

Click to see the pin!

So, a lot has happened in the last few months. For one, our lease ran out on our shitty, tiny, cramped little house in Kansas City. Being the rational and adventure-loving people we are, Nick and I decided that the most logical next step was to gather up our possessions and our puppies, put them all in a U-Haul, and move to Austin, Texas. Now we live in an awesome, tiny, cramped little apartment. But oddly enough, the kitchen is bigger, so we’re all happier!

We’ve been here for quite a few months, but between a new city and new jobs and a new life, I had completely forgotten to keep up the blog. And to be honest, I don’t think I could have written anything anyway – inspiration is a funny, finicky little thing.

But I digress – I can across this Pin of a recipe for mujadarra, which – according to the pin’s description – is a Middle Eastern dish made of lentils, rice and caramelized onions. Sounded simple. Sounded oddly delicious for something so simple. And as we were short on money after our move and I am a generally lazy cook, I decided to give it a try. It was so good, I was suddenly inspired to write all about it. Coincidently enough, I was pleased to remember I also had a fledgeling little food blog.

THE RECIPE: NEEDS ADJUSTING

This pin links to a great little blog article with wonderful step-by-step instructions and beautiful pictures along the way. However, the trickiest part of making mujadarra is getting the lentils and the rice to finish cooking at the same time. I found that the recipe – which suggested cooking the lentils for 20 – 30 minutes before adding rice – made my mujadarra too mushy. Maybe I just like my lentils al dente.

Anyway, I ended up using this recipe which unfortunately has no pretty pictures, but suggests 15 minutes for the lentils and an extra 20 minutes when you add the rice. It’s worked really well for me.

A note about the rice: I used long grain white rice and it cooked perfectly with these directions. My mom tried her hand at this recipe and used brown rice, and she said she had to cook it to death – upwards for 40 minutes – before the rice was cooked through. And by then, the lentils were (you guessed it) a mushy mess. So, take care what rice you use! If you insist on brown rice, maybe cook it first, and add the lentils second.

THE TASTE: DELICIOUS. LIKE, I COULD KIND OF EAT THIS EVERY DAY DELICIOUS.

I’ve mentioned before that Nick is very gracious when it comes to my cooking. As a chef with crazy hours, he comes home very late at night and is grateful for anything home-cooked. And he makes a point of getting seconds of my often overcooked, under-seasoned, half-assed attempts at domestication. That being said, mujadarra is first (and only) dish that he has specifically asked me to make again. That, my friends, is what I call a victory.

With only three ingredients, you’d expect this dish to be a little bland. That’d be a big ol’ NOPE. And a cup of lentils and a cup of rice looks like a ton of food for two (and it probably is), but we eat ALL of it. Because it’s that good. Just simple, wholesome, filling goodness. Best of all, it’s really inexpensive to make. A bag of lentils, a bag of rice, and a few onions means all the mujadarra we can handle for quite a while! That means a great post-moving budget meal.

DIFFICULTY: SO EASY. ESPECIALLY THE WAY I DO IT.

If you’ve read about my Cheese & Potato Perogies, you know how I feel about caramelizing onions. As in, it’s a time-suck. And as I mentioned before, I can be quite the lazy cook. Stirring onions around for an hour does not quicken my heart in anxious anticipation. So, I cheat.

First, I chop the onions into really small pieces. Not exactly a dice, but pretty small. It helps them cook a little quicker. And here’s another pro tip from Nick: heat your skillet while you’re chopping. No oil or anything, just put the pan on the burner and turn the heat to a medium setting. Let it warm up for a minute or two, then put in your olive oil – and let that heat up as well. It should get all shimmery when you swirl it around – that’s how you know it’s hot enough. The idea behind this is that whatever you’re about to sauté won’t stick to your pan. Plus, it saves you a little time as everything is nice and hot and you don’t have to wait for your onions to start cooking. They start that pleasant little sizzle immediately.

Once you put your lentils on to boil, it’s time to cook those little onionettes. Here’s where the cheating comes in – I don’t exactly caramelize them. Caramelization is a very science-y thing that happens to the sugars in food. And it takes a very long time to get those sugars to do the science-y thing. So, I just sauté them until they are cooked through and just starting to brown. And I add salt and pepper, because Nick tells me to always season vegetables. Always. This process takes about 15 minutes – when the lentils are done with the first round of cooking, I am ready to add my pseudo-caramelized onions and the rice!

The best thing about this dish is that it’s easy. Most of the work is chopping up & cooking those onions. I love that once that 15 minutes of cooking is done, all that’s left is to cue up an episode of House of Cards and let the pot simmer for 20 minutes. So easy.

We eat our mujadarra with a side salad if we’re feeling particularly healthful. I’ve also had it as the filling for a lettuce wrap (it’s wonderful at covering up the taste of lettuce – yuck!) and with some toasted pita bread. It really is one of the yummiest, easiest dishes ever. Mmm… maybe I’ll make some tonight.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

hh

Click to see Pin!

Fail. Fail, fail, fail.

THE RECIPE: FAIL

So I read through the recipe and thought ok, this sounds easy enough. Surely I can handle browning meat, throwing in some macaroni, and letting it simmer for awhile. I can handle this.

Could. Not. Handle.

I browned the meat and drained it, no problem (even though draining meat it one of my pet peeves. I always make a mess. REALLY need one of these). I threw in some whole wheat macaroni – didn’t I mention I was eating healthier? That’s when things got stupid. The recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of milk and 1.5 cups of water. Hmmm…. that was a lot of liquid. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Hamburger Helper, I think of salty, creamy, gooey, cheesy goodness. That, my friends, was not happening.

It will thicken as it simmers, I logically, hopefully concluded. Not so. After the first 10 minutes, the pasta was still undercooked and the liquid was still thin and watery. In 15 minutes, the pasta was plump and wonderfully al dente, but drowning in all that unappetizing liquid. Desperate, I added a few healthy spoonfuls of greek yogurt. Let is simmer some more. Only slightly better. I mix another spoonful of cornstarch in water and pour that in.

This is when Nick comes home, finding me frowning at an overflowing pan of… goop. I apologize for making him slop and ask if he can save it. He throws in a little more cheese, lets it melt, and decides to take it off the heat to cool. Maybe that would help.

As we wait, Nick presents two cans of dog food he picked up on the way home. We feed our dogs dry food, but they had run out and this wet stuff was the only thing the gas station carried (this was after our grocery store had closed. Stop judging). As I opened it to feed them, all I found think of was how good it smelled, like beef stew, and how much more appetizing it looked than what was currently gooping on the stove. Maybe I was hungry.

THE TASTE: EDIBLE FAIL

Nick said it wasn’t that bad. I did eat a big bowl, but I think the dog food got my appetite up. But it was still sloopy. I’m a texture person. This is so disappointing. I even made extra with the hopes of having leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Nope.

DIFFICULTY: DON’T BOTHER

If you simply must try this recipe for yourself, adjust the liquid mightily. I’d suggest cutting both the milk and the water in half and then slowly adding more if it looks too thin. But I, for one, will stick to the store-bought variety, if I ever feel like indulging again.

Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken

Click to see Pin!

Let’s read that again. Double. Crunch. Honey. Garlic. Chicken. And that photo – my god. I can almost feel my endorphin levels rising. I’m not going to waste any more time. Read my review then go make this RIGHT NOW.

THE RECIPE: SOLID AS A ROCK.

This pin takes a recipe from one that uses pork, but just ignore that (it calls for 6 pork chops – ignore that too). Just worry about making the crunchy coating and that delicious, sweet, savory sauce. I only prepared two chicken breasts, but I still made the flour dredge according to the recipe. I don’t mind saving what’s left over for when I make this every single day for the rest of my life.

Oh and I didn’t have any sage or nutmeg. Or cayenne. So if you follow the recipe exactly yours might be even more delicious.

THE TASTE: EH.

JUST KIDDING. IT WAS AWESOME.

Seriously though. The chicken was perfectly crunchy and still moist on the inside. I’m always impressed when I cook chicken right. I’ve had a bad track record. It helped that the instructions included actual minutes I should wait before turning. That really helped.

Let me also just take a moment to say that honey garlic sauce is the bomb (sorry, I’m a 90s kid). I only had a tiny bit of soy sauce, so I had to add water to have enough. I think it made my sauce turn out sweeter than intended, not that I’m complaining. So if you’re looking for something a little less on the sweet side, add more soy.

DIFFICULTY: MOSTLY EASY

The only part where I second-guessed myself was finding the perfect time to put the chicken in the oil to fry. Pro tip: before you put your chicken in the oil to try, drop a little of that flour dredge in there. Is it sizzling? Good, it’s hot enough. If it’s not, give it a moment or two and try again. You want that chicken to crisp up, but not burn, so babysit it once you start frying! Testing it worked out great for me, so I’m feeling much better about making this again. And again. And again…

“Crispy” Corn Fritters

Click to see Pin!

So a few weeks ago, Nick and I invited some friends over for a cookout. We fired up the grill and went a little crazy with the meats – fresh artisan sausages from the wonderful Local Pig, pork tenderloin, steak… and there was only four of us!

I had several ears of corn on hand and had this fritter recipe in my mind for awhile. For some reason – devine? – I decided to bake them instead of frying. Everyone knows fried food is superior in just about every situation, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. But I digress.

THE RECIPE: ?

I followed the preparation exactly (I didn’t have shallot – I used a little bit of onion instead) and ended up with a goopy batter. I spooned a couple of teaspoons onto a cooking sheet, set the over to 400, and hoped for the best. Ten-ish minutes later, I beheld my creation.

THE TASTE: RAVE REVIEWS

So my “crispy fritters” came out as what we now affectionally refer to as “corn cookies”. They were soft and mildly sweet, and ended up as perfect appetizers as we waited for our smorgasbord of meats to cook. Added bonus: I put a little shredded cheddar cheese on top of the second batch at the 5-minute mark and let it get all melty. Delicious!

DIFFICULTY: SUPER EASY

These are great if you need a summery side in a pinch. We seriously couldn’t get enough.

 

Dukan Diet Chicken & Mushrooms with Asparagus

Click to see Pin!

Click to see Pin!

OK, so a few months ago I was eating really bad. So, so bad. Nick and I were both working stupid hours and grabbing whatever greasy fast food was most convenient. Every. Single. Meal. For weeks. Not only did I gain a significant amount of pounds, but I started having serious stomach issues than made a summer trip to Mexico for my brother’s wedding a very unpleasant experience (and endless jokes of Didn’t they tell you not to drink the water?). 

So now I’m trying to get healthy again by eating a little better. But only a little. Cause you know, life is short. Ok, now on to the recipe review.

THE RECIPE: SOLID

The instructions were pretty basic and easy to follow. I used whole fresh asparagus, not just the head (that’s what she said?). I also didn’t have any parsley, so I left it out. I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a difference. The only thing I would change about this recipe is a pro tip that Nick taught me early in my cooking lessons: always season your vegetables. Every time you put a new veggie in the pan, season it with a little salt and pepper. Trust me, it makes the flavor sooo much better. Not that it made a whole lot of difference this time.

TASTE: MEH.

Nick ate seconds, but he likes to be gentle on me and was probably just being nice. I was not impressed with this meal at all. Typically I love lemon – lemon asparagus is amazing. Lemon chicken is awesome. Lemon mushrooms? Not so much. Something about the flavor did not mix well. This dish was definitely not the scrumptious savory meal I was envisioning. Beside the juxtaposed mushrooms, it was just… boring. Lackluster. But it was definitely edible, so at least I had that going for me.

DIFFICULTY: EASY

There are a few redeeming qualities to this recipe: it’s simple and super quick to whip up. We’re talking preparation to plate in 15 minutes. Normally chicken intimidates me – I always get nervous and overcook it. But cutting into chunks is so easy and quick to cook that I didn’t have any issues turning out moist, delicious chicken. Except they were covered in lemony mushrooms. Yuck. Give it a try if you’ve got extra chicken breasts and are feeling like taking a risk. I probably won’t make it again. There are better Pins to test!

Cheese & Potato Perogies

perogies

Click to see the Pin!

Perogies, if you’re not aware, are little pockets of butter-fried potatoy goodness that traditionally originated in Poland. This is one of our favorite meals, but let me warn you – these puppies take a little time to pull together. I usually make them when I’m trying to avoid cleaning the house. And my kitchen is teensy-tinsey, so everything ends up covered in flour. That’s right. No cheating with Philsbury croissants or philo dough here. That’s for pussies. That’s for fake cooks. This recipe makes dough from scratch.

And not just from scratch. I don’t own a mixer. I make these fuckers by hand.

RECIPE:  PRETTY SOLID

The recipe is easy to follow and has lots of scrumptious pictures and a bonus cute little girl trying perogies for the first time. However, there two three small issues I have with this recipe:

  1. The Dough. Maybe it’s because I make it by hand, but I just can’t seem to get the texture right. My dough always comes out sticky while the author’s is perfectly pillowy. The taste is still great, so it’s not a deal breaker. Just be aware you might have to flour your hands a lot.
  2. Caramelized Onions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever have a batch of caramelized onions just hanging out. If you are unfamiliar with kitchen lingo, caramelizing is the process of browning the sugars in something, with the intended result being a more delicious, savory something. For onions, however, that means pushing them around a skillet for like an hour (here’s the tutorial). Add that to your dough-making endeavors, and this meal take several hours to pull together. If you ever have to make these onions, make a TON so you don’t have to do it again for a long, long time.
  3. The Size. Ok, those cute little things look delicious, but I’d need to make a million between me and Nick. Especially because they are so damn delicious. I make mine about twice as big. Sometimes bigger.

TASTE: WE LOVE IT!

Nick says this is one of his favorite dishes (that I make, anyway). Serve them up with sour cream (Nick prefers siracha) and steamed veggies.

DIFFICULTY: Medium

Making the dough is time consuming, but cathartic – especially while kneading. Caramelizing onions is a bitch, unless you really are into slaving over a hot stove. That being said – I can make this without much of a problem, so I’m fairly confident any yahoo could handle homemade perogies. Now get to chopping those onions, you’ve got a long night ahead of you!