A Week’s Worth of Easy Recipes and Salad Inspiration

Hey there.  Do we know each other?  It’s been so long I’m not sure any more.  Somehow I let more than two weeks slip by since my last post– oops!  BUT now that my spring break has officially started (woo HOO!), I am taking the time to do a little catching up.  And since it’s been so long since I posted I’m making up for lost time with approximately a billion recipes.  So get ready.

Last weekend when it was GORGEOUS out BF and I made a trip to the national zoo and hit up the Bird House for the first time ever.  It's definitely an under appreciated corner of the zoo!  We also saw the baby panda's back.  45 minutes in line for a back.  At least it was a sunny day for the wait!

Last weekend when it was GORGEOUS out BF and I took a trip to the national zoo and hit up the Bird House for the first time ever. It’s definitely an underappreciated corner of the zoo! We also saw the baby panda’s back. 45 minutes in line for a back. At least it was a sunny day for the wait outside!

Most of the time when I’m reading cooking blogs, I don’t really read much.  I usually just skim and see if anything catches my eye– it’s more of an inspiration thing than a strict recipe-following thing.  So I thought I’d mix it up a little this week and post all the dinners I made last week with pretty minimal “recipes” in hopes that something will inspire you in your own kitchen! Especially since three of our dinners were salads and those of course leave a TON of wiggle room for creativity. So without further ado…

Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Almonds, and Chickpeas

Adapted so minimally from TheKitchn that I’m just going to link to it– all I did was cut it in half to feed the two of us, plus use ground ginger instead of fresh and cut the cilantro since I didn’t have any.

The Kitchn has some REALLY great recipes, and this is definitely one of them!

The Kitchn has some REALLY great recipes, and this is definitely one of them!

Normally after I bookmark a recipe I sit on it for a while before making it (assuming I can even find it again in my embarrassingly vast collection of bookmarked recipes– oy).  But once in a while a recipe comes along that I can’t put out of my mind and I have to make it ASAP– and this tagine was definitely one such recipe.  IT IS SO GOOD.  And don’t think you can’t make a tagine just because you don’t have a tagine.  It works just fine in a dutch oven.  Between the browning chicken and the amazing spices, your kitchen will smell amazing the whole time you’re making this and it will be physically painful to have to wait til it’s done to dig in.  It’s also SUPER filling.  Even He of the Bottomless Stomach was full after eating 3 pieces of chicken.   And that’s, like, not a thing that happens.  Ever.  You have to make it now.  Like, right now.  Why are you still sitting here?  Go!  (Ok, just kidding, because there are more recipes to read.  But once you’re done with those, go!)

Spinach Salad with Artichoke Hearts, Toasted Pecans, and Gorgonzola

Who needs dressing when you've got artichokes and pecans?

Who needs dressing when you’ve got artichokes and pecans?

The next night for dinner we had a salad made with baby spinach, toasted pecans, crumbled low-fat gorgonzola, and chopped artichoke hearts.  Between the cheese and the artichoke hearts there was a fair amount of salty flavor, but it erred just on the right side of that line in my opinion.  BF thinks I am oversensitive about saltiness anyway, so I guess take this with a grain of…salt. (oy).

I forgot to take a picture of our dinner the next night, which is sad because it went over VERY well and was so easy!  Oops.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with an Egg Bonus

Roast a sweet potato (seriously, half a sweet potato will sate anyone’s appetite, so please don’t try to force anyone to eat a whole potato) in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes or til tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  Slice in half and scoop out the insides.  In a small pan, sauté a few minced cloves of garlic; when soft, stir in the potato insides and as much shredded cheddar cheese as your lil heart desires.  Refill the potato halves, but hollow out enough space for an egg.  Place said egg in said hollow, season with salt/pepper and bake 15-20 min or til white is set.

UMM this is so good and makes excellent sitting-on-the-couch-watching-the-Olympics food.  Not that I would know from firsthand experience or anything.

Sweet Potato Risotto and Easy Greek Vinaigrette

Oh risotto, my old friend.  You're the very best standby.

Oh risotto, my old friend. You’re the very best standby.

Considering that 99% of the recipes I blog about are risotto (ok, slight exaggeration, perhaps), I doubt you need reminding of how to make it.  But just in case, you can look herehere, or here.  Sweet potato risotto is especially delicious and a nice way to squeeze another veggie into your dinner– just stir the insides of a roasted sweet potato into the risotto in the last few minutes of cooking.  I served it with a really simple Greek-ish vinaigrette:

Mince 2 cloves Garlic and combine with 1 t. dried Oregano, a squirt of Dijon mustard, 1/2 t. Pepper, 1/4 c. Red Wine Vinegar, and 1/2 c. Olive Oil.  Whisk it all together.  Or if you have any screw-top tupperware (is that what you call it?), just use that and shake it really hard.  There’s something weirdly rewarding about doing it this way.  I highly recommend it.

Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Avocado, Pecans, and Gorgonzola

My salad had an embarrassing number of blueberries on it since they are my FAVORITE food-- pretty sure I frightened a few children at the grocery store when they were buy one get one free.  Sorry, parents.

My salad in the back had an embarrassing number of blueberries on it since they are my FAVORITE food– pretty sure I frightened a few children at the grocery store this week when the berries were buy one get one free. Sorry, parents.

The next night it was a salad again– this time baby spinach with pecans, gorgonzola (it’s like I had stuff to use up from the last salad or something…), blueberries (!!!) and chopped avocado.  Now, I love avocado.  And it was great in this salad (this was BF’s favorite salad of the week, and I was a pretty big fan myself).  But I got a little overexcited at the grocery store last week and bought more ripe avocados than 2 people can reasonably consume before they’ve gotten gross, so we went 4 days in a row with some sort of avocado in our dinner.  Oops.

What else did we do with said avocado?  Great question.  You’re so smart.  Sliced avocado went on a piece of toast topped with cheddar scrambled eggs for dinner one night (again, forgot to take a photo, not that it was especially beautiful anyway– but OMG it’s delicious).  Another night I was too lazy to make guacamole (yeah that’s right, TOO LAZY to make something that involves no cooking.  Come at me.) so I just mashed up an avocado with a smidge of salt and a good dose of pepper and we ate it with tortilla chips and it was SO GOOD and I want to subsist on only that forever and ever amen.

Polenta with Hazelnuts, Honey, and Blue Cheese

Polenta with Hazelnuts, Honey, and Blue Cheese

This got mixed reviews– BF liked it quite a bit, and I liked it but was far from being as in love with it as I expected to be. Definitely worth trying, though!

Joy the Baker‘s Blue Cheese, Hazelnut, and Honey Polenta was next up on the menu.  This dish has all the makings of being something I absolutely LOVE.  For starters, it’s a carb, so duh.  But hazelnuts are one of my favorite ingredients and often go under appreciated if they aren’t in Nutella.  I liked it enough to make it again, but I wasn’t as obsessed as I hoped.  Again, I made it pretty much exactly the way the original recipe says (twice in one week, so weird!), so I won’t repost the recipe here.  Next time I’m going to try this with goat cheese instead, since it’s my one true love.  And maybe find a way to work in some thyme.  Also maybe roasted grapes…yes, definitely roasted grapes.

Arugula with Pecans, Blueberries, and Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

One last salad to round out the week and finish up those darn blueberries! (JK guys I will always love you)

One last salad to round out the week and finish up those darn blueberries! (JK guys I will always love you)

Yesterday BF’s office had a potluck at which he ate the following: a hot dog, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, and a cookie.  He ate ALL of those things.  In one sitting.  I don’t even know.  I had a banana and a cheese stick for lunch yesterday.  Who even IS this kid?  Anyway, needless to say he was looking to eat something with slightly more nutritional value for dinner, which worked out very well with my already-extant plan to make salad (I let him think it was his idea.  Ha.  Ha.).  This time it was arugula paired with pecans and blueberries (yes again, shut up) and a super easy creamy poppy seed dressing.  Since I couldn’t find my momma’s recipe for poppy seed dressing (hey Mom, call me when you see this) I had to improvise a bit, but things turned out just fine.  Guess I’m growing up and figuring things out on my own or something.

Definitely or something.

Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

*Note: I was a little hesitant to try this with only greek yogurt and no mayo, but this balance (entirely made up by yours truly) worked out really well, so I think next time I’m gonna go whole hog on the yogurt and see what happens.

1/4 c. Sugar

1/4 c. Mayonnaise

1/2 c. No-fat Greek Yogurt

2 T. Cider Vinegar

2t. Poppy Seeds

Whisk it all together, or use my patented shaking-really-hard-in-screw-top-tupperware method.

I know this post is ridiculously long and you probably got sick of reading it approximately 6 recipes ago (or maybe you’ve long gone by this point)– sorry!  Given my poor posting track record for the last few weeks I didn’t trust myself to only post a few of these and then write another post soon, so you’re getting everything from the last week at once instead.  HOPEfully the net effect will be lots of cooking inspiration for you and not just exasperation at my verboseness!  Having these kinds of low-effort, throw-in-whatever’s-in-the-fridge recipes in your back pocket is a very handy thing on weeknights.  Because let’s be honest, investment recipes are for weekends only.  Who has the time/energy to cook an elaborate meal during the week?  No. Thank. You.  Make the tagine on a Sunday when you’ve got the time for it, and use the rest of these guys when it’s been a long day and there are a whole host of things you’d rather be doing than hanging out in your kitchen.

P.S. We bought an embarrassing horde of Girl Scout cookies this weekend and are way too excited about it– don’t forget to support your local troop by stuffing your face too!