Day 33: Blackened Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

1559846_801498683205551_8340243734175821480_n (1)On the night before my daughter was to start high school, she asked that I make this recipe for “Blackened Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette” for dinner. I’m not sure what about it sounded so appealing to her, but it it looked straight-forward enough, so I thought we’d give it a try.

I’d never actually “blackened” anything from scratch before, so I didn’t know what exactly went into the mixture of spices. But now I know: paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, and ground red pepper—a lot of ground red pepper. I used chicken strips instead of whole chicken breasts (they were on sale), which made it a little easier when it came time to plate the food.

The best part of this—chicken aside—was most definitely the dressing. It was the perfect combination of olive oil, white wine vinegar, shallots, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and a little crumbled blue cheese. Just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. The recipe said to drizzle the dressing over the greens and chicken once it was plated, but because it appeared to be a little thick, I decided to mix the greens and the dressing so that it was evenly coated. Great decision!

Verdict? My daughter loved this salad so much, she asked me to pack it in her lunch for the first day of school. It was so good that now I wish I had all of the ingredients in my home so I could make it for lunch today!

You have to make this one!

Day 32: Mango Lassi Smoothie

10616228_801042979917788_3510471899053918090_nYou’d think that with an entire month of un-made recipes, I would have chosen something truly amazing to make on the first day of the month. The day, however, proved to be very busy, and I had a house full of 14 year-olds—so cooking something exotic or complicated was pretty much out of the question. Instead, I settled on making “Mango Lassi Smoothies.”

The recipe called for fresh mango, but because I didn’t have time to prep the recipe the night before, I bought frozen mango instead. I’d recommend doing the same thing—if you’ve ever tried to cutting a mango is not an easy job. So, with the frozen mango already prepared, all I had to do was throw all of the ingredients in the blender. The only thing I was missing, however, was the cardamom. I thought I had some in my spice cabinet, but it turned out to be coriander—so my smoothies had to go without as I was not about to leave a house full of kids unattended as I ran to the store.

I was the first to try the smoothie. I liked it, although it wasn’t very sweet and it had a slightly odd—can’t put my finger on it—flavor. Because I needed a second opinion, I decided to see if I had any volunteer taste-testers in the house. Fortunately for me, three boys volunteered to try it. One definitely thought it was weird, one thought it was okay, but the last said it was good. It wasn’t until the next morning, however, that I got the final verdict. I woke up to find the entire pitcher empty in the sink—it turned out that my daughter really loved it and finished up the whole thing.

Would I make it again? If my daughter asked for it for breakfast, I would most definitely make it. Would I crave it? Not really, but I would use the basis of the ingredients to make a different flavor smoothie, like strawberry.

Day 31: Halibut with Bacony Corn Sauté

10646926_800859936602759_2316195897237497161_nThis being the last day of the month, it was also the last day I had to make something from the limited uncooked August recipes. So, when I chose “Halibut with Bacony Corn Sauté,” it was mainly because I thought it would appeal to the guests I was having over for dinner. Of course, halibut was impossible to find, so I opted for salmon instead—always a people-pleaser—and the rest of the recipe I followed to a T. But, because it was the last recipe I chose out of the month of recipes, I didn’t honestly think it was going to be that great. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was incredible. Just thinking of it now makes me want to cook it again.  (The photo doesn’t do it justice!)

I’m sure you’re wondering what made this one so special. First, the simplicity in the way the fish was cooked—it only required a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then the fish cooked (flesh-side down) on med-high heat in a oiled skillet. I don’t know about you, but I almost always cook salmon in the broiler or on the grill, never on the stove top. The funny thing was, everyone was asking me what seasoning I used because the fish tasted so good. Who know, salt and pepper was all it needed.

The other thing that was unbelievably delicious was the corn sauté. It was so simple, the most difficult part being cutting the corn from the cob (not my favorite job!), and cooking the bacon (for me, turkey bacon), and stirring in some butter and green onions. Seriously, I’d make this side dish any day, it was that good.

The verdict? Everyone who was over for dinner that night ooh’d and aah’d throughout dinner. Yep, a winner.

Day 30: Bacon Endive Tomato Bites

10609713_800043523351067_2475878544222855985_nI’m not going to lie, this recipe was chosen in an act of desperation. My daughter was having friends over for a last “hoorah” before beginning the next four years of their lives, and because I was ordering them pizza and wings for dinner, along with making an array of appetizers from Trader Joe’s, I still needed to make something. And, that something had to be quick and potentially tasty, and if not, it at least had to photograph well. So I thought that “Bacon Endive Tomato Bites” would completely fit the bill.

Considering that the extent of the instructions were:

Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon 1 tablespoon tomato mixture in center of each endive leaf; sprinkle evenly with bacon.

How could I go wrong?

Well, they came out just as expected, and although I liked them, I don’t think the majority of 14 year-old girls found them that appealing. The few that ventured to try them smiled politely, and said “They were really good.” I didn’t buy it.

Would I make them again? Nope. Was there anything wrong with this recipe? Nope. Just not for me.

Day 29: Spaghetti with Sausage and Parsley Pesto

10624976_799632716725481_5374749313417865243_nEach day, when I would look through the recipes in the August section of Cooking Light, this was not one of the recipes I would think about making. That is until I got down to the end of the month, and I was looking for something quick, easy, and with minimal ingredients—”Spaghetti with Sausage and Parsley Pesto” was the perfect fit.

The unusual thing about this recipe was that instead of using basil for the pesto, it called for parsley. At first I thought it was to make it a healthier option, but then I realized that the healthiness came from substituting the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta in place of oil in a typical pesto. The final product was light a fresh, and it went well with the spicy sausage. I should say, as I mentioned before, I don’t eat pork so I substituted spicy turkey italian sausage for the pork sausage—it was a perfect switch.

Overall, this dish hit the spot for a bunch of hungry people, and I liked the idea of using a low-cal pesto option, but flavor-wise, it wasn’t that remarkable. I don’t think this is one for the memory book.

Day 28: Watermelon with Tangy Granita

10556274_799633176725435_8407293212715372261_nOne of the things with only cooking recipes from the month that I am in, is that I am forced to try things I otherwise would have skipped over (like yesterday’s Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Terrine!). I’m also forced to use ingredients that are entirely new to me or cooking techniques that leave me questioning whether I’m doing it correctly. Today’s recipe for “Watermelon with Tangy Granita” was all of these things for me! I should start out by saying that one of the plusses of this recipe was how quick and easy it was to make—10 minutes total and the use of a blender—because I was going to the Giants-Patriots pre-season game that night (yes, this post is LONG overdue). I loved the fresh ingredients, in particular the lime and fresh mint, but I did have to wonder what the outcome would be using both cilantro and cucumber along side these ingredients. But I did, and I crossed my fingers as I placed the concoction in the freezer and left for the game.

It wasn’t until the following day that I actually got to try it properly—with the watermelon—and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. I thought the overwhelming flavor was most definitely the lime, which was good, although the cucumber was a close second. On it’s own, it wasn’t something you’d want to sit down with a bowl of, but combined with the watermelon, it made for a refreshing desert. I had friends and family over that evening, so I was able to get the opinion of others: three thought it was hands-down disgusting, and another three thought it was good enough to finish. My verdict? I won’t be making it again, BUT I will be using the basis of the recipe to make a granita with some other flavors.

Day 27: Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Terrine

10552625_798699330152153_1686518090887840036_nI’m going to start out by saying, I really didn’t like this recipe. I love the ingredients—especially eggplant and fresh mozzarella—but the gelatin made from leaks, tomatoes, and garlic was definitely odd. To make it worse—in my opinion—is that the dish is served at room-temperature. It’s not a salad that would be served cold, and it’s not a hot dish—which I would have preferred with these ingredients—so, once again, just odd. Out of all of the people who came in contact with this dish, four refused to even try it and three of us we daring enough to eat it. Unfortunately, those of us who ate it generally agreed that it was 1) not worth keeping the leftovers; 2) not worth making again.

If you decide to make it anyway—even after this glowing review—please let me know what you think!