Roasted Carrots

Sometimes, the most basic of things is the best.

Quite a while ago (definitely weeks, and maybe months), I bought a very large bag of carrots. I don’t dislike carrots, but I don’t really like them either. Even though I gave up peeling them years ago, I still find them a lot of work. I usually scrub, since I don’t peel. They’re so hard, you really have to chew them. They’re annoying in salads (they fall to the bottom, they’re tough to chew, etc.) unless you shred them, and that’s a lot of work. But Dan likes carrots a lot. However, I was overly optimistic about Dan’s ability to go through this huge bag, and four large carrots sat in our drawer for a very long time.

They were still there when my mother, before her arrival from Mexico, asked me to have carrots on hand for her during her visit. I didn’t want to offer her weeks- (or months?-) old carrots, so I wanted to buy new ones for her, but I also didn’t want to throw away food that might still be edible. So I did what I often do with vegetables I don’t otherwise know what to do with or particularly like: I roasted them.

Wow.

I Googled roasted carrots just to get a sense of cooking times and temperature (someday I will trust my gut on these things, but not yet) and found this recipe from Delish. Chopping was chopping. No getting around that part. But super quick toss with olive oil, spread on a pan, bake, and voila. I didn’t stir them partway through or anything.

They were delicious! Have I never had roasted carrots before? Is there something magical about Delish’s time/temperature combination? I ate half with some tahini thinking I would save the other half for later, or for my son, but nope. Ate them too. Yes, that’s four carrots, all eaten very quickly.

That was a couple weeks ago now. I just made a second batch – not because I had carrots laying around, but because I was craving them. I cut them in coins instead of diagonal across as the recipe recommends (and as I did the first time), and I left them in the oven after baking for a while because I was busy with other things, and I admit they are a little overdone. Still tasty, though. This is probably a new every-time-of-year favorite, but definitely a new Fall favorite. 🎃 🥕 🍁

Advertisements

Smoky Chicken Salad

As evidenced by this post and this post, I am clearly, though begrudgingly, a fan of chicken salad. I also recently made a curried chicken salad from Week 6 of Cook Once, Eat All Week, which I didn’t document. (It was good, but maybe not as good as the curried chicken salad that my friend’s mom made for a post-Frederick-half-marathon picnic we had at Black Ankle Winery in May… yum.) I still think of it as a novelty and something that I don’t really like, but I should probably officially put it in the regular rotation, because I do like it. It’s versatile (Put it on lettuce! On bread! On other vegetables! Eat it fresh, eat it as leftovers, as a main, as a side, etc.) and delicious. And there are so many different ways to make it and flavors! I don’t have a favorite.

Most recently, I made the Smoky Chicken Salad from Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide. I have not done the 21 Day Sugar Detox, but I considered it once. I don’t know, my days of food elimination/reintroduction programs (or food programs in general) may be over. I learned a lot from my various Whole30s and the Fed&Fit project and other programs, but I’m not sure I have much more to learn, and now it just feels like unnecessary deprivation and a head game.

Anyway, the chicken salad! I was poking through the Daily Guide the other day to get some meal inspiration, and this chicken salad was the second day’s recommended lunch. It used Diane’s own recipe for a smoky spice blend, which used both smoky and sweet paprika, among other spices. Which was perfect, because my parents recently did a river cruise in Europe and brought me back both types of paprika. The spice blend also included chili powder, so it was a little spicy! We didn’t give any to Gabriel. He’s realized recently that more-than-very-mildly spicy food makes him cranky. The recipe also included other standards – mayo, red onion, and celery. No fruit.

And it was good! I tripled the recipe from the book (which was only for two servings), so we had it in the fridge for a few days. I ate some on homemade sourdough (yep, doing that again – I finally let my previous starter that I had for 8 years die, but I’ve started another), on lettuce, and by itself. Dan brought it on a sandwich to work several nights – and even praised it. I think he also thinks he doesn’t like chicken salad and is surprised when he finds he does.

 

In other food news, at the top I mentioned Cook Once, Eat All Week, which I’ve been really enjoying! Maybe I’ll do a post on it, but in the meantime, just know that it’s worth it, buy it. #notsponsored, duh, I’m not that cool. It takes the planning/thinking out of what to do for dinner most nights of the week, and I’ve been able to manage most of the prep during nap time on the weekends (was able to do even before I quit my job).

Did I mention, I quit my job?! I’m currently funemployed and going back to a full time job (still with the government, still in health policy,  but now in Baltimore instead of DC!) in November.

Cheers!

Colorado Mountains and Dump Ranch

A few weekends ago, we flew to Denver so that I could co-host a celebratory weekend for my sister, who is getting married in May. I left my baby and my husband with my parents and my sister’s fiancé in Denver, and I drove with my sister and four of her good friends into the mountains to stay at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort for the night. It was beautiful, and my sister’s friends were so generous. I’d rented a cabin with a kitchen, and I’d asked them to bring food for dinner and breakfast rather than planning to eat at the resort’s restaurant. (Since I was flying in late the night before, I didn’t have the time or availability to pick up groceries.) They contributed beautiful charcuterie, a lovely salad (with edible flowers!), adult beverages, tasty fruit and yogurt and granola. It was amazing. One of the women was doing a Whole30, and her enthusiasm for a few recipes AND her InstantPot stuck with me past the weekend, and I made most of her suggestions (several in the InstantPot!) the following week back at home.

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs was lovely. We stayed in a cabin with two bedrooms plus an upstairs loft with two queen beds. It had a mostly stocked kitchen, but no oven. The temperature got down into the twentys overnight, and was maybe 30-50 throughout the day.

We arrived around 3pm, had some snacks and drinks, and made our way to the hot springs. There are several pools and also creekside areas that are heated from below by the hot spring water. We tried some of the smaller pools and the creek (which was nicer in idea than in practice). It was super crowded, which was a bit unfortunate, but we still had plenty of room to enjoy ourselves.

After that, we ate dinner and played games in the cabin.

The next morning, after breakfast and packing up, we spent several hours at the pools again before heading departing. I got a sunburn wearing a bathing suit sitting by a hot spring pool in 35 degree weather! Colorado is so weird.

Before heading home, we drove a few miles in the wrong direction to Buena Vista, CO for lunch. I hadn’t been to Buena Vista in probably 15 years or more (since high school), and there was a totally new area called South Main with cute homes and shops and restaurants down by the river. We ate at Eddyline Restaurant, sitting outside on the porch, and it was delicious. The right side of my body got more sunburned. I had the pork posole and brewery burger on lettuce instead of a bun (it actually came wrapped in some kind of green leaf that way). Green chile and grilled prosciutto might sound a little strange together, but it was so good.

The first recipe I made that my sister’s friend recommended was the Dump Ranch. Apparently this is a Whole30 thing that I was previously unfamiliar with. I’d made homemade ranch dressing, I think from Cassy Joy’s Fed&Fit book before, but I’d never heard the term ‘dump ranch.’ I think there’s a lot of recipes out there for it, but my sister’s friend recommended this one from 40 Aprons. I maaaaaay have used this as an excuse to by a larger measuring cup that I could use my immersion blender in. It worked great, and the ranch was delicious.

I was skeptical before trying the stuff my sister’s friend made, because she’d told me the oil is avocado oil. I find Whole30 compliant mayo hard, because I *hate* the taste of avocado oil, apparently. I’ve been able to handle Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil mayonnaise in the past, but I don’t love it. However, I couldn’t taste the flavor that I hate in this dressing. My sister’s friend showed me which oil she used (Primal Kitchen’s avocado oil), and my sister confirmed that there are two types of avocado oil: light and dark. I think Primal Kitchen makes both. The light stuff (which I used, which was the right choice) is in a square shaped bottle. The darker stuff is in a circular bottle, and is extra virgin. It’s probably better for you… but the flavor is too strong! Anyway, it was fine! No bad flavor. Just delicious ranch dressing.

The recipe at 40 Aprons says to use it within one week. I have not. I still have some in my fridge, which at this point I should throw out. Going to do that now…

 

 

Instant Pot Pot Roast

[Mostly written in January 2019, posted way late :/] I finally got an Instant Pot! Well, we got it – my husband and me, from my husband’s parents for Christmas. I’ve been considering it for at least two years… I see so many people rave about it. But I wasn’t sure what it would add over my existing kitchen implements. Now that I have an infant, though, and less time to cook, I thought it was finally time to get one and cut down on cooking time.

I’m still learning how to use it. The first two things I did were steamed broccoli and steamed artichokes. The artichokes were a little over steamed and the broccoli was way over steamed. And I’m not sure it cuts out time for steaming. Maybe for the artichokes it did. Then I made butternut squash soup. This went better. I’m not totally sure it was less work/time than making it in a Dutch oven, but it was pretty easy and quick.

And then today, I made a pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I had a 2.5 lb bottom round roast from Butcher Box. I looked up a recipe to make it in the Instant Pot and found this one from La Creme de la Crumb, which also called for carrots and potatoes – two things I had on my counter and needed a plan for. Check.

I used chicken stock, because that’s what I had on hand, and only 3 cups because that’s what I had and I forgot to add an extra cup of water until after I’d closed the lid and the pressure was building. My roast was smaller than in the recipe, so I hoped it would be ok. It was. I also did the pressure cooking step for 55 minutes instead of 60-80, again since my roast was smaller. I actually think this was a bad decision and that the meat would have benefited from a little more cooking time. It was a litttttttle tough to shred. But I didn’t need to shred it a ton, just into chunks.

It was so nice to do all the steps in one pot! And I made gravy! I’ve never made gravy. Clean up was super easy. I didn’t have to watch or stir or check or anything (except a bit during the gravy-making stage). It still took a while, but would’ve taken way longer on the stove or in the oven. I’m hooked.

I ate it for dinner over some kale to get some greens in. I meant to give Gabriel some of the meat to suck on when I fed him solids for dinner, but I forgot.

We had leftovers for several meals. I’m not sure pot roast ever has been or will be a favorite meal of mine, but I would definitely consider doing it in the Instant Pot again!

Pork Spare Ribs

Y’all, it’s been a minute, I know. This motherhood thing is… all consuming. It was all consuming when I was on maternity leave, and it’s all consuming now that I’m back at work. It takes up almost all of my ‘free’ time. I’ve written a few notes about it that maybe I’ll put up here, but they’re sort of the opposite of sunshine and roses, so we’ll see. But in any case, the lack of much free time means, among many other things, that food has defaulted to:

1) Convenience deliveries: HelloFresh, PrimeNow groceries, SmoothieBox (highly recommend all).

2) And/or (usually and) other people making it.

3) Or ordering in.

But occasionally I get it together enough to make something. Usually while watching the baby monitor like a hawk for signs that Gabriel is waking up from a nap:

We’ve had some spare ribs in the freezer from ButcherBox for a few months. Last time I tried to make ribs (my first time ever), I used a dry rub. I didn’t know any better. I don’t know if I’d ever even eaten ribs, though I’ve seen Dan do it plenty. They turned out… okay. Tough. Dry. Boo. So I’m trying a wet rub this time. I searched for a paleo recipe because that’s a shortcut for finding recipes with alternatives to (or no) sugar. I found this one from Every Last Bite. I was able to make the sauce while Gabriel played (and cried some) on the floor. I put it all in a medium pot and used my immersion blender to blend it together. Then I put that in the fridge (pot and all) until Gabriel was down for a nap, and then I was able to season and smother the ribs and set the crockpot to low for 8 hours.

I also used Gabriel’s nap time to make this BBQ sauce from Civilized Caveman, which I’ll use when I cook a 6 lb ButcherBox pork butt on Friday to make pulled pork. It’s a BBQ kind of day, I guess.

We went to a tree farm an hour away in the afternoon to take professional family photos (not a thing I’ve typically done, but why not with a 6 month old?) and get a tree! Fun. And the ribs were nearly done when we got home.

I popped them in the over per the recipe, and we enjoyed them with steamed broccoli and leftover rice from last night’s order-in from Himalayan House.

They were good! Better than the time I made the dry rub. Tastier and definitely more moist and falling off the bone. The flavor was good, spicy, a little sweet from the dates. Not sure it’s the same as commercial/ restaurant BBQ sauce if that’s what you’re expecting, but I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never ordered ribs before. I thought it was really good and am glad we have leftovers!

Jalapeño Popper Chicken Salad

In my last post (from over a month ago, yes), I mentioned that I planned to make Paleomg’s jalapeño popper chicken salad. It was so good, and SUPER spicy (I’m too lazy to take out seeds, and usually I like a lot of spice)! Definitely very different from the other chicken salad I re-made (non-Whole30 version)that week.

It seems to me like that last post was pretty recent, but it was over four weeks ago! Four weeks from now I will be a) 37 weeks pregnant, and b) moving into my new house! It feels like both of those things are really far in the future, but it will come before I know it! Hopefully kiddo keeps cooking until well after that to allow us time to get a bit settled before his arrival, but we’ll figure it out if that’s not the case. Other than that, the timing will work out pretty well. We’re awaiting the delivery of two furniture items (a couch from Crate & Barrel and a custom-made sideboard from Sandtown Millworks), both of which should be ready and delivered between our settlement date (a Tuesday) and the day we’ve hired movers (a Saturday). We’re also getting a chance to get blinds quotes (which means getting to go into our house a few extra times!) and should be able to get those installed in that same time period before we move in, also.

I packed my first three boxes today, of books. I plan to get rid of several broken items (an old, paint-peeling, wood-rotting adirondack chair; a Target bookshelf that is no longer all in one piece; a side table that is broken) in the next few weeks. Dan is ambitiously trying to sell our current couch and a few other items on Craigs list. The couch might end up being a dump item. It’s so old and gross. Blah, I can’t wait to be rid of it. And I’ll keep packing here and there, but the big push will probably be the last week of April and first week of May.

I haven’t been cooking a ton as it is, but it’ll definitely dwindle further over the next few weeks til we move. I AM hoping to cook up a ton of meals to freeze and make snack balls/bars ahead of kiddo’s arrival, but won’t start til we’re in the new house. Then I think the freezer will be the limiting factor. Or time. Eek!

Anyway – back to the jalapeño popper chicken salad. It was pretty easy, though there were a lot of steps and component parts. Unlike Juli Bauer in her nice and professional-looking cooking video, my jalapeños did not stay on the burner very well, so I kept having to fish them out of the flame with tongs. I also didn’t leave any bacon or jalapeño aside to sprinkle on at the end, as Juli suggests. I just threw it all in. As I said, it was quite spicy, but really tasty. And rich – a little goes a long way.

This Week’s Meal Plan

A quickie to report on what I plan to make and eat this week. Hopefully I’ll get a few other posts up this week, but we’ll see!

This week’s plan features a lot of chicken. I’m not sure I have this much chicken in the house, so I might have to buy some. I’d generally prefer to vary it some more, but these are what I want to make, so… here’s what I’m making! Other things I will eat because I have them: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, portobello mushrooms, arugula, sweet potatoes, red new potatoes, and avocados.

Sunday

Make:

  • Chicken salad salads (non-Whole30 version, so using dried cranberries and Greek yogurt from the original recipe)

Eat:

  • Whatever’s around! Plus, dinner at Woodberry Kitchen with Dan to celebrate my birthday. Can’t wait!

Monday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: TBD
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Tuesday (telework day)

Make:

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Chicken sausage and maybe eggs (I’ll be taking my glucose challenge screening test, so I was advised to have a protein-heavy breakfast if I ate)
  • Lunch: TBD. Probably chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: Slow cooker buffalo chicken chili
  • Snacks: TBD

Wednesday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Chicken salad salad
  • Dinner: Pizza (I believe homemade by my book club hostess). Also some sort of dessert because it’s my birthday!
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Thursday (telework day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Egg sandwich: 1-2 fried eggs in butter with spinach between two pieces of toast, probably with cheese, hot sauce, and avocado
  • Lunch: Maybe leftover chili?
  • Dinner: TBD. Maybe salmon?
  • Snacks: TBD

Friday (go to work day)

Eat:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt (maybe with almond butter and/or fruit), chicken sausage
  • Lunch: Probably sweetgreen or Taylor Gourmet salad
  • Dinner: TBD
  • Snacks: Probably yogurt, maybe fruit, maybe some bars (Lara, RxBar, Epic)

Saturday

Make:

  • Jalapeno popper chicken salad from paleomg (yes, chicken salad twice in one week, but I’ve been wanting to re-make the one above for a while, and make this one. So that’s what I’ll do!)

Eat:

  • Oh who knows. But surely some of that jalapeño chicken salad.

Workouts

I’m only doing CrossFit anymore. And Barre3 classes. My prenatal yoga class ended and my birth class will now take the time of the prenatal yoga class, so I can’t sign up for the next session. Running is too uncomfortable. Other yoga is too lay-on-your-back or core or twist-intensive for my comfort. So, I’ll go to CrossFit at least 3x before work during the week, probably 4x, and will probably do at least one Barre3 workout.