dinner

Dinner without a Plan

Tuesday night's dinner had pretty much no plan at all but turned into something really delicious!  I want to share it with you to demonstrate that just because you don't have a plan, doesn't mean you can't get something simple and tasty on the dinner table after a long day of work / school / practices / motherhood / fatherhood / etc..  I mean, some days you just can't. Period.  I totally get that.  Been there,  This, however, is for those days when you think you can't but you know you have just a little left in you.

We were out of town last weekend and so I didn't do my normal recipe brainstorm and planning.  However, when we got in town on Sunday evening I quickly ran to the store and bought items for big salads plus a few veggies and other staples.  I also knew I had some uneaten veggies from last week that were still good.  

My initial plan was baked salmon with lemon, a spinach salad and bread.  Nothing fancy but it was dinner and it would do.  I actually talked to my husband after work around 6:15 and we almost threw in the towel and went out.  But then we decided to stick with the plan of salmon and somewhere between picking up the salmon at the grocery after work and pulling into the driveway I had concocted a whole new dinner idea pulling together simple ingredients that I knew we had at the house.

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In this post I'm going to list the ingredients I used for this dinner and how I went about getting it all on the table in about 30 minutes.  I didn't measure anything so these are ball park amounts.  I'll make it again and update with exact measurements in one of the upcoming weeks.  However, I think that's the great thing about cooking, sometimes measurements don't have to be exact.  You can play around with it to your liking and it can still be great!  

Before I give you the rundown of dinner, I want to leave you with 3 take-aways to remember so that you can create your own weeknight dinners when you have no specific plan in mind.

 

THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER FOR DINNERS WITHOUT A PLAN:

  • Always have your favorite go-to ingredients stocked in the fridge / pantry. They will be so handy when the unplanned dinner rolls around! (For me this includes things like: feta or goat cheese, a bell pepper, an onion, mushrooms or summer squash, dried herbs, fresh whole grain bread, quinoa or pasta)

  • Tasty & healthy dinners don't have to be complicated. If you have a few great herbs and spices, you can have a delicious dinner!

  • It's ok to keep parts of the meal basic. I used to feel like every part of dinner had to have it's own recipe and be something glamorous. Then I realized (a) that's a lot of pressure for one weeknight meal and (b) that's just not how it has to be. For this meal, I focused on the salmon, then kept the veggies fairly simple and our starch even simpler with one of our favorite hearty whole grain breads toasted in the toaster. Protein, veggies, complex carb, DONE!

 

FOR THIS DINNER YOU NEED:

  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets (I used coho salmon b/c it's a little meatier and a little less "fishy")

  • About 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach

  • About 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

  • About 1/4 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese

  • About 1/3 cup of pine nuts

  • Pinches of salt, for the spinach stuffing and for the veggies (maybe about 1/4 tsp total but taste test if for yourself)

  • Pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced and then each slice halved (so you end up with half circles)

  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped into about 1/2 to 1 inch dices

  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and sliced into half moons

  • About 2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

  • About 1/2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence seasoning (or more, if desired)

  • 2 slices of whole grain bread (we used the Seeduction Bread from Whole Foods)

 

HOW I PULLED THIS ALL TOGETHER:

  1. My thought process on the drive home that got me from plain baked salmon & spinach salad to what was actually on the dinner table went a little something like this....... "Can I step it up a notch so that dinner is a little more interesting? I really don't want a salad if I think about it. I know I have an extra pepper in the fridge and, oh yeah, the rest of that zucchini that I didn't make last week (if it's still good. I'll have to check that). And what if I stuffed the salmon?! I know I always keep feta in the fridge and I bought some ricotta last week for something I now honestly can't remember, ha. And toasted pine nuts take everything up a notch! Yep, I think this will work". That's how deep my thought process went - clearly, not too complicated.

  2. I got home and found an onion to add to my veggie medley, which was perfect. I quickly sliced up the yellow bell pepper, zucchini (which I found to still be good) and half of that white onion.

  3. In a small skillet, I heated about 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium low heat. To that I added about 2 to 3 cups of fresh spinach, about 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta (I used the last of what we had) and about 2 big spoonfulls of part-skim ricotta so about 1/4 cup, I would say but you could use a little more if you want.

  4. While the spinach wilted and the cheeses all melted together (you need to stir these a little) I heated about 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Once that was heated I added my sliced peppers, zucchini and onions and let those cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies were softened and browned and the onions looked caramelized (probably around 15 minutes or so). A few minutes into cooking the veggies I added one of my favorite seasonings, Herbs de Provence, and a pinch of salt, stirred and continued to let those cook over the stove while I finished the rest of dinner.

  5. After I got the veggies started I added about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of pine nuts to another small skillet and toasted on medium-low until they were browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes (watch these and you'll know when they are done. They start to brown and you can smell the nuttiness - so good!). You don't need to add any oil to the skillet because as the nuts heat they release their natural oils into the pan. When the pine nuts were done I added them to my spinach & cheese mixture, incorporated well with a rubber spatula, and set aside.

  6. Then I prepped my salmon by cutting a slit in the top of each filet and creating sort of a pocket. I then divided my spinach-cheese mixture evenly and stuffed it into the "pocket" of each salmon filet. I sprayed a grill pan with vegetable oil , heated it to medium-high heat and turned my oven broiler on high. Once the grill pan was hot, I added my salmon filets and let those cook about 5 to 8 minutes until you start to see it cook / turn light pink from the bottom up. I then put my grill pan in the oven under the broiler and let that cook for about 1 1/2 minutes.

  7. While the salmon cooked I gave the veggies another stir and then turned the heat as low as it would go just to keep them warm. The veggies should cook in about 15 minutes.

  8. After 1 1/2 minutes I used oven mitts to take the grill pan out of the oven. While the salmon cooled down just a smidge I toasted 2 slices of whole grain toast in our toaster and set the table. When the toast was done, I prepared each plate adding a stuffed salmon filet, big scoops of warm veggies and the slice of whole grain toast.

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This was delish!  The stuffing was mild but had a little bit of a bite from the feta and a nuttiness from the toasted pine nuts.  The veggies were tender but not mushy and the toast was simple but just as good as always.

I hope this post not only leaves you with a new recipe idea but that it also encourages you and helps you get dinner on the table the next time it's 5:30 PM and you haven't yet really thought dinner through.  Remember to use what you have, keep it simple, get creative & don't be afraid to play around with ingredients.  Sometimes the best things happen when you don't have a plan!

 

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Chili Lime Shrimp & Mango Avocado Salad: A Monday Night Dinner After Being Gone All Weekend

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If you've been following along, you know that I have been traveling a lot lately.  It has been super fun but also doesn't leave much room for my regular routine, which usually includes weekend meal planning.  I love traveling and experiencing new foods in new cities, but, to me, there is nothing like a meal cooked in your own home.  It can be the simplest dish around -  nothing more than a grilled cheese and soup,.  However, for me the process of picking my own bread, my own perfect mix of cheeses and the fresh ingredients for a simple tomato stovetop soup is often times the perfect creative re-centering endeavor after crazy airports and plain rides and days of eating out.  

I recently just finished back-to-back trips where I went to Belize followed by NYC.  Needless to say, there was zero meal prep done in-between.  Breakfast was pretty easy b/c I managed to stock the fridge with some less-perishable fruit and milk before we left and I always make sure to keep Sun Butter and my go-to granola bars in the pantry.  Those are staples I highly recommend keeping around. While breakfast was simple, Monday night dinner didn't come quite as easily; however, I was excited to still be able to get a fresh and fast dinner on the table.  Being tired from travel and a full day of work, I was tempted to call on my usual go-to's, Zoe's or Eatzi's, but I knew that as tired as I felt, what I really needed was to get in my kitchen and chop and toss and mix and grill.  I know myself and I know that taking an hour or so to myself after work and using that time to create something in the kitchen would leave me more rejuvenated than our standard take-out.  It's something about the mixing of flavors and textures and a variety of spices that inspires me and makes me feel like myself again.  I guess some would say that't the "creative" in me.

Anyway, the recipe I put together this past Monday is what I want to share with you here.  I want to walk you through my train of thought and how this delicious dish got to our table.

Ever since I made those incredibly scrumptious salmon tacos by Ina Garten back in May (see my Instagram post), I knew I wanted to try her salmon rub in other dishes.  I'd been wondering how it would turn out on shrimp for a while now and so that is what popped into my mind first. I knew the marinade would be simple and shrimp takes basically no time to cook.  I also knew that my husband and I were not going to want something super heavy after just coming home from back-to-back trips and, in general, I always tend to crave lighter dishes in the summer.  So, I mentally threw together a picture and ingredient list for this Chili Lime Shrimp Salad in between projects at work, stopped by the store on the way home, and then got to prepping in my kitchen.  This dish is so simple and full of flavor.  You whisk together a 5 - ingredient marinade and let the shrimp sit in it while you chop the mangoes, tomatoes and avocado and plate the mixed greens.  Then fire up the grill (or grill pan) and cook those shrimp before topping them on your fresh mixed greens salad.   The longer you let the shrimp marinade the better.  I let mine marinade while I prepped a few lunch items for the week so it was probably about 30 to 45 minutes but I don't think it's an absolute requirement if you're in a pinch.

Here are the details for my quick and simple Chili Lime Shrimp & Mixed Greens Salad.  I hope you can make it a last minute go-to like I have.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

CHILI LIME SHRIMP & MIXED GREENS SALAD

To make 2 salads I used (& we had left-over shrimp for later in the week)...

INGREDIENTS:

  • About 5 cups of mixed greens (3 for Kyle & 2 for me)

  • 1 small yellow mango, cored, peeled and cut into larger chunks

  • 1/2 of an avocado, cubed

  • About 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2 pound of peeled & deveined shrimp. I put about 8 shrimp on Kyle's plate and 5 shrimp on my plate and had about 5 more shrimp leftover, which will perfect for another one of these salads again this week

  • About 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • ~2 - 4 teaspoons EVOO, for dressing

  • Balsamic Vinegar, as desired for salad

  • Crusty bread, optional

  • Marinade ingredients (inspired by Ina Garten)

    • 2 teaspoons chili powder

    • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

    • pinch of salt

    • 2 tablespoons EVOO

    • Juice of 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine ingredients for marinade in a large Ziplock bag. Add shrimp, coat evenly and let sit about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

  2. Add mixed greens to each plate or bowl.

  3. Top mixed greens evenly with the chopped mango, avocado and tomatoes

  4. Preheat grill pan on medium high heat.

  5. Once hot, using tongs, place shrimp on grill pan and cook about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side or until the shrimp are pink and no longer clear in the middle. Place cooked shrimp on a serving platter for guests to add to their salads or go ahead and plate onto dinner salads.

  6. Bake or toast crusty whole grain bread to accompany salads

  7. Serve salads with crusty bread, and drizzles of fresh lime, EVOO and balsamic vinegar as desired.

  8. Enjoy!

 

NUTRITION NOTES

Mangos:  vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, fluid

Mixed Greens:  iron, vitamin K, fiber, fluid

Tomatoes:  vitamin C, lycopene, fluid

Avocado:  monounsaturated fat, potassium, lutein, fiber

Shrimp:  protein, B12, iron, phosphorus, selenium

EVOO:  monounsaturated fat, vitamin E

Salmon Nicoise Salad

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Hello, friends!  It's been quite a while since my last post.  This season has been a packed one that seems to have flown by.  I was super excited to get away this Memorial Day weekend.  Kyle and I took a trip to the ranch, which meant no phones or computers or social media - just family, exploring, reading, writing and grilling.  It was just the right balance of exploration and rest. We navigated our way along streams that opened to fresh pools of cold water surrounded by the greenest grass (a very unique find in the Texas - New Mexico desert) and we made ourselves at home on the large rocking chairs that lined our front porch with plenty of reading and writing material in hand (& morning visits from our peacock friend, which you know about if you saw my IG post, ha).  Given the time and lack of technology, I got to catch up on all of my fun reading, brainstorm new recipes and articles, and start making progress on recipes I have been wanting to post for some time now.

As summer is quickly approaching, I thought getting my Salmon Nicoise Salad up would be a good first step.  It's fairly simple to throw together and, although a salad, it is hearty enough for a filling and satisfying weeknight or weekend dinner.  Not only is it simple and filling but wild salmon is also reaching its peak season as we speak, making it a perfect time to give this recipe a try!  Parts of this salad can also be prepped ahead of time, which is great if you're making this for company and want more time to talk and hang out vs being in the kitchen. I'm excited to finally get this recipe up and here it is - my Salmon Nicoise Salad.  It's recipe that friends and family have enjoyed these last few months and I think you will enjoy as well!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

SALMON NICOISE SALAD

Serves 3 - 4

INGREDIENTS (for Salad):

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  • Two 6-ounce salmon filets

  • 1/8 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

  • Pepper, to taste

  • 1 medium lemon, sliced into 6 thin slices

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced (about 4 cups diced raw)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, to cook potatoes

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed

  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives (drained of juice)

  • 2 tablespoons capers (drained of juices)

  • 3 cups mixed greens

  • Champagne Vinaigrette - see recipe below

INGREDIENTS (for Dressing):

  • 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard



DIRECTIONS:

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Dressing whisked!

Dressing whisked!

Olive mix & greens tossed together with dressing and added as base of dinner plate

Olive mix & greens tossed together with dressing and added as base of dinner plate

Layer roasted sweet potatoes, steamed green beans & flaked salmon to dish. Serve with the roasted lemon slices.

Layer roasted sweet potatoes, steamed green beans & flaked salmon to dish. Serve with the roasted lemon slices.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and place both salmon filets on baking sheet.

  3. Sprinkle salmon filets with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper (<1/8 teaspoon salt on each).

  4. Top each salmon filet with 3 slices of lemon, covering the length of the filet and set salmon aside.

  5. Line separate large baking sheet with parchment paper (may need 2 - see step #7).

  6. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

  7. Spread the potatoes out onto the large prepared baking sheet (use 2 baking sheets if the pan gets too crowded).

  8. Place sweet potatoes in the preheated 400 degree oven on the top rack and cook for about 35 minutes, flipping the potatoes about 15 - 20 minutes into cooking. If cooking potatoes on bottom shelf, turn or stir about 10 minutes into cooking to prevent burning on one side.

  9. While potatoes cook, add capers, olives, tomatoes, and mix greens to a bowl and set aside.

  10. Now start the green beans.. Fill a medium pot with about 1/2 - inch water and bring to a boil. Add the steamer basket to the pot followed by the green beans. Cover the pot and allow beans to steam about 5 minutes. After the beans have cooked, turn the burner off but leave beans in the basket covered to stay warm.

  11. When the potatoes have about 15 minutes left, add the salmon filets to the oven and cook for another 15 - 20 minutes (cooking time of salmon will vary. A general rule is to cook the salmon 10 minutes for every inch thickness).

  12. While the salmon & sweet potatoes cook, make the dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Or add to a small jar and shake really well!

  13. Add about 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the greens-caper mix and toss to combine.

  14. After the last 15 minutes, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and turn the oven on broil, cooking just the salmon filets about 1 more minute. The lemons will brown and caramelize slightly. Remove from the oven.

  15. Now that all items are cooked, to a dinner plate: Place 1/2 salad mix. Add 3/4 cup green beans to one side of plate. Add 3/4 cup of sweet potatoes to another side of plate. Flake the warm salmon in the middle.

  16. Serve with the remaining dressing, caramelized lemon slices and warm crusty bread.

  17. Enjoy!

 

NUTRITION NOTES:

Green Beans:  folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A

Sweet Potatoes:  beta carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese

Lemons: vitamin C

Dressing:  monounsaturated fat, vitamin E

Salmon:  omega 3 fatty acids, protein, B12, selenium

Spinach:  vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron

FUN NUTRITION FACTS - SALMON

Did you know what the different types of salmon mean?  I didn't really until recently when I asked the man at the fish counter about it and then read an article on it in my new Cook's Illustrated magazine.  Yes, knowing the difference between these can play a role in what you choose from a nutrition perspective, but it may also help your friend or family member like salmon!  Salmon can certainly be a fishier fish, but some varieties are more mild than others.  Here is a brief rundown of what I now know....

WILD SALMON (Coho / King / Sockeye) - leaner, tougher, a stronger flavor

FARM RAISED (Atlantic / King salmon) - milder flavor, more omega-3's (fattier fish), a softer, flakier texture (some say "buttery").

Want more details on the salmon varieties?  There's a good overview here. (Thanks Cook's Illustrated!) or here (thanks Food & Nutrition magazine)!

 

Tender Juicy Oven - Baked Chicken Breasts

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Raise your hand if you're too familiar with dry bland cooked chicken breasts.  Taking it a step further, who instantly associates "baked chicken" with "tough" or "flavorless"?  I was absolutely one of those people!  Even some of my chicken salads with all of the dressing and mix-ins would end up dry.  That chicken would absorb any moisture in a 10 foot radius before I even had a chance to put it in the fridge!

Well, one weekend last month, I decided enough was enough.  I did a little online searching, comparing different blogs and websites and came up with this method of baking my chicken breasts.  It was still pretty quick prep and to my excitement, it came out of the oven so tender and juicy.  Even better, it stayed fairly tender and moist the following days, whether I shredded it and incorporated it over a spinach salad, added it to tacos or a flatbread, or mixed it with a dressing and turned it into a fun chicken salad!

I love this method because it acts as a base from which you can add whatever flavors you want, from herbs and spices to a variety of vinegars, and you still have a moist, tender chicken dish.  Or you can keep it simple, adding only a little salt and pepper, to incorporate in various dishes throughout the week!  Keep reading for this short and simple trick to Tender, Juicy Oven - Baked Chicken!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

TENDER JUICY OVEN-BAKED CHICKEN

Makes 2 Chicken Breasts

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 - 1.5 pounds raw boneless skinless chicken breast

  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

  • 1/8 or less teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 of a whole lemon, cut into quarters

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter (or less) or cooking spray, to grease one side of parchment paper that goes over the chicken.

 

DIRECTIONS:

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Place chicken breasts on the parchment paper and brush chicken breasts with the olive oil.

4. Sprinkle chicken with the salt.

5. Place the 4 pieces of lemon on the baking sheet with the chicken.

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6. Butter or spray with vegetable spray a second piece of parchment paper that is big enough to fit over the baking sheet and seal in the chicken and lemon wedges (I usually just take a stick of butter and run it over the surface of the parchment paper until the paper is pretty coated with a thin layer) .

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7. Place that second sheet of parchment paper butter / oil - side - down over the chicken and lemon wedges and seal around the sides of the baking sheet.

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8. Bake the chicken in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

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9. Your final product should be super easy to slice with a knife, or shred with two forks and no longer pink in the middle. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 165 degrees F.

10. Serve right away or save for meals later in the week!

NUTRITION NOTES:

Chicken provides us with protein, niacin, vitamin B6, among other nutrients.

1 ounce of cooked chicken has about 7 grams of protein.

Garlic Sage Garden Gnocchi

I. love. gnocchi.  Not sure exactly what it is about it but I love it.  I think it has something to do with the delicate texture, the versatile taste (you can pair it with so many different flavors and sauces) and, of course, the ease of cooking and preparing it.  To me gnocchi is one of those foods that looks and sounds so fancy but that is actually SO SIMPLE to make!  All you do is drop the prepared gnocchi in boiling water and wait about 5 minutes or less until it starts to float to the top and voila - it's ready!  I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "she's not actually making gnocchi- she's just boiling it".  Kind of like when I was a little girl, around 6, and the kids got to contribute to our church cookbook.  I believe one of mine was lasagna, and it went something like "take the lasagna box out of the freezer, remove lasagna from box and bake in preheated oven until bubbling."  Don't get me wrong;  My mom and dad both made some excellent homemade dinners, but we did love a good Stouffer's frozen lasagna. One day I would love to make gnocchi from scratch.  However, in reality, I just flat out don't have the time for that.  So buying it prepared and ready to cook is the way to go for me!  

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WHERE TO FIND IT

If you're curious where to find it, I usually get mine at Central Market, either in their shelf stable pasta aisle or in their freshly made pasta section over by the meats and the fresh spreads and olive bar.  I have also found it at Tom Thumb and am fairly certain it's at most groceries.  The gnocchi I purchased for this recipe was in the refrigerated fresh pasta section.  I had a Central Market helper assist me and she assured me this was better than the air-packed gnocchi you find in the pasta aisle.  I had my doubts but, after cooking it, confirmed that there absolutely is a difference!  It's much more tender with a softer bite than the air-packed variety.  Of course, either will do (I have used both) but this definitely feels a smidge more elegant.  And, always a bonus, it reheats for a quick dinner leftover the next night.

THE INSPIRATION

I got this idea while in Memphis for Christmas and New Years.  The guys were off hunting and I had the house and time to myself.  Usually when this happens, when I find myself alone with my thoughts and a little free time, my brain starts to run wild and new ideas start to take shape.  These ideas can be anything from how to add a new feature to my website to new flavors to pair together for a recipe to a new nutrition topic I want to talk about on my blog.  On this particular occasion ideas started churning when I was at the Memphis Whole Foods and passed by a refrigerated case of featured fresh pastas and two varieties of gnocchi - a sweet potato and a spinach variety.  I passed it up this trip because I had no real plan for these guys and I'm trying to keep my grocery bill somewhat under control (gulp).  But as I continued to wander through the store and check items off my list (I'm a perpetual list maker if you were unaware) my brain kept wandering back to the gnocchi.  And the wheels were still spinning long into the evening.  I knew I wanted to create a recipe with gnocchi and I wanted to try one with this sweet potato variety.  Since I knew the gnocchi would have a bit of a sweeter taste, I decided I wanted the sauce to be savory.  I recently saw a recipe with sage and remembered how much I love it and, yet, how little I use it.  From trial and error in previous gnocchi recipes, I decided I wanted a bit of a creamier sauce, something that would be light but would also really stick to the gnocchi.  So I spent the next evening whisking up this new creamy sage and garlic sauce, roasting broccolini, sauteeing mushrooms, and combining it all for a rewarding and  satisfying dinner.  The final product was very tasty; However, the two thoughts I had as I finished were:  (1) "I bet it would be better with a little more sauce" and (2) "the sweet potato gnocchi is good but I bet this dish would be on a whole separate level if I kept it simple with a classic white potato gnocchi". 

Now, fast-forward to this past week where I am back in Dallas and kicking of 2018.  With a much more concrete plan in mind I got home after work with my ingredients and began to quickly rinse and chop the broccolini, mushrooms, sage and garlic.  I roasted the broccoli, sauteed the mushrooms and then whisked up my sauce again - this time using a little bit more of my ingredients to yield more sauce.  While letting the sauce simmer and the flavors come together, I boiled a pot of water, added the gnocchi and about 3 or 4 minutes later, just as I could smell all of the flavors come together in my sauce, those gnocchi all popped to the top.  Perfect!  Using a slotted spoon, I gently spooned them from the water straight into the sauce.  I gently mixed it all together and could already see the sauce begin to thicken due to the starch from the potato in the gnocchi.  Then I added my broccolini and mushrooms, gently stirred again and topped it all with some grated Parmesan cheese.  Wow.  This is a dish that smells incredibly complicated while actually being incredibly fast and relatively easy to put together!  What allowed it to be so quick and simple to put together?  I say it's because I incorporated one of my main cooking principles that I cook by to keep things simple and balanced.  That principle is: use different cooking methods in a meal.

Now, enough talking.  I want to share with you the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it and serve it as much as I plan to!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

THE RECIPE!  

GARLIC SAGE GARDEN GNOCCHI

Serves 2 - 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bunch (about 2 - 3 cups raw) broccolini, stems removed

  • 8 oz. container baby bella mushrooms, quartered & stems removed

  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided

  • 18 oz. container prepared gnocchi (should be about 3 cups uncooked)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 1/2 cloves chopped garlic

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

  • 3/4 cup 1% milk

  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, + more for serving


DIRECTIONS:

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine the broccolini with 2 teaspoons of canola oil and a pinch of salt (about 1/16th teaspoon).

3. Spread broccolini out onto parchment - lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, mixing with a rubber spatula halfway through for even cooking. Once broccolini is done cooking, set aside.

4.  While the broccolini cooks, heat remaining 1 teaspoon of canola oil in a large deep skillet on medium - low to medium heat.

5.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 6 - 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to soften and release their water.  Once cooked, transfer mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside.  You can leave some of the remaining juices from the mushrooms in the bowl.

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6. In the same skillet that you cooked the mushrooms in, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter at medium - low to medium heat.

7. Once melted and the butter starts to brown (you will see the change in color and smell a deeper, richer smell from the butter) add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes (stirring frequently). You want to cook until just fragrant and starting to brown - but be careful not to burn or you'll have to start over!

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8. Next add the fresh sage and cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes.

9.  Turn the temperature down to low and add the 1% and whole milk, stirring consistently as you pour in the milk so that it doesn't scald (and form that film on the surface of the milk).  Once all the milk is in, turn up the heat to about medium and allow it to bubble, stirring occasionally and then turn back down to low, allowing all of the flavors to come together while you prepare the gnocchi.  The sauce will seem a little runny, but don't worry - it thickens once the gnocchi is combined due to the starch in the gnocchi that releases into the sauce.  

10.  As the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling add the gnocchi and cook until done.  You'll know they are done when the gnocchi pop to the surface of the water.

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11.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi straight into the sauce (alternatively, you could drain the gnocchi in a large colander when cooked and then add to sauce when ready).  Stir gnocchi into sauce until all is well incorporated. 

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12. Add the broccolini, mushrooms and grated Parmesan cheese and toss again to incorporate the sauce and veggies and get the cheese melted and incorporated throughout.

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13. Serve in individual bowls, sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired, and enjoy!

NUTRITION NOTES:

Potato gnocchi:  fiber, protein (a little bit), some brands have a little calcium and iron but may not be significant per serving

Broccolini:  vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium

Mushrooms:  riboflavin & niacin (B vitamins), selenium, potassium, varying amounts of vitamin D, depending on sunlight exposure.

Parmesan Cheese:  protein, calcium, phosphorus

Milk:  calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, B12, vitamin D, riboflavin

Canola Oil:  monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, (also contains some saturated fat, but not as much as poly and mono), vitamin E, 

 

NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Serving 2:  620 calories;  18.7 g protein;  86 g carb;  23 g total fat (5 g sat, 11.5 g mono, 2 g poly);  10 g sugar (0 g added);  9 g fiber;  1354 mg sodium;  270.5 mg calcium;  2 mg iron

Serving 4:  310 calories;  9.35 g protein;  43 g carb;  11.6 g total fat (2.5 g sat, 5.75 g mono, 1.5 g poly);  5 g sugar (0 g added);  4.5 g fiber;  677 mg sodium;  135.25 mg calcium;  1 mg iron

Lemon Dijon Baked Salmon

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Hello friends!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and is full of good food and memories of family and friends.  I know I am :)  We went to the ranch with family and it was so much fun.  There was lots of laughing and eating and exploring and no technology, emails or social media.  It kind of felt like being a kid again, which can be such a breath of fresh air.  My husband and I love being out at the ranch and so stay as long as possible, typically getting in to Dallas later in the evening.  While that leaves extra time at the ranch, it leaves no time for meal prep and grocery trips.  Last night, I found myself in another Monday running to the store after work to pick up ingredients for my favorite salmon dish.  Having done this several times and sharing it with you all on social media, I decided it was finally time to share the ingredient and nutrition details with you in a post.

So, today I'm sharing with you one of my FAVORITE go-to entrees - my Lemon Dijon Baked Salmon, baked in parchment paper.  People often get intimidated by fish. The thought of preparing it and cooking it can seem so tricky.  I actually used to be one of these people, thinking this same thing.  However, over time I have learned that fish can actually be one of the simplest and most no-fuss entree ideas!

This recipe has become my go-to Monday night protein when I have been away all weekend and don't get time to grocery shop or meal prep.  A quick stop at the store after work to pick up a 6-oz salmon filet plus any sides I want to include is all it takes.

It really is so simple and so delicious, and, because I cook it all in parchment paper, it's also easy cleanup, which is a bonus in my book!  The ingredients are simple and probably items you already have in your pantry and fridge.  I hope the next time you're pressed for time or find yourself waking up on Monday with no groceries or planned meals ahead that you think about this dish and give it a try.  It's tangy and zesty and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  The salmon literally falls apart the minute your fork first goes in to take a bite, and all of those flavors from the dijon and the lemon and the thyme meld together as soon as it hits your mouth.  Just writing this makes me want to cook it again for dinner tonight!  

So, here you go.  My simple, less stress, Lemony Dijon Salmon......

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Lemon Dijon Baked Salmon

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Parchment paper

  • 6 ounce salmon filet

  • 3 thin slices of lemon

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 tsp, dried thyme or 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme

 

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  3. Cut a small lemon into thin slices. You will need 3 slices of lemon for one salmon filet.

  4. Lay salmon filet on parchment paper.

  5. Spread Dijon mustard in an even layer over the salmon filet.

  6. Lay the 3 lemon slices over the Dijon.

  7. Sprinkle the dried thyme over the lemon slices and salmon - or lay thyme sprigs on top if using.

  8. Lengthwise, bring the edges of the parchment paper up over the salmon and roll together to seal in the salmon. Roll up the edges of the parchment paper as well to seal. You are creating a kind of pouch that the salmon will cook in.

  9. Place baking sheet in the preheated oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until desired doneness (the general rule is 10 minutes for each 1-inch thickness of the salmon)

  10. Once, done, remove baking sheet from the oven and when ready, unroll the parchment paper to reveal a tender flavor-packed salmon filet :)

  11. Serve salmon with your favorite simple sides and enjoy!

Serve It Again!

You can make several filets all at one time if you would like and store the extras for meals later in the week.  You could flake the salmon over a spinach salad or top it over a quinoa bowl.  Lots of possibilities!

 

NUTRITION NOTES:

Salmon:  protein omega 3 fatty acids (specifically EPA & DHA, which are good for the brain, heart and can help decrease inflammation in the body) | Vitamin B12, Selenium

Lemon:  Vitamin C


Italian Zoodles & Shrimp

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This is another recipe that came about from pure curiosity - (1) I have always been curious about all of these zucchini noodles I see in stores and have heard people talk about (I know, slow to jump on the zoodle train), (2) we got a zucchini spiralizer as part of a wedding gift, which spurred my intrigue, and (3) when trying to search for zucchini noodle recipes for clients, I surprisingly came up with very few results!  Now, don't be mistaken here - I'm all about those regular old fashioned pasta noodles.  However, I just had to try these zucchini noodle creations and, of course, my fun new kitchen gadget, and, to my excitement, I got a new recipe for friends and clients along the way!

Now, I had somewhat expected for this to turn into a recipe I could recommend to others, but what I didn't quite expect was for it to become a new quick and simple dinner staple for our table at home.  I made it the first time as a complete experiment, and was able to get it on the table in about 30 - 40 minutes.  So, this past Sunday when we were pressed for time to get to an evening event, I didn't hesitate to turn to this simple and delicious zucchini and shrimp dish that Kyle & I had enjoyed so much on its first debut at the table.

I quickly grabbed all of the ingredients out of the fridge, spiralized (or as I like to say, "zoodled"), did some quick slicing and mincing, and got the skillet ready to go.  

Friends, this recipe is yummy and so fast (and even faster if you prep a few things ahead)!  The zucchini gets cooked down in the cooking process and mixes with all the other flavors and I tend to forget I'm eating a rather bland (on it's own) vegetable.  The hearty mushrooms, salty Parmesan and zesty seasonings make this a refreshing but still filling dinner for the family to enjoy.  I hope you enjoy this as well and that it, or some variation of it, can also be used as a staple to get you through some of those crazy busy days or nights!

So here you go, the recipe for my Italian Zoodles & Shrimp.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

ITALIAN ZOODLES & SHRIMP!

Recipe Serves about 2 - 3 people (or 2 people and leftovers for lunch the next day)

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 3/4 pound raw shrimp

  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Italian dressing (whichever is your favorite!)

  • 3 medium zucchini

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)

  • 2 cups sliced white button mushrooms

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Zest from 1 medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for serving

  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning

Directions:

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  1. Pour Italian dressing and shrimp into a sealable plastic baggie (like Ziplock). Seal and place in the refrigerator to marinate for about 2 hours or more.

  2. Peel off the skin of each zucchini (use a vegetable peeler or a knife) and slice the ends off of each zucchini.

  3. Using a hand-held spiralizer or one that attaches to a Kitchen-Aid (I used a mini hand-held that you can see in the pic here and it worked great), spiralize your zucchini into a large mixing bowl. This should make about 6 to 7 cups of "zoodles".

  4. In a large skillet heat olive oil on medium heat.

  5. Add minced garlic and saute in the olive oil about 3 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic.

  6. Add the marinated shrimp to the skillet (I had larger shrimp so had to cook them in two batches). Don't add the marinade to the skillet - only add the shrimp.

  7. Cook the shrimp about 3 minutes per side (may vary depending on size of the shrimp). Remove shrimp from the skillet and set side, covered, while you prepare the zoodles. Leave any juices / spices in the pan.

  8. In the same skillet where you just cooked the shrimp, add the mushrooms and cook about 5- 7 minutes until they start to soften.

  9. Add the "zoodles" and cook for about 10 minutes until they start to soften. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest about halfway through cooking, sprinkle with salt and gently toss to incorporate all ingredients.

  10. After the zoodles have softened, add the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning, toss to combine all ingredients and get all of those great flavors mixed together.

  11. Add the shrimp to the skillet, toss and serve!

 

NUTRITION NOTES:

Zucchini -  fiber; fluid; some vitamin C

Mushrooms - riboflavin, niacin, copper, vitamin D (varying levels depending on the mushroom);

Shrimp - protein; niacin; B12; iron; phosphorus; selenium

Garlic - an allium with a rich phytochemical composition that may help reduce atherosclerosis & the risk of stomach and colon cancer 

Lemon - vitamin C