Baked Tilapia With Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Tilapia with coconut-cilantro sauce

I’m not one to use my oven very much (I’ll make the occasional roasted vegetable or a batch of cookies when I’m feeling inspired), but I’m starting to realize how much I’ve missed out by mainly sautéing or grilling my food. I partly blame this on my crazy fire alarm that goes off when the oven temperature is 400 degrees or higher, but I digress….

Baking fish is one of those simple techniques that can save you a lot of time in the kitchen, yet still produce tasty results. I came across this tilapia recipe from Food Network and immediately knew I needed to try it. I love any sauce that incorporates coconut milk, especially with some spices thrown into the mix. Trying to keep the focus on the tilapia, I paired the fish with sautéed broccolini (which was delicious!) and brown rice. I’m happy to report that the alarm didn’t go off this time – a rare event indeed.

Ingredients

Preparing the Tilapia

Make sure you have a blender for this recipe. You’ll need it to make the sauce.

Baked Tilapia

Pop in the oven for 15 minutes and you’re done!

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Price: This dish, including the rice and broccolini, cost just under $20. I had to buy the garam masala, but I can use that for many meals to come. Tilapia is relatively inexpensive – it cost me about $3.20 for four filets. To top it off, I had leftovers!

Preparation: This part took me about 20 minutes. To save some time, buy jarred minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons). The sauce couldn’t be easier to make! It mixed in the blender for less than a minute on high-speed.

Cooking: The fish was very easy to make, thanks to my trusty oven. Simply bake for 15 minutes and you’re done. The broccolini also cooked quickly. I blanched them first before sautéing and skipped the lemon because I didn’t have any on hand.

Taste: I expected the sauce to pack more “punch” but it was surprisingly mild. I think next time I would add more jalapeno and garam masala. It was still very tasty, just not what I expected. To get the most of the dish, make sure to really drizzle the fish with sauce when you plate. When I ate my leftovers the next day, it was actually more flavorful. Maybe it takes some time for the fish to “absorb” the flavors.

Have you made a similar dish before?

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


Chicken Cacciatore

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We got a taste of summer over the weekend here in Los Angeles. The weather was so nice and hot – perfect for the beach. To top it off, I was able to spend time with my parents and take advantage of their much larger kitchen!  After browsing a bunch of recipes, I settled on a Chicken Cacciatore recipe from Whole Living. This dish was a first for me, so I welcomed my parents’ culinary wisdom with open arms!

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The recipe calls for a slow cooker, but we decided to alter the steps by first sautéing the ingredients and then letting it finish cook in the oven. Here is our version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces, skin removed
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 can (28 ounces) diced peeled plum tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

 

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San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, favored by many professional chefs, can be found at your local grocery store.

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Steps:

1. Once the ingredients have been measured and prepared, heat a large, oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

2. Brown the chicken, about three minutes on each side. You may need to do this in two or three batches. Set chicken aside on a plate.

3. Add the onions and celery to the pan. Sauté for about five minutes. Next, add in the mushrooms with salt and pepper and sauté for another five minutes.

4. Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine. Scrape the crispy bits off of the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Then, add in the flour and stir.

5. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth and rosemary, and stir frequently for a few minutes.

6. Put the pan in the oven, covered, at 350° F for 40 minutes. Bake for another 20 minutes uncovered.

7. Eat and enjoy!

Overall Thoughts:

Price: The recipe didn’t call for too many ingredients, which helps with cost. If you already own the basic ingredients like EVOO, rosemary and chicken stock, your trip to the grocery store will be short. The whole chicken is a bit pricey, but you’ll have plenty of leftovers!

Preparation: The toughest part is cutting up the chicken, but this is where YouTube comes in if you’re not sure what to do!  Everything else was fairly simple to prepare.

Cooking: Make sure to start early, because it took almost 1.5 hours from start to finish. Once you finish sautéing, the pan goes straight into the oven so you can sit back and relax until it’s ready.

Taste: This chicken tasted incredible! I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes, but these tasted so good that I didn’t mind eating them at all. The sauce was rich but not overpowering, and tasted great with the steamed rice we cooked. I recommend this dish, especially if you’re cooking for several people.

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


Blog Update

Hello fellow readers!

I hope you’re all having a great week. Unfortunately, I was battling a bad cold last week and wasn’t able to cook over the weekend. Consequently, there won’t be a post this week. BUT – I’ll be back in the kitchen this weekend and will have a brand spanking new post next week. Stay tuned!

PS – If you have any requests or suggestions for what I cook, feel free to leave a comment.

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


Italian Wedding Soup

I woke up this morning with the early stages of a cold – sore throat, headache, all that jazz – which makes this post all the more fitting: soup. Who doesn’t love it? There are so many variations, from your mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup to even those 75 cent Top Ramen packs (let’s face it, we are all guilty of eating those).

Italian Wedding Soup

Last year when my family and I went out for my mom’s birthday, I had Italian wedding soup for the first time. I had heard of it before, but never got around to trying it. After a few bites, I was an instant fan of this warm, comforting soup. The small meatballs add a nice heartiness to the meal, and the chicken broth really soaks up the various flavors.

Italian wedding soup consists of a chicken-based broth, meat and vegetables. The name refers to the “marriage” of veggies and meat in the soup. I used this recipe from Laura in the Kitchen. I’ll admit, I was slightly overwhelmed trying to choose one of the many recipes I found online, but this one seemed to include all of the key ingredients I was looking for.

Chopped Veggies

Laura mentions that it only took her 45 minutes from start to finish, but it actually took me two hours! I attribute this to my lack of experience in the kitchen. The longest part was definitely preparation. There is a lot of dicing, grating, zesting, etc. If you don’t mind the prep time though, it’s actually quite enjoyable hanging out in the kitchen and making everything from scratch.

Baby Spinach

Orzo Pasta

Instead of chicken, I used ground beef for the meatballs. However, you can use turkey, pork, Italian sausage, or combinations of meat like pork and beef. To keep costs down, I simply used beef.

Meatballs

Making the meatballs was the most fun part. Make sure you keep them small so that you can easily eat them in one bite. I thought it was interesting that the recipe called for lemon zest in the meatballs. It perked up the flavor in a subtle yet unexpected way. Some chefs like to brown the meatballs first in a pan, but I just dropped them in the soup per the instructions and they came out just fine.

Italian Wedding Soup

Overall thoughts:

Price: This was one of the pricier dishes that I have made on this blog. The produce was pretty cheap, but I also had to buy parmigiano-reggiano, bread crumbs, chicken broth, a grater (apparently I didn’t have one!), orzo pasta and ground beef. Before you know it, they add up. At least I can use the cheese and bread crumbs for other meals.

Preparation: As I mentioned, the prep time was pretty long. You also need to have a bit of patience making the meatballs. If you’re a pro in the kitchen though, this will be a breeze.

Cooking: The cook time was fast! It took less than twenty minutes to make the soup.

Taste: The soup tasted amazing. I don’t think my boyfriend could have eaten it any faster. The broth was very flavorful thanks to the onions, carrots and celery, and the meatballs were very tasty. The only ingredient I left out was the fresh parsley, but I don’t think it impacted the flavor of the soup.

What’s your favorite soup to make?

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. When I was very young, I ate the little creatures without a problem, but then my pickiness kicked in as a kid and I refused to eat them. It wasn’t until college that I discovered my love for shrimp. I even remember the moment – I was studying abroad in Oxford, England and the college I was studying at prepared shrimp in a butter garlic sauce for dinner. It was delicious.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

To make up for lost time with these crustaceans, I made Shrimp Fra Diavolo last Saturday. Fra Diavolo, which means “Brother Devil” in Italian, is typically a spicy tomato-based sauce. I used this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, which had very good reviews.

For such a flavorful dish, it’s actually pretty easy to make and the preparation wasn’t too laborious. Plus, if you have some of the ingredients on hand like crushed red pepper flakes and garlic, it’ll make your trip to the grocery store a breeze.

Ingredients

Preparing the shrimp

Cooking Shrimp

Except for leaving out the fresh basil leaves, I followed the recipe exactly as written. I just cut the ingredients in half since I only needed two servings. I was very pleased with the results! The shrimp had the perfect amount of spice. It never reached that “mouth is on fire” kind of discomfort that certain dishes can leave you feeling. The sauce was also the perfect consistency. Make sure to really simmer the sauce – it should be just under boiling point, and gently bubbling. This will soften the diced tomatoes and thicken the sauce.

Try serving the shrimp with whole wheat pasta and a side salad. The pasta will soak up the dish and round out the meal.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Pasta

Have you make this dish before? How did it turn out?

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


Easter Brunch

I have yet to host my own Easter bunch. My lack of space is mainly to blame – it can be quite difficult trying to entertain in a small studio apartment. Nevertheless, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the holiday at my parent’s house with my family and boyfriend.

Easter Brunch

I’m lucky to have parents who are great cooks. I have so many happy memories of hanging out in the kitchen, whether it’s cooking dinner on a school night or making pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning. This Easter I may have taken a break from my “two day chef” duties, but the food and drinks were so delicious that I had to share with you all.

Watermelon Mojitos

Watermelon Mojitos. Get the Ina Garten recipe here.

Scalloped Potatoes

Rich, creamy scalloped potatoes (so good!)

Glazed Ham

Ham drizzled with homemade glaze

It was my duty to bring dessert, so I picked up a carrot cake with nuts and cream cheese frosting from a local bakery. I still have a slice in my fridge. It’s calling my name…

Carrot Cake

Whether you’re in charge of the entire meal, or just helping prepare one of the side dishes, cooking should be an enjoyable experience. Food is meant to be shared with others. We shouldn’t save these special moments for just the holidays. Take this next weekend to cook your favorite dish, or one of the recipes featured in my blog. We may be busy, but there is always time to enjoy the little things.

Happy Cooking,

Lauren

(P.S. I’ll be posting my Saturday night recipe later this week. Stay tuned!)


Spicy Garlic and Pepper Beef

Spicy Garlic and Pepper Beef

I’d say my spice tolerance is pretty high.

I’m a big fan of spicy foods – okay, maybe not “crying with pain” kind of spicy – but enough kick to really feel its sting. Well, I sure put that to the test this weekend with the spicy garlic and pepper beef that I prepared. With 140+ reviews and a 4.5 star rating on allrecipes.com (recipe here) I had a good feeling that this dish would turn out great.

Recipe Ingredients

Chopped Onion

This Asian-inspired recipe originally calls for shrimp, but I easily used beef instead. You can pretty much use any meat (or soy product!) you’d like and it’ll soak up the rich flavors. I also used coleslaw mix instead of shredding a whole head of cabbage, which was much quicker. One of the neat things about allrecipes.com is that it will alter the ingredient measurements based on how many servings you want to cook. Perfect for when you’re busy in the kitchen.

So, the red pepper flakes. Let me tell you something about those little suckers. This recipe calls for WAY too much of it! I strongly suggest cutting back on your amount. I used less than the suggested amount for three servings, and I still worked up a sweat eating this! I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons, but I probably should have used just under 1 tablespoon.

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The cooking time is actually quite fast. It’s better to cook these kind of dishes over high heat for a shorter period of time. It should take about 4-5 minutes for thinly sliced beef to cook.

Spicy Garlic and Pepper Beef Final Product

Overall thoughts: This dish packs a lot of flavor, considering the minimal amount of ingredients used. The cabbage soaked up the sauce wonderfully and added a nice crunch to the meal. If you’re hesitant about using coleslaw mix, don’t worry – you won’t even notice by the time you’re done cooking. I also served this with steamed rice, which tastes even better with the sauce drizzled on top. My only complaint is the amount of red pepper flakes. I was able to eat this, but I could have definitely used a little bit less spice.

Have you cooked something similar before? Let me know!

Happy Cooking,

Lauren


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