Cajun Chicken Quinoa Salad

When I’m busy I always forget how much I love cooking.  Since I haven’t done that much dinner preparing this month, I was a little sluggish in making a final decision for this meal.  At first I was uninspired, standing alone atop a chair in my kitchen, gazing into the pantry with a spaced out look on my face.  I was so close to making Kraft Dinner.  Resisting the instinct to eat like a student, I finally decided to base my meal around three key ingredients: red pepper, red onion, and quinoa.

A simple google search informed me that I wasn’t insane in my dinner mission, and that the three ingredients I chose would actually go quite well together.  I’ve had an ungodly craving for chicken lately (bizarre, I know), so decided to throw that in for fun.  I found one recipe on the web that looked good, and decided to use it as a starting point for the dish you see below.

This turned out to be a great meal.  I’m currently studying in the library, deeply regretting my choice to leave my leftovers at home.  Guess what I’m having for dinner?  For students looking for a quick protein and fibre fix to get them through exams, this meal is stellar.  It also only takes about half an hour to prepare, which means you can get back to your work (or Facebook lurking) as quickly as possible.

Man, the thought of leftovers is killing me right now. Thank god Ariel is buying me a muffin. (Update: I just ate my leftovers for supper, I’m so happy right now)

See the recipe after the jump!

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Spring Chicken Salad with Pasta (and a troop of new vegetable friends)

It may have been the first day of spring in Ottawa yesterday, but apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the message.  Every form of precipitation known to mankind fell from the sky Monday, including a strange misty rain and tiny hail pellets.  Seriously, if there is something making our mythological season changer angry (Father Time cheated on her, etc., I don’t know), then it needs to stop.  I took out my bike on Sunday and it is now buried in snow. My sadness reaches epic proportions.

First day of spring in Ottawa: photo courtesy of The Weather Network

Trudging around in my winter boots again, I decided to defy Mother Nature and begin my spring cooking.  Well not quite. I’m not really sure what spring cooking is since this is the final season I must get through before my blog has its first birthday.  I figured this dinner recipe had the word “spring” in it and, for now, that was good enough for me.

Also, I just really wanted to cook and eat a real supper.  I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been eating very well for the past few weeks.  I’ve been so busy with school and work that I’m only ever home to sleep.  Also, as some of you know I’m currently on the hunt for Ottawa’s best cupcake for the blog Local Tourist Ottawa, so that has been keeping my sugar intake high, and my health content low.  Must strive for healthy balance!  I biked to pick up cupcakes this past weekend, that sort of cancels out the sugar, right?  Maybe not. Fine, I’ll get better.

I saw this recipe on Tastespotting when I was browsing the site at school.  At this point I had officially decided I needed to eat real food, and was deciding what meal should mark my re-emergence into the world of health.  I found this recipe on the blog Zoom Yummy, and it looked simple and delicious.  Petra (blogger) had posted several pictures of the how-to instructions, and the stunning images made it look like a PWC blog post.  I truly admire people who can take pictures detailing every step of the cooking process.  I would not have the patience.  My goal is to minimize the PTM (pan to mouth) time as much as possible.

Anyways, lots of chopping with this one, so make sure you do it before you start cooking your chicken.

Also, have a little fun along the way:

The green onions were just begging to be doodled on. Come on, don’t try and tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing.  Also, they’re kind of reminiscent of my squash friend, n’est-ce pas?

(Aside: please don’t think I’m a complete weirdo, I just really like playing with my food).

Other than getting three new vegetable friends out of this recipe, I also got the perfect amount of pasta for last night’s supper and today’s lunch.  How dearly I have missed you leftovers!  The recipe itself was pretty good.  I love parsley so added in about double what the recipe requested…..also, I didn’t have any ground ginger, so that got omitted this time around.

Gosh I’m hungry now.  Might eat leftover pasta for breakfast.

Source: Zoom Yummy

Gruyere Mac and Cheese

WARNING: If you do not like copious amounts of wonderful butter, cheese and heavy cream in your main dishes, then you probably won’t enjoy this post.

For the rest of you, welcome to my incredibly satisfying, highly fattening Tuesday night supper.

I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again.  GRUYERE.  My GOODNESS.  How can one small ingredient wield such amazing flavours?  It’s miraculous and fantastic.  If gruyere and brie had a love child I would either marry it or eat it.

I wanted to make one main course dinner meal for my family before leaving for Ottawa this weekend.  Since I’m getting my wisdom teeth out tomorrow and will likely be unable to do anything but drool deliriously and be fed jello through a straw, I figured today was a good day to make it.  I also made dessert, which I’m scheduling to post in a few days, so stay tuned for that.

While Annie’s Eats is my absolute favourite blog for getting dessert recipes and ideas, I’d never made any of her main courses before.  I changed two little things from her original recipe.  The first was buying gruyere cheese instead of fontina cheese (I’ve never heard of this type of cheese before, what is it?!) and the second was using normal bread crumbs versus these special panko ones.  This recipe was one that I had inadvertently bookmarked on three separate occasions (sadly true, I counted), so I decided I finally had to make it.  Something that’s wonderful about cooking for your family?  Your mom buys all the ingredients.  That’s right, say hello to $15 worth of gruyere cheese!  And fresh parmesan.  Grocery shopping is a glorious experience when you’re not paying for it.

This was also just a really fast dinner to make.  At approximately 4:54 p.m. this evening, my mom strolled into the living room to find me curled up on the arm chair reading, a position which I had held for approximately five hours that day.  She informed me that supper needed to be ready for 5:30 at the very latest, since everyone would be absolutely famished.  Mission accomplished.  At around 5:27 p.m., the casserole dish of bubbling pasta was rushed up to my bedroom to be photographed.  Why my bedroom?  Well I’m the only room on the west side of the house and the winter light was fading fast.  Also, I had already prepared a mini photo studio for this meal by my window, involving a charming wicker table from the spare bedroom and an old folded apron.  ‘Nuff said.

Verdict: THIS WAS AWESOME.  So creamy.  So cheesy.  I have such a stomach ache now from mac and cheese and the dessert that shall not yet be named.  I need to fast as of 10 p.m. tonight, so it best be on a full stomach!

PS: I’m kind of really fond of these pictures.  Not so much the one of the entire casserole dish, but I love the ones of my plate.  Perhaps that wasn’t a very modest comment.  Oh well.

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Chicken Burger Melts & Mango Avocado Salad

Never having made a burger of any kind from scratch before, the task of making one was long overdue.  Shaping my own chicken burger was…an experience.  Raw meat is the most disgusting thing in the universe, and having to touch it was absolutely awful.  To make my burger, I used Canadian Living’s “Chicken Burger Melts” recipe.  The best thing about this burger was that it allowed me to bring out my old friend, the George Foreman grill for the very first time since learning to cook!  Taking out that grill brought back many, many memories from my grilled cheese and plain-chicken-and-bbq-sauce days.

Side note: This burger also represents the first time I have eaten vegetables on a burger.  Big step.
Side note II: If purchasing a delicious, mouth-watering cheese such as brie to put on your burger, ensure that you do not eat 3/4 of the cheese prior to your dinner being cooked.  Personal experience has found that it is almost enough to kill your appetite.

As for the mango and avocado salad, I am happy to announce that I FINALLY know how to properly peel and cut these two delicious fruits, thanks to a bunchofonlinetutorials.  There was a slight moment of panic while making this salad, as my first avocado turned out to be bad on the inside.  The new grocery store near my house turned out to be a lifesaver, and I quickly dashed down there to pick up a lovely already-ripe avocado.  Disaster averted.

Also, exciting news!  As some of you may have noticed, I now have my very own DOMAIN NAME!!  Hoorah!  I was completely positive that I was going to accidentally delete my blog whilst trying to achieve this url, so I am very happy that we are still here!

Spiced Beef Skillet Dinner (and my first encounter with green olives)

I am beginning to distrust ground beef.  Making this meal, I casually took some ground beef out of the freezer (I never use things when I first buy them, I’m horrible!) and defrosted it in the microwave in preparation for skillet-frying.  This was a smooth process, and it wasn’t until I started to stove fry the beef that I suspected something fishy.  As I fried up this defrosted beef, my nose was unhappily tickled by an unpleasant scent.  Unsure of whether or not this smell was coming from the beef, and being the paranoid/neurotic person that I am, I shut off the stove and sniffed my way around the kitchen in search of this mysterious scent.  Unable to find the source, and being far too hungry to care any longer, I continued to cook the meat, smell and all.  In the future, I promise to use fresh ground beef, and avoid the freezer from here on in.

Another unhappy note: back in June, I announced that I discovered I did not like black olives.  It is with a heavy heart that I admit that green olives too have an absolutely awful flavour, and that their oil-based taste does not do me any favours.  When this meal was done, you could evidently tell I had picked around the green, doughnut shaped vegetable, and left them for the compost in a neat little pile on my plate.

All in all, this dish made fireworks go off in my mouth.  There were such bizarre spices in it, spices that I never thought would be seen together, including paprika, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and coriander.  Surprisingly enough, they all worked out, and the entire meal had a consistently spicy taste.  Perfect supper for someone who is trying to develop their palette!

The recipe was from my“Make it Tonight” cookbook, a book I need to start using more, since it has so many fantastic-looking recipes!  Perhaps I will cook my way through all of the Canadian Living cookbooks, a sort of Julie/Julia challenge, n’est pas?

PS: WHY can I NOT cook couscous?  The recipe in my cookbook was apparently “fail-proof,” however my couscous STILL ended up resembling mashed potatoes.  Couscous: a must conquer in the near-future.