What I Ate: Couscous

To continue this What I Ate series, I have a fun side for you.

This was a perfect summer meal. Marinated grilled chicken and couscous packed with veggies. I loved the flavor and was really jazzed about the couscous as a side. It might not look extra special but it was just right.
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I cooked the couscous as I normally would but I roasted tomatoes while the couscous was cous-ing. I added the roasted tomatoes, and spinach I chopped up as if it were an herb. Worked like a charm to use a somewhat small amount of leftover spinach and “hide” it in a way. I added a touch of butter and Dijon. Perfect!

Ingredients:
Israeli couscous
10 grape tomatoes
1-2 cups spinach, cut chiffonade
1 tbs butter (or 2 if you’re being real)
1 tbs dijon mustard

Bright and Summery Lemon Risotto

I posted some coconut chicken the other day and called that part 1. Today is part 2. The side dish: lemon risotto. Put on your seatbelts because later this week is the leftovers transformed into a real treat. I’m not kidding.
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I make risotto quite frequently. Like here. And here. And here. I think of risotto as a wintery comfort food that gets a bad rap for being difficult. I always think that lemon asparagus risotto sounds delicious but I never think of it when spring rolls around. Well here we go! Carpe diem!

I decided on just lemon risotto since I wasn’t feeling having too many parts of the meal all together.

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 lemon (juiced and zested)
1 onion, chopped

Directions:

Sautee the onion and a bit of olive oil in a pot.
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Start warming the liquids together (stock, wine, lemon juice)
Add the rice into the onions once they’re 75% cooked (translucent but still before they’re totally soft).
Add one cup of liquid into the rice and stir until absorbed before adding the next cup into the rice.
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Repeat until all the liquid is absorbed, little by little. It will take about 30 minutes on medium heat.
Add lemon zest on top once it is totally cooked.
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See? So easy. It takes time and you have to stay nearby, but if you’re putting together other dinner items you’ll have plenty of time. I love risotto and don’t always like regular rice that much. Risotto is creamier, and not as dry.
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Wait till you see what I did with the leftovers!!

 

Peanut Noodle Salad Hot or Cold

Marcus Sameulsson had me at bok choy. Well, I actually hadn’t cooked bok choy before but I loved this recipe from his blog. This was a pretty quick one to put together and it reheated well the next day for lunch.
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Peanut Noodle Salad with Edamame and Bok Choy

 

Serves 4, adapted from Peas and Thank You

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp honey
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2 heads baby bok choy, chopped
2 cups frozen edamame

Directions:

In a food processor mix coconut milk, tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and honey until smooth.
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Boil the pasta.
While the pasta boils, cook the bok choy for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender before adding the edamame and cook until heated through.
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Add the spaghetti to the pan and pour the peanut sauce mixture into the pan, tossing to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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This was a really great meat-less meal. I was shocked, but Mr. J really liked it too! I wasn’t sure he’d be really into the coconut milk/peanut butter sauce. This was also a great use of whole wheat pasta. Normally, I really don’t like it and honestly, I’d often prefer not to even have pasta if it is going to be wheat.

It is fresh tasting. Each bite had something different…from the noodles coated in the creamy peanut sauce, to the bite of the edamame, to the leafy bok choy. The recipe had peppers in it but I threw in some carrots for color instead.
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Balsamic Citrus Chicken, You Heard That Right

At my wedding shower, the guests each gave me recipes and I couldn’t have been more excited. I got some great one including one of the only things my Grandma could cook, in her own handwriting, a few from grandmothers on both of Mr. J’s sides.
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I broke out this chicken one with the littlest bit of hesitation. I questioned balsamic and citrus but was widely impressed with Mrs. P’s Chicken with Balsamic Citrus Sauce. Mr. J called it one of the best things I’ve made in awhile! I was a bit snap-happy so feast your eyes on this.

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
salt, pepper, and flour
1 shallot
1 tbs honey
1 cup chicken stock1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Pound chicken breasts thin and dredge in flour, salt, and pepper mix. (Check out how easily I pounded chicken tenders…unpounded is on the right)
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Heat a large skillet with 1 ½ tbs butter and 1 ½ tbs olive oil to medium temperature and saute chicken in batches, keeping the others warm.
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Leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan, add shallots, honey cooking until shallots wilted. Increase heat to high.
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Add chicken stock and lemon juice.
Boil until reduced to about ½ cup.
Reduce to medium temperature and add heavy cream. Cook until slightly thickened.
Add balsamic vinegar and return to a boil.
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Add chicken back in until heated through (about 1 minute).
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This. was. amazing.
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I loved the balsamic flavor since it reduced down and was creamy. The vinegar wasn’t too assertive. I had questioned the citrus in there but it was a great touch.

I served it with some mashed “potatoes”. I did half potato and half cauliflower florets.
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I whipped them and mixed in some plain greek yogurt and butter. Mr. J didn’t suspect a thing before I told him! The mashed potatoes were light, fluffy, and a great accompaniment.
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Have you ever been asked to give a recipe to a bride-to-be? Did you think she’d actually make the recipe? I really treasure these and will have more to come!
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Tomato and Zucchini for Wow Risotto

Risotto might be one of my favorite comfort foods. I love how creamy it gets and just how much flavor cooks into it. I have a few more in mind but this is an oldy-but-goody. I think I last made it for a girls night dinner circa 2008. This one is red and would be a fun Valentines Day dinner…if you wanted to be thematic.

Risotto really gets a bad rap for being difficult but I don’t agree at all. This one also packs an extra veggie punch with the tomato juice.

Ingredients

1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup water or white wine
1 zucchini
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

Toast rice in olive oil for 5 minutes until slightly golden.
Chop zucchini into disks then into quarters.
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Warm tomato juice and water/wine over low heat.
Add one cup of the hot liquid at a time until absorbed.
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When adding the very last of the liquid, add the zucchini to cook for 5 minutes.
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Mix in parmesan and serve.
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I sprinkled in some rosemary flor de sal I got in Italy and it was a great use for it. I considered it our starch and our veggie. We had some grilled turkey kilbasa with it too for an easy dinner. The leftovers were good too though they’re a bit more sticky.
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Low sodium tomato juice would work well too if your blood-pressure isn’t ridiculously low like mine. Maybe next time I’ll use my trusty Kitchen Ready tomatoes/sauce since the tomato chunks might be good in there too.
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Three Bean Fiesta

The name ‘Bean Salad’ completely deceiving. My mum gave this recipe to me after raving about it. Then Mr. J was the one raving…he said it was the best side dish ever. This bean salad can be a side or served with tortilla chips as a dip. I got it prepped one morning so it would marinate all day and we had it for dinner.

I got the largest lime I’ve ever seen straight from Florida (thanks Aunt S & Uncle B)! I really wanted to put that to good use so I used it to marinate chicken with honey for a Mexican twist before Mr. J grilled the chicken.
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We are making up for lost time when the grill sat in the garage for 2 years before moving so there’s year-round grilling happening here. Also, my mum made me some taco seasoning for Christmas. I was super excited since I use it all the time and have only ever found it in packets so this jar was a big deal to me.

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The taco seasoning when on some brown rice and poof, we had a fiesta (served in fiestaware of course)!
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Ingredients:

½ cup oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 can black eyed peas
1 can Mexican corn
½ cup red onion
1 red or green pepper, chopped

Directions:

Heat oil, vinegar, and sugar until gently boiling.
Pour liquid mix over beans, peas, corn, onion, and peppers.
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Let stand overnight (or 9 hours while at work).
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Serve with tortilla chip scoops as a dip or as a side.
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I subsititued white for red onion, since I had it on hand. I didn’t have any peppers so I chopped some tomatoes just before serving. I also didn’t have any black eyed peas so I just went with the other 2 beans. Three cans of beans would be a ton anyway.
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I liked the sweet/tart balance. We ate it a few times but I can see it keeping better if the onion & tomato/pepper was added just before serving.

It was a super easy side and was a pretty healthy one! I’m sure this will have a regular rotation in our house. I’d throw it on salad or tacos or the leftovers drained into soup or chili.  Ohh how fun would a chili bar be at a party?! The wheels are churning here for housewarming parties!

Super Sweet Potato Streusel

I’m sure you’ve been wondering about my fall potluck sweet potato dish that I referenced what feels like forever ago. I made a small batch using just 1 sweet potato but my recipe would feed about 8 as a side dish. I hope to make it for one of my holidays meals coming up.
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All the butter in this makes it so good…Paula Deen would approve. Personally, I wouldn’t scrimp on the quantitiy but I’m sure butter/margarine substitutes would work just fine. I figured I’d use actual butter since there were so few ingredients.

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, peeled & boiled
1 & ½ sticks of unsalted butter, separated, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbs flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg, ginger, and allspice)
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds

Directions

Boil peeled potatoes until cooked all the way through.
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Mix sugars, flour, pumpkin pie spice, and 1 stick of butter until crumbly.
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Puree potatoes with ½ stick of butter until no lumps remain.
Roast nuts in a skillet on medium for about 5 minutes and add to crumb topping mix.
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Transfer potato puree into a baking dish.
Top with streusel crumbly topping and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and crisp.
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This was awesome! It felt like baking and it still came out great! This sweet potato dish feels like it could be dessert, but that’s kind of the norm with sweet potatoes.

I made a lot of topping because I like the texture combinations but making less would lighten this one up. I loved how rich and sweet it was. The topping gets too powdery if the butter is melted or too warm. You’re going for hunk o chunks of butter.
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Mmmm. So easy and it traveled well! I reheated the leftovers after the potluck and had it for lunch another day.

Are you watching your pennies this spend-happy-season? Here’s the breakdown:

Sweet Potato Streusel Costs:

3 sweet potatoes: $2.37
1 & ½ sticks of unsalted butter: $1.50
1 cup brown sugar: $0.32
1 cup white sugar: $0.65
2 tbs flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg, ginger, and allspice)
1 cup chopped walnuts, peacans, or almonds: $3.99
total =  $8.83 / 8 servings =$1.10 per person as a side dish

 

Stop, drop (cheddar biscuits), and roll!

I got an itch I had to scratch. TMI? Well, I was itching to make biscuits. I figured they were do-able since bread & yeast seems scary. They were amazing! I loved them!
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They had so much flavor and were simple to assemble. I don’t bake a lot but these made me feel like a successful baker! Just wait till my kitchen is bigger than a shoe box!

Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

(adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (preferably stone-ground; not coarse)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
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Blend in butter until the mixture is crumbly. A pastry blender will work best but fingers will do a good job too.
Stir in cheese and add buttermilk, stirring just until combined.
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Drop 12 lumps onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
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Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
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I nixed the Parmigiano-Reggiano and scallions but I’m sure both are great additions. I also made my own buttermilk since buying buttermilk seems unnecessary for a small amount so rarely. Epicurious also thought there would be 8 large biscuits. I’m here to tell you I made mine pretty colossal and there were 12.

To make buttermilk: mix 1 ⅓ cups milk with 1 ½ white vinegar or lemon juice. Let it stand a few minutes before using.

I was feeling very southern so I served these with some honey barbecue wings. The wings had been chillin’ in my freezer forever and it was time to clear some room in there. I defrosted them and marinated them in barbecue sauce and honey. Honey Barbecue…duh! I also made slightly freezer burned green beans since it’s not dinner in my book without a veggie.
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I was so excited about the biscuits. It made a lot and I ate them for breakfast for days on end. Mr. J isn’t in love with drop biscuits to the extent that I am because of the cornmeal and the crumbly nature, rather than the flakiness of regular biscuits. I attemped some other biscuits for Thanksgiving and they weren’t good so I’ll stick with these guys.

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Here’s a variation on these biscuits as a Chicken Pot Pie Biscuit Topping.

Pumped Up Risotto

I love risotto and always think of it as a fall/winter comfort food. It is surprisingly easy and I even love it reheated. I like it better than regular rice, which we don’t eat a lot of at home.

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On my honeymoon I had some AMAZING risotto with shrimp and arugula which was a fantastic reminder to make some at home. I also was gifted a broccoli risotto recipe that I’m looking forward to making. I added it to my fall-to-make list.

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Ingredients

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 cup pumpkin beer (or white wine)
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 slices prosciutto, chopped
3 tbs grated Parmesan
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Toast the rice on medium low for 5 minutes while liquids are heating separately.
Add ½ cup of liquid mix until absorbed. Repeat until liquid is gone.

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Heat prosciutto until crispy.

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Mix pumpkin, prosciutto, Parmesan, and spices into risotto.

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I liked it a lot. I think there was a bit too much prosciutto but that’s an easy fix…it wasn’t that much of a problem seeing how I ate it for dinner, and 2 lunches in the days following.

The color was awesome and it felt really fall-ish. Sage would have been good in it too.

I’ve never put beer into my risotto so I was definitely a bit nervous about it. I worried what kind of aftertaste it would give. I think it worked though! I wouldn’t have included it if I didn’t have pumpkin beer on hand.

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I’ve made one using tomato juice and zucchini. It’s an awesome vegetarian one and the V-8 is a great addition for even more veggie perks. I’ll have to make that one sometime soon too! If you’re not too pumpkin-ed out after Thanksgiving, make this one when the pumpkin shelves are restocked!

Lunching Couscous

Lunch ideas can be hard to come by for me and sandwiches were never really my thing. I love them with interesting condiments on bakery bread, but making one at 7am and bringing it to work never appeals to me.

I try to mix it up when it comes to lunch. Often it’s leftovers but I used to be so good about picking something, making a regular sized batch, and eating it all week for lunch. It was even more convenient when I’d bring it all on Monday and not have to think about it the rest of the week.  Lately, I’ve gotten off course.

Recently I made couscous for a couple of lunches and it was soooo good. I ate it as a cold salad and was all about it. Tomatoes were my inspiration.
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Grape. Heirloom. Tomatoes.

Ingredients

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 cup dried Israeli couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
11/2 cups baby spinach
2 slices of bacon, cooked to a crisp
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
¼ cup ranch dressing
drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Toast couscous over medium-low heat until lightly browned
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Add in veggie stock and cover for 7 minutes
Slice cherry tomatoes in halves, chop the spinach chiffonade, and crumble the bacon.
Fluff couscous to separate and allow to cool.
Add spinach, bacon, Parmesan and dressing.
Refrigerate overnight and drizle with olive oil before eating to rehydrate.
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I’ll admit. Ranch might seem a bit weird, but I had it and wanted something creamy. Parmesan peppercorn dressing would be more appropriate. My spinach had lived a good life but wouldn’t have been amazing the next day, which is why I chose to throw it in…like an herb rather than like a salad. Nobody was going to overshadow these tomatoes. No, siree!This was an easily packable and flavorful lunch. It also is super cheap. If I were like whats-her-face on the foodnetwork who makes $10 dinners I’d probably have an impressive lunch cost since this served as 2 lunches for me…and my mum may have bought the tomatoes for me when we were at the farm stand. I’d much rather pack a lunch and afford a fantastic meal in Italy or Spain. In just over 4 weeks time I will be! So excited I can’t even stand it!

This would be a good side dish. Adding basil and fresh mozzarella would be good with Italian dressing. Bring couscous to your next BBQ this summer and be the star next to all the cole slaws and potato salads.
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What are some other lunchable ideas & inspirations?