Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kitchen experiments

This weekend is coming to an end but it was definitely a really good one so I feel like I at least took advantage of it :) Today was absolutely gorgeous out. It was the perfect weather, combined with beautiful fall foliage - it's easy to love fall when it's this nice out.

We went to the open house this afternoon, except on the door bell there was a hand written note saying it was canceled for today. I was happy it got us out of the house, but it made me angry they were so irresponsible about it. Oh well, we made the best of the day anyways. We walked around all over Boston and eventually before heading home stopped by P.F. Chang's and Whole Foods. I didn't want anything, but my husband got a cup of their hot and sour soup (it's only 80 calories and is really good) and a Blue Moon. All the food around us looked really good, but I just didn't feel like having another meal out today. P.F. Chang's is really great, though, despite being a chain. Some chains are ok, I guess. I put the Cheesecake Factory in the same category. It's good food, so no wonder they have so many of them - people love them! Another good thing about P.F. Chang's is that they post nutritional information online for all of their food (very cool!) and are also very flexible with "special orders." You can ask them to not use any oil, or saute instead of frying, etc. Ok, enough with P.F. Chang's promotions :)

When we finally got home I was pretty hungry. This was many many hours after breakfast, so I had to throw something together quickly! I feel like I've been making a lot of quick meals lately, hopefully it doesn't make it too boring for you readers. This was a very satisfying lunch, though, despite not being as fancy as my breakfast.

This was kind of a Mediterranean salad: mixed greens, grape tomatoes, green olives, roasted red peppers and the star of the show, 1/4 cup of Sabra hummus (this is only 2 tablespoons in the picture... I went back for more later!). I used just some lemon juice to dress this up. As I was making the salad, I toasted 1 1/2 of TJ's low carb wraps. I cut them up into little triangles, sprayed them with Pam and sprinkled them with garlic powder and some parmesan cheese. I dipped these into the hummus as I was eating the salad. It was very satisfying.

And for dessert I had a serving of TJ's american nutty trek mix. Seriously, this is the best trail mix ever (and very versatile)!

Then I watched a bunch of TV and did a whole lot of nothing. Oh and I ate some more brownies and pumpkin choc chip cookies. Yup, I'm totally bad this weekend. These things must be out of my house by tomorrow morning because apparently I've lost all self control. No workout either. I need a break. Tomorrow is a new day.

After eating all the sweets I got into a negative/self destructive mood. I got an urge to stuff my face and go out for pizza. I knew this was really bad thinking, especially since I've been very unhealthy for the past few days. This is what happens to me when I fall off the wagon. I want to continue sliding down until I feel sick and sorry for myself. At times like this I try to remind myself of how great it feels to be healthy (and how good it is for my body!) but it usually takes a little bit of time to snap out of it. Thankfully I listened to my husband (he's the best!) and stayed away from the cookie jar. Instead I started to think about what to create for dinner.

Tonight's dinner was the first time I ever just threw things together that I thought would just work. I don't mean throwing a salad together or making a sandwich. I mean cooking a real meal without a recipe to follow. I am new at cooking and so far have followed directions with some success, but tonight there was no recipe to follow. I had an idea of what I wanted dinner to taste like, and I decided to just go for it. It came out wonderfully! I was really REALLY proud of myself!

Here is how it all happened. A little over a week ago I made turkey lasagna. This required some butternut squash, the rest of which has been sitting in our fridge, waiting patiently to be prepared somehow. Also, I asked my husband today what he wanted for dinner and he said he wanted fish since we haven't made that in a long time. Hmm, fish and butternut squash. These did not sound like they'd go together but I was willing to give it a go.

Inspired by today's walk, I wanted to make something that would feel and taste like fall. Butternut squash was a great base for that, and I thought that some cranberries and hazelnuts would be a nice addition to that. So here is what I did...

I cubed and steamed some butternut squash. While that was going, I made 2 servings of bulgar accroding to package directions. If you haven't tried bulgar yet, it is a really great whole grain. It's also great because while being exceptionally nutritious, it only takes 15 minutes to cook (unlike brown rice which tasted you know, for-ever!). I also bought a really interesting dried fruit mixture at TJ's the other day: dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried sour cherries and dried blueberries. I threw a little over a tablespoon of them right into the bulgar while it was cooking and saved a bit to add into the final product.

We also purchased some tilapia at Whole Foods today, so I simply sprinkled it with some S&P and bread crumbs and broiled it on high for maybe 10 minutes (just until it was flaky). I added a bit of parmesan cheese to it a few minutes before finally taking it out of the oven.

Ok, on to the side dish. I toasted some hazelnuts on a skillet, then added a tsp of EVOO and garlic to it, followed by the steamed butternut squash and a sprinkle of brown sugar. I let it caremelize a bit and then added the bulgar mixture into the pan. I salted and peppered it and then added a bit of parmesan cheese (to tie it to the fish... but you couldn't really taste it) and squeezed some lemon to it. This tasted super complex - sweet and savory. Seriously amazing. I loved it, but more importantly my tougher critic, my husband, loved it too! He said he's starting to like butternut squash and pumpkin now... I'll take the credit for it :D This was also pretty low calorie but extremely filling. I highly recommend this concoction, or some sort of combination to this. It really tasted like fall... Mission accomplished!

Mmm, sweet whole grains...

Time to catch up on some blog reading and get ready for tomorrow. Thank you all new readers for tuning in. I really appreciate all your comments and look forward to checking out your blogs (if I haven't already).


Kelly said...

It was a beautiful day. I thought it was going to rain so I planned indoor activities. That salad looks delicious. Anything topped with hummus is a winner in my book.

Anonymous said...

Good job on putting that together!

I am a recipe cook, through and through. My husband has the knack for whipping up things on hand - I need a bit more hand holding!