Test It Tuesday: Bulgur (Mexican Beef & Bulgur Salad)

TEST IT TUESDAY is back! I know it’s been awhile (uh…6 months? Longer? Who knows).  But here I am posting on it again, because it’s fun to cook with new ingredients!  Today’s new ingredient is bulgur, which I’ve had a package of sitting in my cupboard for months.  Some of you may already be very familiar with it, and others of you may have never heard of it.  Prior to purchasing it (and eating it), I had heard of it, but never eaten it or really even knew how you ate it!  It is a wheat product that is common in Middle Eastern cooking (and the word itself is of Turkish origin…thanks Wikipedia!).  I am inclined to lump it in with rice, quinoa, cous cous, etc.  It was really good and flavourful, and it turned out not to be scary or nasty (which I must admit, I was a bit worried about).  I am sure that bulgur doesn’t pop up much in Mexican cooking, however this dish is more pseudo/fusion.  It rises and increases in size when cooked, like the similar food items I listed above.  It’s a poor quality to have as a food blogger, but sometimes I can be bad at describing things.  I can’t really pinpoint the taste, except to say it wasn’t mushy or anything like that, it had the similar qualities and looks of, again, the aforementioned food items.  I would definitely recommend it to others!

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The recipe I used it in was Mexican Beef and Bulgur Salad by The Enchanted Cook.  It was such a different type of meal for me to make.  First of all, it was a salad.  And that was the main/only course.  Also, I am not the biggest fan of thick/chunky salsas or Rotel, so we didn’t even really have  a dressing.  But it was so filling.  My husband even said it could have had MORE spice and flavour to it…even though I added Sriracha to mine (I add that to EVERYTHING), but he can’t handle the extensive heat that Sriracha gives).  Regardless, it was good, and we had a ton leftover for work lunches, that kept us filled up!

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I must add, going back to the spice-factor, I do recommend adding salsa or Rotel (or even taco sauce, for people like me who hate the chunks).  I think that omitting that is really what brought down the flavour/spice of the dish.

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Mexican Beef and Bulgur Salad

serves 4

Ingredients:
-1cu quick-cooking bulgur, prepared according to package directions
-1lb lean ground beef
-1/2 onion, chopped
-3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced
-2tsp ground cumin
-1tsp salt
-3/4tsp fresh cracked pepper
-1 can RO*TEL Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (or salsa, taco sauce, etc.)
-1/4cu fresh chopped cilantro (leave out if you dislike cilantro)
-2 heads of lettuce, roughly chopped
-optional garnishes: Mexican blend cheese, sour cream, additional salsa

Directions:
-While bulgur is cooking according to package directions, heat a large non-stick skillet to medium high and add ground beef. Brown for about 8-10 minutes, breaking it up as you go.
-Add onions, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Continue cooking over medium high heat, stirring occasionally and allowing onions and garlic to soften and become fragrant, about 3 more minutes.
-Add entire can of RO*TEL and fresh cilantro to beef mixture, stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium.
-By this time your bulgur should be ready (water fully absorbed, or drain if necessary). Add bulgur to skillet with beef mixture and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt or pepper if needed.
-Remove from heat and serve individually over beds of lettuce. Top with cheese, sour cream, and salsa as desired.

Previous Test It Tuesday Dishes seen on Never The Same Dish

Truffle Oil (Bacon and Truffle Oil Macaroni and Cheese)

Black Rice (Garlicky Chicken and Broccoli)

Capers (Chicken Piccata)

Garam Malasa (Indian Spice Rubbed Chicken)

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Test It Tuesday: Truffle Oil

I have been so excited all day to make this dinner.  Seriously.  This is part of why cooking is my “personal culinary therapy” – if I’m having a bad day, or long day, or stressful day, or even just a normal day, at work, all I have to do is daydream about what I am making for dinner that night, and I instantly feel better.  It sounds really silly, I know.  Don’t get me wrong – it also cheers me up to think about seeing my husband and ok, petting my dog too, but there is just something about food.  Thankfully my husband loves that I cook, so it works out well in his favour, too.  So, back to tonight’s dinner.  I bought a bottle of truffle oil from the Chelsea Market in Manhattan a few weeks back, and have been dying to use it.  I have heard such great things about it, as I’ve seen some mac’n’cheese and soup recipes using it, and my friend Alysha said that her and her husband drizzle it on popcorn, too!  In any case, I decided on this recipe from Gimme Some Oven, Bacon and Truffle Oil Macaroni and Cheese.

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You can read the basics about truffle oil here, and you can read a nasty rant about truffle oil here.  Similarly, you can read about what truffles actually are, here (long story short: an underground fungus known as a tuber that most closely resembles a strangely-shaped potato).  Basically, most truffle oil is not made from actual truffles, rather it is a synthetic product made from the main ingredient of truffles, mixed with olive oil.  Apparently the craze of it is dying out (which I had no idea – since I just started reading about it in recipes less than a year ago), because it’s a culinary joke.  The thing that saddens me is the snobbery of it all (specifically the rant I linked to, above).  Yes, there are foodies and food snobs, but when it comes down to it – food is meant to be enjoyed.  It is meant to be savoured.  It is meant to share with friends and family.  If all you can think about is that it’s just a cheap knock off, then you’re doing it wrong.

And let me tell you, friends, this dinner was amazing.  My husband, our roommate, and I might have eaten our weight in elbow macaroni tonight.  Ok ok, we didn’t, but you get the idea.  It was SO GOOD.  First of all, I can’t remember the last time I had real bacon.  Normally I buy turkey bacon to make for our weekend breakfasts.  I have to say, though, cooking bacon is kind of gross.  It is so fatty.  I can’t lie – I cut off some of the fat.  There was just so much of it, and I was getting queasy thinking about eating all of it (lovely image, I know).  To make it less oily, I used cooking spray instead of oil.  However, I did discover tonight, as I was calculating the Weight Watchers points of my meal, that one slice of real bacon is the same amount of points as one slice of turkey bacon.  Gasp.  For those that are curious, one slice equals one point.

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Additionally, I normally buy pre-shredded cheese, because it’s basically the same price as block cheese and much less work, but the recipe specified not buying pre-shredded cheese.  I’m not sure if it would have made a difference, obviously I’d have to re-do this recipe with pre-shredded cheese to find out, but when in doubt, follow the recipe.  And yes, I took a picture of my husband grating the cheese…and no, that’s not his real smile, he cheesed it up for the camera (no pun intended…well…ok, pun intended).

That being said, I did not follow the recipe regarding the amount of truffle oil to use.  The recipe specified using 3 tablespoons, however I received advice from friends that just a few drops is plenty, but also I was a bit scared by the negative article linked above.  Also, once the bottle was opened (thanks to my roommate…the packaging was on there so tightly), we realized just how potent it is (I probably shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was).  Therefore, I only used one tablespoon, because it’s always better to use too little than too much, as you can always add more.  I taste-tested a piece of macaroni and I could already taste the booming truffle oil, and called it good.  I honestly don’t know how to describe the taste of it.  It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before.  The way our roommate described it kind of summed it up, that you could tell there was something in addition to the normal macaroni and cheese-y flavours.

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One final note, this is a lot of work.  It is a quick recipe, which might be why it’s so much work.  I chopped the garlic and onion ahead of time (and of course forgot to grate the cheese, which is why I hurriedly begged my husband to), but everything needs to be poured immediately, stirred constantly, etc.  My kitchen might have been a mess when all was said and done.  Typically, I try to clean as I go, but mid-cooking I decided to not even bother anymore.  Also, I had a small panicky moment when I realized that the original recipe says to cook the onion and garlic, take off heat, and set aside…then it is never mentioned again!  I just added it right after taking the pasta off the heat, stirred, then proceeded to add the cheese.  You can do it however you see fit.

WW point value per serving: 10 (but I may or may not have had slightly more than one serving…)

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Bacon and Truffle Oil Macaroni and Cheese

serves 2-4

Ingredients:
-8oz whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked al dente according to package directions (I actually used the whole box, which fed 3 of us, plus a few tupperware containers of leftovers)
-8 strips bacon
-1/2cu chopped white onion
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (12oz) can 2% evaporated milk
-1 large egg
-1/2tsp salt
-1/4tsp ground black pepper
-1/2tsp smoked paprika
-pinch of cayenne
-8oz freshly-grated sharp or smoked white cheddar cheese (do not buy pre-shredded cheese)
-1/4cu freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
-1tbsp truffle oil (again, the original recipe called for 3tbsp, but one was perfectly potent…if you use 3, please proceed with caution)

Directions:
-While the pasta water is heating in a large stockpot, cook the bacon in a large skillet over high heat until crispy. Remove bacon and set aside, reserving the bacon grease. Once cooled, crumble the bacon and set aside.
-Return 1 tablespoon bacon grease to the skillet, and lower heat to medium-high. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute until fragrant. Remove from heat.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, egg, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne until combined.
-Once the pasta is ready and has been drained, immediately stir in the evaporated milk mixture until combined. Continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally (I’d say more than occasionally, I left it un-stirred for almost 2mins and then had to scrape the bottom of the pot with my spatula – thankfully it didn’t adversely affect the final product), for about 5-8 minutes, or until the sauce comes to a simmer.
-Remove pan from heat and stir in the onion and garlic mixture, then grated cheddar and Parmesan until melted. Then gently stir in the truffle oil and half of the crumbled bacon.
-Serve immediately, topped with the remaining crumbled bacon and additional Parmesan.

Test It Tuesday: Black Rice

On Sunday we went swimming at the Woodford State Park in Vermont with my old roommate and his boyfriend.  It was so nice to be back in the water!  Our swimming was cut short by a rain, thunder, and lightning storm, but we waited it out in the car and then went back to the park to grill white hots for dinner…white hots are the upstate western New York specialty, in case you don’t remember from my 4th of July post.  I actually did not do a lot of cooking over the weekend…Saturday I made breakfast for my husband and I, and then we gorged on food from 7-11 (yeah, you don’t need to remind me that it’s very unhealthy!), then on Sunday we grilled the white hots.  This week, though, I am back to making more yummy recipes (as you saw on Meal Plan Monday).

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(Please don’t mind the dirty-looking pad in the background of this picture…it’s our dish-drying pad, which stains very, very easily, but I assure you, it’s washed and cleaned often!)

Tonight I made Garlicky Chicken and Broccoli, which is actually a Weight Watchers recipe!  I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out.  With some of the other recent Weight Watchers recipes I’ve made, I have had to add more ingredients to spice and flavour them up, but this one was great on its own.  I used green beans instead of broccoli, because I’m not a big broccoli fan.  I also used sriracha sauce instead of chili sauce (because I didn’t have any), and it was too spicy for my husband.  Well, the dish itself was not too spicy, but I spooned extra sauce over the chicken, green beans, and rice, so the excess of sauce turned out to be too much for him.  But that meant I got to clean his plate for him!  A no-no, I know, but whatev. 😉  Aside from the spice, he loved the chicken and the “hint of spice” that it had before he reached the parts soaked in the sauce.  In any case, this was so tasty, and the perfect combination of flavours.  I used 4 garlic cloves and I certainly could have added more…I didn’t get the exact garlicky flavour the recipe was going for, but I could certainly still taste it (as well as the ginger).  This was also a fairly simple recipe.  My husband marinated the chicken as soon as he got home from work, so it had been in the fridge for about 45 minutes by the time I came home.  All I had to do was prepare the sauce, chop the garlic and ginger, then cook the chicken and make the stir fry.

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The only time-consuming portion of this meal was preparing the black rice (Test It Tuesday!).  I randomly happened upon black rice at Adam’s Fairacre Farms (a specialty food and souvenir store), and excitedly bought it, as it was something I have never seen before.  A friend of mine then informed me she has seen it in Asian dishes.  I quickly googled it and saw that it’s typically used as a side dish, or prepared in sushi or black rice pudding.  I decided to pair it with the garlicky chicken stir fry and hope for the best.  Since then, I have found several recipes involving black rice (check out my Pinterest page if you’re interested in seeing them).  I loosely followed this recipe for preparing it.  Today I read several articles on black rice, and it turns out that it has as many nutrients as the equivalent amount of fresh blueberries.  It is quickly becoming known as a new superfood, even healthier than brown rice.  It is also referred to as Forbidden Rice, per ancient Chinese legend, that it was so rare, nutritious, and tasty, that only emperors were allowed to eat it.  It is primarily still only found in Asian countries, and then imported into the U.S.  You can read more about black rice by clicking the following links…and trust me, it’s actually very interesting!

Is Black Rice The New Brown?

Black Rice Is Cheap Way To Get Antioxidants

Black Rice: Rare Yet Highly Nutritious

6 Surprising Superfoods

Nutritional and scientific facts aside, it was so good.  I might consider researching online the cheapest places to purchase it and only use it in the future.  My husband and I both loved it!  The websites and various recipes stated that it’s often even chewier than brown rice, and has quite a distinct nutty flavour, but I didn’t notice any of that.  Part of why I might not have noticed a nutty flavour is because I mixed the stir fry sauce with it, but I definitely did not notice a super-chewy texture to it.  It fluffed up quite a bit, and I can’t wait to take the leftovers to work tomorrow!

WW value of stir fry, per serving: 6-8
WW value of black rice, per serving: 5

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Garlicky Chicken and Broccoli Green Beans

Ingredients:
-1 egg white
-2tbsp rice cooking wine, or sherry wine
-3,2/3tbsp cornstarch, divided
-2tsp kosher salt
-2.5 uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
-3tbsp low sodium soy sauce
-2tbsp ketchup
-4tsp dark brown sugar
-2tsp chili sauce (I used sriracha sauce)
-2tsp sesame oil (I just realized that I used olive oil instead…)
-1tbsp minced garlic (I used 4 cloves)
-1tbsp ginger root, fresh, minced
-freshly washed green beans
-1cu reduced-sodium chicken broth
-4 medium uncooked scallion, thinly sliced

Directions:
-In a shallow dish, whisk together egg white, rice wine, 3 tablespoons cornstarch and salt; add chicken and toss to coat. Cover dish and marinate chicken for 30 minutes (or overnight).
-In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, chili sauce and remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch; set aside.
-When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil; remove chicken from marinade and add to pot (discard marinade). Poach until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes; drain well and set aside.
-Heat oil in a large wok over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broccoli and toss to coat. Pour broth over broccoli and increase heat to medium-high; cook until broccoli is crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and reserved sauce; reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, about 3 minutes. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Black Rice

Ingredients:
-1 part black rice (1/4cu = 1 serving)
-2 parts water
-1tsp olive oil

Directions:
-Rinse rice, then place in a large pot, cover with 2 parts water.
-Bring to a boil, and let boil for 10-20mins.
-Cover and continue to cook on low heat for 10-20mins, or until water is absorbed, rice should be easily fluffed.

Test It Tuesday: Capers

I decided to make chicken piccata tonight for two reasons.  One, we have a whole slew of chicken cutlets (they were on sale!) in the freezer, and I needed something for Test It Tuesday.  I suppose there are three reasons, as I also recently stocked up on whole wheat pasta, when it was on sale at Price Chopper, so we have several packages ready to use.  I have never made this dish before, and I’m honestly not sure if I’ve even eaten it.  I feel like I must have…based on the pictures, it looks like a yummy dish, and I’m not one to pass up yummy dishes.  Thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned that piccata originated in Italy (duh), using veal.  In the U.S., it is typically prepared with chicken, and can also be prepared using seitan, for those who are vegetarian.  In the U.S., it is often served with pasta, rice, polenta, or another starch, however in traditional Italy, it is served after the starch dish, as it is referred to as the “secondo” which means it is the heartiest course of a meal.  See this link for the traditional Italian meal structure.

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Moving right along, to our Test It Tuesday food item, capers.  Raise your hand if you knew that capers came from a bush?  A bush that grows leaves?  A bush that grows flowers?  Sure, we have all seen capers around, in our food in restaurants, in the pickled aisle at the grocery store, maybe even in your own pantry.  But who really knows a lot about them?  In food, they are often used as a seasoning or a garnish.  They are most common in Mediterranean cuisine (which includes Italian!).  Caper berries and caper leaves are also used in cooking.  Caper berries are sometimes even used as olive-substitutes in martinis.  You can read more about capers by clicking this link.

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I came home late from work tonight to find my husband in the kitchen cooking up a storm.  In fact, he made the entire dinner without my help…and he did such a great job! I’m so thankful for that guy.

In any case, it was definitely tasty.  The sauce was very light and brothy, which I’m not used to, since my Italian favourites include alfredo and marinara.  Capers are very salty, and kind of mushy when cooked.  I purposefully ate a couple, for the purpose of testing them (as did my husband), and the rest of the ones I ate were picked up in the noodles.  My husband didn’t like the capers at all (you should have seen his face when he took his obligatory bite).  In fact, I’m not sure how sold he was on this dinner.  He said he enjoyed it, and he cleaned his plate, but I think it goes back to the fact that we aren’t used to thin sauces.  That all being said, it’s hard to go wrong with fried chicken cutlets and spaghetti noodles, am I right??  I just read, actually, that traditionally chicken/veal/whatever piccata is dredged only in flour, then sautéed in butter and oil, whereas the recipe I used called to dredge it in egg then bread crumbs.  I think I preferred it that way, but again, who doesn’t like pan-fried breaded chicken??  Additionally, I really liked using parsley as a garnish.  It has been a long time since I’ve bought parsley (cilantro is my main green leafy friend in a bunch), and adding it to top off the dish makes me feel like I’m eating in a restaurant.  In sum, it was great to try a completely new dish!  I’d be interested in making other chicken piccata recipes, to see how they compare.

WW value of everything on my plate: 14

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Chicken Piccata

Ingredients:
-2 chicken cutlets (either purchase them that way, or cut one chicken breast in half)
-1/2cu Italian-style bread crumbs
-1 egg, beaten
-2tbsp butter
-1/4cu fresh lemon juice
-1cu chicken stock
-1/4cu brined capers, rinsed
-1/4cu fresh parsley, chopped
-whole wheat thin pasta (spaghetti or angel hair)
-2tbsp butter
-1/2cu freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
-Separate the bread crumbs and beaten egg into separate shallow dishes. Dredge each chicken cutlet in the egg, and then in the breadcrumbs. Shake off any excess breadcrumbs and place on a plate.
-In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Place two of the coated chicken cutlets into the skillet. Cook for about 4 minutes per side. Once thoroughly cooked, place on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
-Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let butter melt and then cook the other two pieces of coated chicken, for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and keep warm with other chicken.
-Pour the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers into the warm skillet. Stir and scrape up any of the loose brown bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and let sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
-Meanwhile, cook angel hair pasta according to package directions. Drain water and add 2 tablespoons butter to pasta and 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.
-Serve chicken with sauce and pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley and more grated Parmesan cheese.

Test It Tuesday: Garam Masala

Sunday was a lazy day.  We woke up late (skipped church…but we still love Jesus!), lounged around, cleaned, did laundry, menu-planned, and then GRILLED!  Would you expect anything less?  It’s funny that we suddenly LOVE vegetables now that a grill is involved.  I’ve even been working on getting over my aversion to asparagus, because it looks and smells so darn good.  I’m still waiting for it to taste as good as it looks, though…

Test It Tuesday: Garam Masala

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In any case, we decided mid-day that we wanted to grill chicken, since we’ve yet to do that, and I immediately jumped onto Pinterest to look for recipes.  I have been discovering new food blogs lately, and found a yummy one from A Spicy Perspective, that I adapted a bit.  I even went out and spent $6 on a bottle of garam masala (Test It Tuesday!).  It is a blend of spices common in North Indian and South Asian cuisine.  It translates as “hot spices.”  Depending on the brand (and the authenticity), I’m sure a garam masala blend can vary, but mine included, but wasn’t limited to, coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.  The only thing I would do differently next time is omit the extra cumin that the recipe calls for, because cumin packs quite a punch, it’s already in the garam masala, and my husband’s tongue was burning a bit.

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My co-worker just turned me on to Atlantic Spice Company, which is a warehouse of spices in Cape Cod, that also (obviously) does online ordering.  I just looked up garam masala on their website, and it’s super cheap!  The ingredients are a bit different, but I’m sure just as tasty!

WW value of everything on my plate: 10-12 (WW app says corn on the cob, plain, no additions, is 2pts, but personally, I say 0pts).

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Indian Spice Rubbed Chicken

Ingredients:
-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-2tbsp Garam Masala
-2tbsp lemon juice
-2tbsp chopped cilantro
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1tbsp freshly grated ginger
-1/2tsp cayenne pepper
-1tsp cumin (will omit next time)
-a few grinds of black pepper
-1/4cu peanut cooking oil

Directions:
-Preheat the grill to medium heat. Place the chicken in a large baking dish.
-In a separate bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and mix well (see first picture).
-Rub the mixture over the chicken, with your hands, coating completely. Let it marinate for at least a half hour, to allow the juices to soak into the chicken.
-Grill the chicken for approximately 12 minutes total, turning once; note that your grill may vary.
-Serve with grilled veggies!

Grilled Corn on the Cob and Asparagus

Ingredients:
-corn on the cob (use however many you need)
-1 bunch asparagus
-few shakes of adobo seasoning salt
-few squirts of olive oil

Directions:
-Wrap corn in tin foil and grill about 20mins, turning occasionally.
-Place asparagus in a deep dish, squirt with olive oil, season with adobo, turn to coat. Grill for 20mins directly on the grill, turning often.