Experiencing each day, surprises & all

Category Archives: Th(is) Cookbook Challenge

I ended up getting a little behind in posting, and in cooking. But …

On Tuesday we had recipe #4: Chicken Adobo. Nick was nervous at first because he doesn’t love adobo sauce (the kind that comes in the can with chipotle peppers), but once I explained that in this case it just means “marinade”, and that this version is a Fillipino style, he warmed up to it. The recipe in the book differs slightly from the one online; in the book version, the chicken isn’t marinated. You simply brown the chicken and then pour the sauce to soak in while it cooks. Once I browned the chicken (about 4 minutes per side) I poured the sauce in the skillet and flipped the chicken in it to coat, then put it in a 400F oven for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once finished, I removed the chicken from the pan, put the pan over medium heat, added about a tablespoon of cornstarch (accidentally directly to the pan rather than mixing with water first, but vigorous whisking kept it from getting lumpy) and stirred until thickened. With the sauce poured over the chicken and accompanying yellow rice, the meal was delicious. Nick named it his favorite from the cookbook so far!

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo: the halved recipe made 2 servings

I forgot when meal planning that Wednesday night we were having McDonalds. This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but there are no McDonalds on the island, and it was being imported in for us by a friend that had just been home. So instead of having the Spiced Pork Chops, we had cheeseburgers, fries, and nuggets. Don’t judge. We’ll be having the pork chops for dinner on Saturday.

I did manage to make recipe #5 (Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam) on Wednesday, though. I made my own butter substitute by refrigerating coconut oil until it hardened. Of course this basically just made coconut oil margarine, so the cookies spread a bit more during baking than I would like. They also went from under-baked to burnt around the edges in 30 seconds, so that was a little weird. Even so, they are pretty good, especially with the homemade mango jelly I substituted in for the blackberry jam. I think next time I may play with substituting honey for sugar and putting mashed banana on top, since a peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwich is my favorite.

Peanut Butter and Mango Jelly Cookies

Peanut Butter and Mango Jelly Cookies: the halved recipe made 9 cookies

Last night I got to recipe #6: Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad. It was amazing; there were so many strong, unique flavors that worked well together. For a milder flavor in the dressing I did a 50/50 split of grapeseed oil to olive oil (instead of straight olive oil), and used lime juice instead of lemon. I’m not sure where to find a rotisserie chicken, so I roasted two chicken breasts in the oven (coated in EVOO, salt, and pepper) at 350F for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. To quote Nick, “With most meals you have a very artful way of blending and mixing flavors in a way to make me the most culinarily satisfied husbands in the world. Tonight you transcended that with your masterful meal. There was no blending, no mixing of flavors. Every bite brought new layers of intrigue that accented each previous bite in a new way. Brava, my dear. You are and forever will be unsurpassed.” Big ups to Giada for making my husband think I’m a genius, yo.

Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad

Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad: the halved recipe made 2 large salads (but I did use a full recipe of dressing)


The Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms was a major hit last night, instantly earning “make this now!” status. The recipe was easy to tailor to our tastes and available ingredients. I had planned on making my own crème fraiche, but I’ll be honest: I completely forgot. Instead, I used a half-cup of cream and it turned out great. Rather than toasting the nuts separately, I just chopped them up and toasted them in the pan while the mushrooms, onions, garlic and Brussels sprouts were sautéing. I also salted the Brussels sprouts when I added them to the pan. I didn’t use whole-grain spaghetti; I used “normal” penne rigate. Finally, balsamic vinegar (about 1/8 – 1/4cup) was substituted in for lemon juice.

Penne Rigate with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

Penne Rigate with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms: made 5 servings

After we have a meal, I’ve started marking the pages in the cookbook so that I can have an at-a-glance reminder of what my favorites were. Pink=new favorite. Make again soon. Yellow=good, and repeatable. Can be made again. Orange=eh. Probably will not make again. So far the cookbook is orange-free.

Last night marked the first meal of many from Weeknights with Giada. With the soup and the cornbread I managed to knock out two recipes; so, boom.

First, the cornbread. Make. This. Now. I’ll probably start using this as a regular side dish when I make soup; it’s easy and quick, with a great, unique flavor. As I halved the recipe, it only needed to cook for fifteen minutes. In addition to the alterations I already planned on making, I chose to substitute coconut oil in for the melted butter. With the current butter shortage the island is experiencing, I’ve decided to conserve my butter and substitute whenever possible. I can happily report that, at least for cornbread, coconut oil is a fine 1-for-1 swap-out for melted butter. Another tip: chop and use “real”/ball mozzarella as opposed to bagged. The ball melts really nicely and holds the cornbread together, and I read that people who used bagged mozzarella ended up with crumbly cornbread.

Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread

Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread: made 6 servings

The soup was really nice as well. On the nights that I do yoga or run I like to have dinner prepped before I go. That way I can either just reheat it when I get home, or Nick can stick it in the oven at the right time as he studies. Soup works really great for that purpose. The soup came together really quickly, in about 30 minutes, so I just shut it off as I was heading out the door and Nick turned it back on about ten minutes before I got home (at which point he also put the cornbread in the oven. He’s a good helper). It was just coming to a boil as I walked through the door, so I was able to throw in the pasta and let it cook in the broth for ten minutes. When I tasted the soup it was a little bit sweet and one-note for me, so I added in a good couple glugs of balsamic to the broth as it was finishing.


Beef & Cannellini Bean Minestrone: made 5 servings

Today begins the first week of my cookbook challenge. The recipes look delicious and I’m really looking forward to it. When I went grocery shopping this weekend I was worried that my grocery bill would be astronomical. Luckily, it was actually down about $50EC from a normal trip! That probably had something to do with the fact that I had ground beef, pork chops, and tilapia already in the freezer, but could also be partially attributed to the fact that a lot of the recipes include fresh fruit and veggies, many of which are grown here on the island and are therefore less expensive. Additionally, I was glad to find that many of the recipes include pantry/freezer staples, meaning that I don’t have to buy every single required ingredient every week. So here’s what’s on deck this week:

04.07.13 menu plan

I discovered that many (if not all) of the recipes in the cookbook are available online on the Food Network website. While I highly recommend picking up a copy of the cookbook, I will link to the recipes for those that would rather use an online version.

Today we’ll be having soup and cornbread, fancied up a bit. For the Beef and Cannellini Bean Soup, I have decided to add in a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh basil while it cooks, as well as throwing in a couple of cups of fusilli ten minutes before it finishes. I made fresh dock stock this weekend, so I’ll be using a 50/50 mix of duck stock and beef stock. I’ll be halving the recipe for the Scallion and Mozzarella Cornbread, and will be leaving out the olives.

We’ll be sticking with the Meatless Monday theme (well, somewhat. It will have animal byproducts, but no real meat) with the Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms. Nick and I have recently fallen in love with brussels sprouts after my mom introduced us to her amazing recipe (which I will post at some point). In fact, I recently made a brussels sprout pasta combining her sprouts with a balsamic butter sauce that was amazing (I may have spent the entire evening talking about what a genius I am). It’s actually kind of similar to this recipe, now that I think about it, but I promise I hadn’t read it yet. So anyway, I’m excited to try this recipe. I’m making a few swaps with it as well: I’m using penne rigate instead of spaghetti, using duck stock in place of vegetable, using duck fat as a substitute for the olive oil, using balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice (there weren’t any lemons at the store, and I didn’t take the time to go to the fruit stand), and will be making my own creme fraiche.

I’ll be making Tuesday’s Chicken Adobo pretty close to the original recipe. I’m going to swap out the arrowroot for cornstarch, and will be doing a slightly different cooking method; after marinating the chicken I’m going to brown it in a skillet before  adding in the stock and marinade, and then bake it in the oven at 400F for 25-30 minutes (or until done), turning once. Once it’s finished, I’ll make the gravy in the recommended way. I’ll be serving it with yellow rice to help soak up some of that gravy.

The name of the Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Glaze for Wednesday is a little misleading. We’re not talking Panda Express style sweet and sour; this is agrodolce, an Italian version. I’ll be making these as is. The Carrot and Yam Puree, however, I will be altering drastically. To begin with, instead of yams, I’ll be using red potatoes. Instead of olive oil, I’m going to use duck fat. Finally, I’m going to cut the stock down to 1/2 cup of duck stock, because I will not be pureeing them anything. We’ll see how it turns out.

The Caramelized Onion, Chicken, and Grapefruit Salad (recipe online differs as it does not include chicken) utilizes a lot of fresh, local ingredients. I’ll be cutting the recipe in half, and will likely use lime juice instead of lemon if I can’t find lemons by Thursday. Since Nick hates cucumber, I’ll be using christophine instead, which is actually a member of the squash family and adds a nice crunch, especially when eaten raw.

On Friday we’re having Broiled Tilapia with Mustard Chive Sauce (again, a half recipe), which will feature dill instead of chive, mostly because that is what I could find at the store. I’m going to replace the Greek yoghurt with sour cream, because we have it and like it better. To make it easy, I’m serving it with rice pilaf prepared from a boxed mix.

Saturday will be our brunch day, for which I’ll be serving the Breakfast Tart with Pancetta and Green Onions. I’ll be making my own pie crust for this one rather than using the recommended prepared crust. I’m going to use a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, because that’s what I have on hand. Finally, I remembered the recipe wrong and bought prosciutto instead of pancetta, but I think it will still be tasty.

The last thing I’ll be making this week will be dessert: Peanut Butter Cookies with Blackberry Jam. As the store has been out of butter for the last little while, I’m going to experiment with swapping coconut oil in for butter, which apparently can be done. I’ve got homemade (by a coworker) mango jelly on hand, so I will likely swap that in for the blackberry jam, and may leave out the cocoa powder because of that.

So that’s what will be hitting our table this week. I’ll keep you posted on how everything turns out. What will you  be cooking?

much love, Cayley

As a part of my 30×30, I made the decision to cook my way through an entire cookbook. After going back and forth between Weeknights with Giada and Jamie’s Food Revolution (and initially selecting Jamie’s Food Revolution), I settled on Weeknights with Giada. I love both cookbooks, and have cooked a few recipes from each that have been fantastic.

The first choice

At first I chose Food Revolution because a main theme of the book is sharing and passing on the recipes found inside. In the introduction, Jamie asks readers to pass it on by ” … pledging to learn just one recipe from each chapter of this book. Master these in your own home first, and then pass it on by teaching at least two people (preferably four) how to cook them, too.” In a pay-it-forward type of way, those that learn the recipes are then asked, again, to pass it on.

As someone who loves to cook, and loves to cook for others, I appreciate the sentiment. In my family(s) – both the one I grew up in and the one I joined by marriage – cooking at home and eating as a family is an integral part of everyday life. Food is a language of love with us, and I want to continue this tradition. With readily available convenient fast/takeout food, it seems that the art of everyday cooking has become somewhat lost; we’ve begun to believe that it is something best saved for the weekend, or when more time is available.

That said, as I began going through the cookbook to map out my cooking schedule, I realized that there was no way I was getting through that cookbook by my birthday. There are a ton of great recipes that I can’t wait to try, and I highly recommend the book; however, I didn’t want to set myself up for failure from the get-go.

The ultimate choice

So in the end I’ll be cooking my way through Weeknights with Giada. It’s funny, and fitting, because of the Food Network Stars, she was never my favorite until quite recently. It’s not that I didn’t like her recipes, or even her as a host. It was that something made me very uncomfortable with the way she really enjoyed her tasting bites at the end of the show. I know, it’s weird of me, but I always felt like I was interrupting a very intimate moment. Recently I’ve become a fan of Giada. One of the shows that Nick and I watch together is the Next Food Network Star, and seeing her mentor on it really made me appreciate her more. Nick, on the other hand, has always loved Giada. And it’s not just that she’s gorgeous, and Italian, and a fantastic chef. I’m pretty sure it’s in part because he too loves to take very loud, savoring bites as he eats; I have actually called it “Giadaing” since the first time I noticed him doing it.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve cooked a few recipes from the cookbook before, and they’ve all been great. As I was mapping out my cooking plan, I started to get pretty excited about the food we’ll be eating in the next couple of months. The dishes are packed full of flavors and ingredients that we love, and shouldn’t be too heavy. In fact, that’s another element that I really like about this book: The food is all pretty healthy and utilizes fresh ingredients. Perfect for cooking in Grenada!

The rules

So now that I’ve picked the cookbook, what are the “rules”? I’m not going to apply many, because I don’t want to back myself into an impossible corner, get frustrated, and just give up altogether. I’d like to cook five dinners a week out of the book, leaving us two other meals to cook our regular favorites. One of the chapters in the book is “Breakfast for Dinner”, but instead of using that as an evening meal I’m going to make brunch on Saturday or Sunday using a recipe from the chapter. Nick and I are both fairly adventurous eaters that are willing to give anything a try; however, we do both have things that we’re not huge fans of. He, for instance, hates cucumber, and I am not such a fan of sweet potato (but I’m starting to come around). That, paired with the fact that we can’t always find specific ingredients here, means I need to give myself a little flexibility. With that in mind, I’ll probably end up taking some liberties with the recipes and edit as necessary. I think that’s a good point to keep in mind with any recipe. Just because you can’t find certain things, or don’t enjoy certain things, doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it to your needs. Creativity is one of the best parts of cooking!

I’m sure as we go I’ll make adjustments to the plan, and may occasionally want to add or reduce the numbers of recipes I use on a weekly basis. I’ll be starting next week. If you were to cook your way through a cookbook, which would you choose?

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