July 16, 2012: Hamburger Helper Mac and Cheese

I wanted to use another box of Hamburger Helper, and I ended up using a cheese flavored one – so quite literally, a fancied up macaroni and cheese.

Ground beef

So I only had 1 hamburger patty left, and didn’t feel like that was enough, so I went to Whole Foods and picked up some ground beef to add. After browning the meat, I drained it, and added the water, milk, sauce mix, and pasta – I added some extra pasta shells to the elbow macaroni in the package so there’d be enough for a couple servings of leftovers. I also added some frozen peas for added color and veggie goodness!

Boiling the pasta in the cheese sauce

I think I finally found a good mixture in regards to the amount of water, milk, and extra food added – there was enough sauce to cover everything, but not too much that it felt like soup! At the end, I added a slice of provolone to melt on top to add to the flavor, along with some extra ground black pepper. In the end – a quick and easy meal with enough leftovers for a couple meals!

Macaroni and cheese

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July 15, 2012: The Wharf

While I didn’t cook today, I did have a food experience worth writing about! So today I’m going back to the blog’s roots in writing about restaurants and other eateries.

Today, my roommate and I decided to take a trip down to Alexandria in Virginia, and explore the Old Town district along King Street. After a few interruptions and bus trip caused by Metro weekend work, we finally got there! I had a bit of craving for seafood, so we ended up going to a restaurant called The Wharf.

The Wharf

The restaurant had a nice atmosphere, a bit dark at first, but once my eyes adjusted to it, it looked nice, there was dark wood paneling, each table with its own hanging lamp. I ordered East Coast Cioppino – “shrimp, scallops, mussels & Boston scrod in a rich tomato stew & topped with fried calamari.” (And I think I said it correctly when I ordered it too!)

Salad

We were served bread at the beginning, which had a nice flavor to it as well. Soon, the salads came, what seemed like romaine lettuce, topped with some cucumbers, cherry tomato slices, radishes and carrots and a Caesar dressing. Tasty salad, with enough crunch from the cucumbers, and while I might have used less dressing if I made it myself, it was still tasty and made for a good starter.

“East Coast Cioppino”

Then came the cioppino. The tomato broth was amazing – it had a tomato flavor, but not overly strong, there was a great blend of spices, and it had just enough spiciness (hot spicy) to give it a kick, but not too much. The calamari was fried to perfection, and was great with the broth. The fish had good flavor and wasn’t overly fishy, and was soft to the touch. The scallops were soft and tender, and had a slight sweetness to them – absolutely wonderful. The mussels’ meat were smaller than ones you might see in a buffet, but the intensity of the flavor more than made up for it! The shrimp were tasty, and it seemed like there were some clam necks in the broth, which had great flavor as well!

All in all, a very filling and satisfying lunch!

 

PS: (And we got back somewhat late, and I was still full by dinner, so tonight’s dinner was a rather simple spinach salad with tuna and a balsamic vinaigrette).

July 14, 2012: Apple Lemon Tilapia, Rice Pilaf, and Spinach Topped with Mixed Nuts

So the inspiration for today’s cooking came out of a couple of places – I have a lot of Rice a Roni and Hamburger Helper-like boxes which I would like to use up before the end of the summer, I bought a jar of mixed nuts recently, and I’ve been eating a lot of beef lately.

Wanted to use up this box

An inspiration!

When I went shopping for groceries today, I picked up some tilapia fillets, some spinach, a lemon, and a couple fuji apples. Originally I was thinking about doing an apple flavored pork, but I decided it might be more interesting to use fish instead, plus fish could be done in the oven (and not in the pot, saving me time and space!).

The fish was frozen, so while it was defrosting, I sliced up some thin slices of apple, and cut out a couple of slices from the lemon. When the fish had finished defrosting, I salted them and wrapped them in foil with the apple slices and a slice of lemon.

A fillet with fuji apple slices underneath and a lemon slice on top

Putting the spinach in

I then started on the spinach while I pre-heated the oven. I washed the spinach, so that the leaves were slightly wet. In the pot, I heated up some oil with salt and garlic powder. I put the spinach in and let it steam until cooked (and gee did it cook down in volume!). Around this time, I put the fish into the oven. After the spinach was done, I put it into a dish and put a little oil in the pot and browned my selection of mixed nuts for a few seconds (lest they burn) – a handful of peanuts, almonds, and cashews.

The spinach cooked down!

Nuts, pre-browning

Rice a roni cooking

After the nuts were finished, I started on the rice pilaf, following the directions on the box. The fish finished baking in the oven, and I took it out – the juices in the foil packet were amazing! The sweetness of the apple mixed with the citrus flavor of the lemon worked quite well together! I just wish there was more of that flavor when I plated it (the water from the spinach sort of overran the plate), but I left the second fillet and its juices wrapped so that I can save it for next time! The crunchiness and saltiness of the nuts worked well with the soft spinach, and the bit of extra flavor from their short browning only added to the dish! Though I wish I had cooked all the spinach – I’ll have to cook more vegetables next time, or use the frozen corn I have. But still, I can’t wait to eat these leftovers!

Dinner! Tilapia with a lemon, on a bed of fuji apple slices

Mmm, crunchy nuts!

July 12, 2012: Chili Potato

So tonight I was in the mood for something simple and something that wouldn’t take too long to cook (or prepare I suppose). I had a can of chili, and figured that I’d make a chili baked potato.

Tomato

First off at Whole Foods, I bought a couple of large russets, a roma tomato, and some frozen corn to add to the chili.

Mmm…chili! With corn and added tomato pieces!

Back in the kitchen, I microwaved the potato for about 9 minutes total, flipping them periodically to “bake” them.  Meanwhile, I chopped up the tomato, and put that into a pot with the chili and corn, and let that simmer for a while.

Perhaps not the best picture ever, but it looks good

And then the quick dinner was done!

July 9, 2012: Steak Night!

Where’s the beef?

Last week I had bought a huge chunk of sirloin steak (probably enough to last me for quite a while), and tonight was finally a chance to cook (some) of it! Now ideally, I would have used a frying pan, but I suppose I’m embracing the line of one pot wonders, and proceeded to cook the steak in a pot.

Cooking those giant chunks of meat!

The first thing I did was take half of my cut and cut it into four smaller pieces of meat. I just seasoned them with some salt and pepper, put a bit of oil in the pot, heated it up, and add the meat. After a while, they had a nice dark sear on them. Though I thought it was a bit dark when I first flipped it over, it turned out alright because it cooked and soaked in some of the juices. But anyways, the intention was to cook them on high heat to sear in the juices, then finish them at a lower temperature. Which for the most part, worked out.

Red peppers and onions

Potatoes and zucchini

While that was cooking, I prepared my vegetables. I had two gold potatoes which I proceeded to pre-cook in the microwave. I cut up most of the rest of my onion, a red bell pepper, a couple of mushrooms, and a zucchini.

Steak is done! (Perhaps not the best image…)

Cooking all the vegetables

The beef took a while to cook, but it looked good when it was done! After a quick clean of the pot, I added some oil, and threw in the onion and peppers to start cooking and caramelize. Shortly after that, I added the zucchini and mushrooms, and last, the potatoes. In hindsight, I should have put the potatoes in earlier; I thought they were closer to completion than they were. It seemed like a lot of vegetables; I was mixing it all with a spoon – it felt like cooking for a family! At least there’s enough for leftovers. After it seemed that it was almost done, I added in some balsamic dressing to add some flavor to the mixture.

Vegetables more fully cooked, with balsamic dressing

Steak, veggies, and potatoes

After mixing that in, I took it off the stove, and plated. Besides the potatoes not being 100% cooked, it was a great dinner! I ate the thinner pieces of meat; I’ll microwave the thicker pieces to completion when I eat the leftovers. I kind of wish that I could have made some type of sauce, but it was nice to taste the beef without the extra additions too! And now I’ve got plenty of food for leftovers!

Plated meal!