Cooking (un)Inspiration

My menu of meals has been pretty blah lately. Today for lunch I had a tuna sandwich with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes on the side. Healthy, yes – creative, no. I can’t even claim that I “cooked” it – I just opened the can and cut up some veggies!

Needless to say, my cooking creativity has been pretty low for the past few weeks. The winter weather is getting to me and it seems all I want to do is order in and catch up on my DVR. This is the time of year where I usually rely on a stockpile of frozen soups and pre-made breakfast sandwiches, but my supplies are low. Instead, I’ve found myself drawn towards easy to prep meals and quick to grab snacks. Luckily there was a sale on Odwalla granola bars at the grocery store this week and they’re getting me through the week.

I started to break through the my creativity block with this meal I concocted after getting home late last night: sweet potatoes and chopped asparagus sautéed in olive oil with an egg cooked over the top. YUM. It was created from ingredients in my fridge leftover from other meals. As I recently learned from this TED Talk (Phil Hansen: Embrace the Shake), sometimes it takes a little bit of restriction to get the creativity juices flowing again. The need to create something with the few items left in my fridge created a creativity challenge.

DSC_0751

I hope to get out of this rut and have new recipes to share next week. Any advice? What do you do when you’re in a creativity rut? I’m off to Houston, Texas for work next week and hoping the change of scenery (and weather) will speed up my creative process!

Advertisements

Mexican Baked Eggs

DSC_0502

When you find a good recipe, you do everything you can with it. That’s what happened with my Baked Eggs with Kale and Sausage from a few weeks ago. Before I had even finished the first batch I was already thinking of new variations to try! This Mexican version is another great brunch recipe – I can’t wait for the next version!

Mexican Baked Eggs

Lightly toast 6 slices bread. I laid them out on a baking pan and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, flipping once. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and arrange the bread on the bottom, slightly overlapping. Top each with 2 tablespoons refried beans.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add ½ green bell pepper diced and 1 diced medium tomato.

Put the onion, tomato, and pepper mixture over the bread in an even layer. Crack 1 egg on each slice of bread (6 eggs total) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may need to arrange the vegetables to make a little spot for the egg to fit, so it doesn’t slide off into the casserole dish. Pour 1/3 cup milk over everything to keep it moist, and sprinkle with ¼ cup cheddar cheese.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, longer or shorter depending on how you like your eggs. Top with fresh diced avocado and enjoy!

Yield: 6 servings. Per Serving: $1.45, 273 calories, 12g fat, 29g carbs, 14g protein.

Quinoa & Roasted Peaches Cereal

DSC_0595

My roommate recently brought home a challenge: recreate a delicious quinoa breakfast cereal she had for brunch at a local restaurant. This is one of my favorite things to do – make something that inspired you at a restaurant (often healthier and cheaper). It gets you super engaged in your food as you try to figure out the ingredients and make it just as good as (if not better than) the restaurant. I’m not sure I could do this any healthier (what’s healthier than quinoa and fruit for breakfast?!) but it was probably cheaper – Rachel, am I right?

As this recipe proves, quinoa is not just for lunch or dinner – it can be treated very similarly to oatmeal. It has a nutty flavor which pairs well with fruit. Preferably I would use fresh peaches, but they are out of season right now so I had to resort to canned. Just make sure to get peaches canned in juice, not syrup (i.e., sugar). Next time you have something new and tasty at a restaurant try to recreate it at home – and let me know how it goes!

Quinoa & Roasted Peaches Cereal

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain 1 can of peach halves, reserving the juice. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange peach halves in a single layer. Roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping half way through cooking time. When done, let cool slightly and dice.

Prepare 1 cup of quinoa using 1 cup water, 1 cup milk, and ¼ cup peach juice. When the quinoa is cooked through, add 1 diced apple, another ¼ cup peach juice, and diced peaches. Cook for another 2 minutes until the apples are warm. Top with ½ cup chopped walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Yield: 6 servings. Serving size: ½ cup. Per Serving: $1.16, 230 calories, 8g fat, 39g carbs, 7g protein

Oven Baked Pancake

DSC_0373

Pancakes are a go-to weekend breakfast. When I was a kid, my dad made us the most delicious blueberry pancakes. They were golden and fluffy, about half an inch thick, and we’d cover them in butter and maple syrup.  When someone else is making pancakes, I’m all for them. But I tend to opt for other recipes when I’m the one wearing the apron.

Compared to other breakfast items, pancakes are a pretty big ordeal. You have to make the batter, heat up the pan, pour each pancake individually, keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn, flip them over at just the right time so they aren’t undercooked, and then repeat this process multiple times (especially if you’re using a relatively small pan). That’s a lot to ask of me on a weekend morning.

Instead, I prefer this oven-baked pancake – a super easy recipe with very few ingredients that you slide in the oven and forget about for 20 minutes. Often referred to as a Dutch oven pancake, this dish is the perfect alternative to traditional pancakes and will totally impress your friends or roommates. It’s also made with more eggs than flour (the opposite of a traditional pancake) so it’s better for you!

Oven Baked Pancake

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put 5 tablespoons butter in a large, oven safe pan or pie dish. Place in oven to preheat and melt butter. Whisk 6 eggs until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and whisk until combined. Add to pan and bake in oven for 20 minutes, until puffy and golden. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and serve with sliced strawberries.

Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: $.90, 323 calories, 22g fat, 18g carbs, 12g protein.

Baked Eggs with Kale and Sausage

DSC_0413

We have a runner up for the most beautiful plate of food I’ve ever photographed (in first place, surf and turf from my summer vacation on Cape Cod).

I had the pleasure of entertaining a few of my lovely lady friends for brunch this past Sunday. I had a few recipes I wanted to try and needed a taste testers, plus I love being in the company of these girls! You can’t have a bad meal with great company, so all in all it was a brunch success. In addition to this baked egg casserole (which was a hit) we had an oven baked pancake (recipe coming soon), Bloody Mary’s, and delicious cupcakes-disguised-as-muffins for dessert.

Adapted from a recipe from the Food Network, this is an elegant meal you could eat for brunch or dinner. I can’t wait to make and share some variations!

Baked Eggs with Sausage and Kale

Lightly toast 6 slices bread. I laid them out on a baking pan and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, flipping once. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and arrange the bread on the bottom, slightly overlapping.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauté ½ cup diced onion in 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add 1 cup sliced mushrooms and sauté until brown. Add 2 cups baby kale and sauté until wilted. Meanwhile, brown 2 hot Italian sausage links, cases removed, in a small sauté pan. You could put the sausage in with the onions mixture, but I kept them separate so I could make a few eggs without sausage for my girlfriends.

Put the kale mixture and sausage over the bread in an even layer. Crack 1 egg on each slice of bread (6 eggs total) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You may need to arrange the kale and sausage to make a little spot for the egg to fit, so it doesn’t slide off into the casserole dish. Pour 1/3 cup milk over everything to keep it moist, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, longer or shorter depending on how you like your eggs. I baked mine for 20 minutes and the yolks were medium/hard. I love runny yolks so I’ll take them out sooner next time!

Yield: 6 servings. Per Serving: $1.20, 236 calories, 11g fat, 21g carbs, 15g protein.

Grab-and-Go Breakfast Sandwiches

DSC_0738
I’m not a natural morning person. That being said, I’ve been known to wake up at 5:15 AM to get to the gym before work. It’s not easy (or pretty) and many mornings I decide sleep is more important. One of my secrets: preparing an easy and delicious breakfast in advance.

Nothing could be easier than these frozen egg sandwiches – they reheat in just 2 minutes and taste great. You can customize them with whatever makes you most likely to get out of bed in the morning – instead of these veggies, mix in extra cheese, bacon or ham, or spinach.

Grab-and-Go Breakfast Sandwiches

Dice ½ green bell pepper, ½ medium onion, and 1 medium tomato. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large muffin tin (one that holds 6 muffins) with cooking spray. Crack 1 large egg into each cup. Lightly break the yolk of each egg with a fork. Divide the veggie mix among the cups. Slice open 6 English muffins and place on a baking sheet slice side down.

When the oven is preheated, put in the eggs and English muffins. After 5 minutes, flip the English muffins. After 5 more minutes (10 minutes total), take out the English muffins and run a spatula or knife around the outside of the eggs. After 10 more minutes (20 minutes total), take out the eggs. The center should be cooked through and not runny.

Let the muffins and eggs cool for about 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the muffin tin by running a knife around the outside of each egg and using a spatula to lift gently out of the tin. Assemble the sandwiches using 1 piece of American cheese for each sandwich.

Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. To reheat, remove plastic wrap, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave on high for 2 minutes or until warmed through.

Yield: 6 servings. Serving size: 1 sandwich. Per Serving: $1.16, 252 calories, 9g fat, 29g carbs, 16g protein.