Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's cookin'?

One of my New Year's resolutions was to do more cooking in 2012, and so far, I think I'm off to a good start.

The first Friday of Lent, I made shrimp alfredo. It had been years since I'd made a good alfredo sauce from scratch, but man that was good. Creamy, cheesy and extra garlicky, just like I like it. Oh, and completely healthy, of course. The salad I had with it totally evened things out, calorie-wise. ;-) I also made a great pasta salad the other week with cheese tortellini, spinach and tomatoes that made a great addition to several lunches.

Inspired by a recent issue of "Cooking Light, " I've also made several homemade pizzas. The first was a chicken barbecue pizza that turned out spectacularly, easily beating out the California Pizza Kitchen version that I enjoy. And just the other night, sans recipe, I made another chicken pizza (I do plan on branching out from chicken... one recipe in the Cooking Light that I want to try calls for smoked salmon) with spinach, Parmesan and a good garlic marinara sauce. It's pretty basic, but completely satisfying, this homemade pizza making (although not totally from scratch, as I'm not making the crusts myself...but who has time for that?), and likely healthier than the greasy American ordered variety, which Italy pretty much spoiled for me.
One thing that definitely has me upping my cooking game is Big Breakfast Wednesdays. They're a tradition my housemate Pam and her former roommate Jen started when Jen moved in, and we've continued it since I've taken up residence. It's a simple premise: we take turns making a larger, more elaborate-than-cereal-or-toast breakfast each Wednesday. This has actually been a little bit of a challenge for me. Growing up, when we made breakfast on the weekends, it was scrambled eggs, oatmeal or, most often, pancakes. The only problem with making pancakes for Big Breakfast Wednesday is that Pam, for health reasons, can't have anything too sweet first thing in the morning (I did make pancakes for Fat Tuesday dinner, though, which was awesome). As a result, I've made fried eggs and scrambled eggs with cheese and hashbrowns, but those don't seem quite big enough. So for last week's turn, I went trolling on the Internet, looking for a savory muffin recipe. A lot of them were quite complex, and called for ingredients I would have to buy in larger amounts and then likely never use again. But then I stumbled on one that offered a variety of filling options. And they turned out marvelously. The recipe made 16, so both Pam and I took some to our various offices, where they got rave reviews from coworkers (in my office, Elaine said they tasted like something you'd get at Panera, which was incredibly flattering). It will definitely be added to my breakfast repertoire.
Of course, there are still nights where I come home and just do something simple with a chicken breast or tilapia fillet, nuke a TV dinner or, like tonight, make a meal out of sweet potato fries dipped in apple butter. But I'm thoroughly enjoying getting back into cooking on a more regular basis, and I hope to continue this good start. There are so many more recipes I want to try and lots of 2012 left.

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