Thursday, July 8, 2010

Half a Week of Cooking

A friend suggested I blog about a successful three days in the kitchen. We all struggle with keeping our meals healthy, affordable, and interesting. As we've all discovered, dining at home is no cheaper than going out if you don't actually eat the leftovers. But who wants to eat off the same dish all week long? Even your favorite lasagna or casserole gets old on the third go around. I've found that, with a little creativity, one batch of groceries - including full crispers and fruit bowls - can deliver a myriad of delicious dishes much of the week. When you pick an ingredient at the market, think about a few different ways you can use it BEFORE the first meal. This week I've been playing a lot with my George Foreman counter-top grill during this process. This isn't so much a list of recipes as an inspirational guide.

Day 1

Salmon Fillets & Corn on the Cob

I always wished my counter-top grill could tackle corn on the cob, but it's nowhere in any manual or cookbook. This week I said "screw it!" and gave it a try myself. It worked beautifully and I'm filled with tauntings of singsong nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nahs in the cookbook writers' general direction. Rip the leaves and silk from corn. Brine for 10-30min in a bath of water mixed with a couple of tablespoons of salt and sugar (tip from either America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Country, I don't remember, but does it matter? Either way, same great group of folks!) Preheat grill to 375. Close cobs in grill perpendicular to grooves. Cook for 30 minutes, turning partway around every ten so they blacken evenly. Spread with your favorite butter substitute (or the real thing) and sprinkle with fresh ground salt & pepper. For the salmon, dust fillets with your favorite seasoning. Layer the top of each fillet with lemon slices. Grill according to manual. Enjoy 3 or 4 ounces of salmon and a cob of corn for your first lunch. Keep leftover salmon and uncooked cobs in the fridge.

Rosemary Balsamic Portabella Sandwich

I marinated the portabella in a balsamic rosemary dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar friends brought us from Italy, crushed garlic, freshly trimmed rosemary, soy sauce) before grilling it on my George Foreman. I used some of the leftover marinade to make a quick aioli. Luckily, I had simmered rosemary infused olive oil earlier to drizzle over air-popped popcorn per a Giada de Laurentis recommendation. I used a few drops in a pan to toast the sandwich thins - a perfect touch to elevate a simple sandwich to restaurant quality. I topped it all with fresh ground sea salt and black pepper, spring greens, red onion, organic tomato, and thick slices of fresh mozzarella. I stored the leftover marinade in the fridge to dip tomatoes and mozzarella as a snack or to dress a salad. Notice the incorporation of tasty, healthy snack ideas within meal preparation.

Day 2

Soyrizo Burrito

I love me some Papalote. I crave their soyrizo burrito on a wheat tortilla with veggies instead of rice. I decided that, since I can buy soyrizo from the store just as easily as they can, I might as well make Papalote at home! I started with a warm low carb/high fiber tortilla, green chili refried beans (organic, vegetarian, fat free), soyrizo, mixed veggies grilled on my trusty Foreman (mushrooms, eggplant, red onion, carrots, zucchini, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh ground sea salt & pepper), plus my favorite brand - Casa Chicas - roasted salsa & guacamole. The California taqueria flavors I love packed with vegetables and fiber, and all coming in around 350 calories. Don't forget to make a lot of that veggie grill - we use leftovers in this household!

Salmon Pasta in White Wine Sauce

Time to use up some of those leftovers! I tossed leftover grilled salmon & veggie grill with a light but creamy white wine sauce & whole grain farfalle. A squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of cashews makes the dish spectacular. The best part is how easy it was since the salmon & vegetables were ready to go!

Day 3

Soyrizo Nachos

There's all that yummy soyrizo biding its time in the fridge, and that just won't do. It must be in my belly! A handful of Guiltless Gourmet Tortilla Chips in your choice of flavor, a scoop of those refried beans, a serving of soyrizo, a modest portion of shredded cheese, and the rest of those grilled veggies popped under the broiler for a few minutes comes out gooey and delicious. Top with salsa and guacamole to add another serving of vegetables to the mix.

Salmon Patties & Elote con Queso

Now that I knew my grill could tackle corn on the cob, I just had to begin experimenting with one of my favorite Mexican dishes: Elote con Queso, or Corn with Cheese. Traditionally, the corn is grilled with cayenne pepper, coated in lime crema, and di
pped in cotija cheese. Utilizing what I had on hand, I grilled the corn with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Right after it came off the grill, I drizzled it with a few squeezes of lime juice (I didn't have any sour cream and figured it was healthier this way anyway), and then rolled it in grated parmeggiano reggiano. For an even simpler dish, it was delicious enough without the cheese to skip it. We can always do the traditional recipe another day!

The salmon patties are a variation on crab cakes I saw Ted Allen do on Oprah years ago - way back when Queer Eyes were all the rage. It's a crunchy, baked alternative to the fried patties my mom made growing up. Basically, I mix salmon with a dressing of egg, SmartBalance mayo, lemon juice, Tabasco, and other seasoning & let it set in the fridge. Then I make patties coated with cornflake crumbs - the crunch factor. After another stint in the fridge, they get baked until crispy and hot. Serve with aioli or tartar sauce. Experiment with flavors - spicy dijon, Deliciously Dill, sweet & salty teriyaki, classic Old Bay. Whatever whets your whistle!

And that's 3 days of the same ingredients popping up over and over without things getting boring or redundant. Salmon 3 ways, soyrizo 2 ways, grilled veggies 3 ways, corn 2 ways, and so on and so on. Even minor ingredients make multiple appearances: lemons, parmesan, rosemary, beans, salsa, guacamole. Few items get used only once. Toss in healthy breakfasts and lots of fruit to snack on, and you're set!

We all have to stay on budget by eating our leftovers, but that doesn't mean our meals need to become predictable. Whatever it takes to pull you out of that rut, grab it!
Because if we're not excited about our food, why bother? So, what's next for me? Maybe a couple chicken breasts on the grill - shred one into a mushroom lentil casserole (using up the last of that giant bag o' sliced mushrooms!), save the other for curried brown rice salad... Getting inspired, yet? Or should I keep going?


  1. I am so impressed! I have recently made the sad realization that eating in often costs the same or more than eating out. This is good inspiration for me to do a little better planning and utilize ingredients several times.

  2. Your food always looks and tastes so fabulous! I'm super impressed by your creativity. I'm going to have to try the corn on the grill one of these days. This post made me hungry!