meatless monday

My little sister just headed back to college for the fall. She's now living in her first apartment and it just so happens that her new roomie is a vegetarian. Having to cook for herself 100% of the time she's now trying to learn some easy dishes to make. No worries Lexi, I'm here to the rescue!

While I could never live without my meat, I have been trying to make a conscious effort to do one meat free day a week. Plus, if you're on a budget (say, a college budget like my sister) this meal definitely won't leave your bank account in a state of panic. 

This dish is so easy to improvise, it's literally foolproof! Plus it's full of protein and fiber from whole grains and beans... you won't even miss the meat. Trust me, I need my meat and I felt full and satisfied! I will say the poblanos turned out to be way spicier than anticipated. Every pepper varies and some are milder than others. If you have a low tolerance for heat just substitute with bell peppers instead.

mexican rice stuffed poblano peppers
yields 6 stuffed peppers

2 cups cooked whole grain rice
1 - 15 oz can of enchilada sauce
1 - 15 oz can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 onion 
1 clove garlic chopped
1 c. corn
6 poblano peppers
salt + pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a saute pan heat up a little olive oil, butter, whatever you prefer over medium heat. Slice onions and toss them in the hot pan. You want to get a nice caramelization on your onions. This will take about 15 minutes. Once onions start to turn brown add in your garlic. Meanwhile, open your can of black beans and drain the juice. You want to give them a good rinse to get off the slimy, salty goo. 

In a medium sized bowl place rice, rinsed beans, corn (frozen or fresh), and half of the can of enchilada sauce. 

To prepare your peppers for stuffing, you can do it one of 2 ways. I sliced them in the middle and cut a sliver out of the center and removed the seeds and rib. I did this for a pretty picture. It would be much easier to cut the top off like you would a pumpkin and pull out the seeds and ribs (the lighter part that's soft). You can do whatever you think would be easier! Place the 6 peppers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. This step will make clean up super easy.

By now your onions and garlic mixture should be ready to add to the rice mixture. Give it a good stir and stuff them into your peppers. Take remaining half can of enchilada sauce and pour over the top of the peppers. Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pepper just starts to turn brown around the edges.

You can top it with a little dollop of sour cream and serve with a few tortilla chips on the side if you like. 

improv style:
here's the fun part. GO WILD! I used the ingredients I had on hand. You can stuff these with anything you like... drain a can of diced tomatoes or use fresh ones, add in some jack cheese, cotija cheese, goat cheese, or cheddar. If poblanos are too spicy for you, you can use bell peppers or sweet red peppers. you can use red onion, green onion, cilantro, pinto beans, mushrooms, green enchilada sauce, tomatillo sauce... seriously whatever you have. stuff the peppers with some rice, veggies, and some form of sauce and pop that sucker in the oven. you could even add meat if you wanted... try some chorizo, ground turkey, ground sausage out of the casing, or even ground beef. 


fig chicken

Remember last week when I told you I had plans for that fig + thyme jam?! Well, here's one thing I did with it...

I made a glaze and smothered it on some chicken breasts and baked it in the oven. This sauce, glaze, whatever you want to call it is so simple to make. It's got the gooey sweetness from the fig jam and some tang from mustard and a little apple cider vinegar. It's the perfect sweet savory balance for a weeknight meal. 

The first time I made the glaze was for Easter dinner. I smothered it all over my ham - heaven on earth! There's something special that happens when fig comes into play with a savory dish. 

This sauce would pair well with ham, pork loin, chicken, or turkey. I'm not a big seafood eater but I would imagine a fish like Salmon would pair really well with this glaze too. 
figgy glaze
adapted and inspired by Claire Robinson
yields almost a cup of sauce (enough for a half ham or 10 chicken breasts)

¼ c. mustard (I used yellow to make it yeast free, I would recommend dijon)
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. brown sugar

In a small sauce pan combine all your ingredients. Stir for a few minutes until the mixture is warmed through and the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool. Once it's at room temperature spread on your favorite meat. 

In this case I did chicken breasts and baked in the oven at 350º for 20 minutes. 

improv style:
the first time i made this i added ¼ c. bourbon to the sauce. i know some of you who read this probably think i'm an alcoholic but i really believe that it adds a depth to the sauce. if it weren't for being yeast free i would recommend adding bourbon or brandy to the sauce. you can also use any type of mustard you like... grain, dijon, spicy, etc... you could try substituting the apple cider vinegar with balsamic which would play nicely here really it's about building a sauce/glaze/marinade to your taste... like it spicy? add some spice in the form of cayenne, sriracha, spicy mustard, etc... not a fan of mustard? i'm not usually either but in sauces like this i really love the complexity and tang it gives. you can leave it out and substitute a little stock or water to thin down the sauce. 


90 days to go, well 78...

I mentioned in my last post that I'm starting a diet for 90 days. Not a lose weight diet but a feel better diet by eliminating the foods I'm sensitive to. Back in March I had my blood tested against 1500 different food types to see what my body had a reaction to. It's taken me 5 months to accept the results and attempt this 90 day challenge. Here's a short version of what I had to give up: wheat, dairy, eggs, yeast (brewers and bakers), tomatoes, lettuce, bananas - the list goes on... depressing, right?! 

Some might ask why would I ever do this to myself? Well, a few reasons actually. 1. to see if I can eliminate or lessen the amount of headaches I get. 2. to see if I can actually do it. 3. to have more energy, better skin, and to be better to my body. There's lots of reasons to give it a try and I decided to look at it as a challenge instead of getting discouraged. Again, it took me 5 months to get here. I'm pretty sure most of my friends reading this are in disbelief. I am the queen of carbs. Pasta and bread are my favorite things. Add some butter and cream and you've hit my sweet spot. So yes, this is going to be a challenge but if I can do it, anyone can! 

So far I'm 12 days in and I haven't broken yet! I don't feel different but they say it takes 10 - 14 days to get the foods out of your system and to start feeling the difference. I'm looking forward to this journey. My goal is to make tasty meals that don't leave me feeling like things are missing. So far I'm doing REALLY good. I'm not lying, I promise. I'm looking forward to perfecting some of the recipes and sharing with you!

With that I give you recipe #1 fig jam. This is not the canning type of jam, more like a spread that will last a few weeks in your refrigerator. QUICK, fig season comes as fast as it goes! Run to the grocery store and grab them while they're still here! I like to use this for all sorts of things. It's especially delicious on a sea salt cracker with an extra sharp white cheddar, as a glaze on ham, or coated on chicken. I'll share a recipe that uses the jam soon! 

fig + thyme jam
yields about 2 cups of jam
2 lbs fresh mission figs (the black ones)
¾ c. sugar
½ a lemon*
5 sprigs fresh thyme
½ c. water

Cut the stems off the figs and cut them into quarters. Peel the lemon removing only the zest none of the pith (the white part). Cut the lemon zest into strips and squeeze the juice into a medium sized sauce pan. Add the lemon zest, figs, sugar, water and thyme sprigs. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and figs become plump and juicy. Pull out the thyme sprigs and mash up the mixture. I like to put mine through a food processor to get everything nice and smooth. If you like yours a little more chunky, skip this step.

Place in air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. *I didn't actually use lemon because it's on the list of things I can't have. I recommend a little bit of lemon because it brings out the freshness of the figs and cuts through the sweet. 

improv style:
missed fresh fig season? that's ok... use an 8 oz bag of dried mission figs. it will take a little more liquid but it will still taste delicious! don't have mission figs? not a problem, you can use any type... golden, brown turkey, calimyrna they'll all work. the flavor changes a bit but use the type you like. you may need to adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet or sour your fruit is. give it a little taste test. remember, you can always add more but you can't take it out! there are tons of ways to improvise the jam... not a fan of thyme? use rosemary instead or leave out the fresh herbs all together. i like to add a little brandy too. a little booze really adds great flavor to your jam!