Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shorter days... quicker meals.

There are lots of reasons to love fall - the cooler temperatures, the colorful leaves, the pumpkins, the sweaters, apple cider, boots - lots and lots of reasons. But I don't love that by the time we get home from work and cook dinner, it's too dark to go for a walk in the park. We can walk at the gym, but it's not nearly as satisfying as being out in nature, with the trees and wind and dappling light. We've been able to squeeze a few walks in by making some super-quick dinners, but with the whole Fall Back thing happening in a couple of weeks, even the quick dinners won't buy us any extra daylight.

That said, our current favorite super-fast meal is a white bean and tuna salad, inspired by one I found in a Nigella Lawson cookbook. It's a no-cook, toss-together-with-pantry-staples option on the evenings when we are short on time and/or short on thawed proteins.

Tuna and White Bean Salad
Adapted from Nigella Larson
Servings: 6

1 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice from 2 lemons
2 (14.5 ounce) cans white beans (like great northern or similar)
1 (8 ounce) can good quality tuna
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Put the chopped onion into a bowl with the lemon juice and let it steep while you prepare the salad. Drain the beans and rinse them to get rid of any gloop, then put them in a serving bowl. Drain the tuna and flake it into the beans.

Add the olive oil to the onion and lemon juice and whisk it to make a dressing and pour this over the tuna and beans. Fork the salad through, seasoning with salt and pepper, and then scatter over the parsley.

I like to serve this salad on open-faced on sandwich thins with some fresh spinach. It's even better after sitting in the fridge overnight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chili when it's chilly!

When the weather turns chilly, it's time for some chili!

We wanted to try something a little different with our chili last weekend and opted for a white chicken chili, rather than the traditional tomato-and-ground turkey variety. I looked through lots of recipes and put my own together based on personal preference. The end result was a chili that's homey and comforting, a little spicy, savory, creamy, chunky - all the things you look for in a hearty dish. This chili comes together quickly, yet has a slow-simmered flavor.

The best bonus? It's healthy! Very little fat, but lots of protein and fiber. That's what takes it from awesome to super-awesome.

Lyndsey’s Super-Awesome White Chicken Chili
Servings: 8

For the chicken:
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. tequila

For the chili:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken broth
3 cans white beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can corn
Salt and pepper

For garnish:
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour Cream
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

For the chicken:
Preheat a Sous Vide Supreme to 147 degrees. Season the chicken with chili powder, salt and pepper. Put the chicken into a food-safe plastic bag, add the tequila, and vacuum seal. Sous vide for about an hour. Remove from the bags, shred the chicken or chop into chunks, and set aside.

For the chili:
Puree one can of beans and the corn in a blender and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and slowly cook until tender. Mix in the garlic, peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the puree, chicken broth, chicken and the rest of the beans (drained). Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with garnishes and cornbread!

Cornbread is definitely necessary here. Corn tortillas would probably be good, too.

You can pre-cook the chicken any way you like - boiled, poached, etc. - but it's so tender and moist when it's cooked sous vide style.

We made this on Sunday and I had this as leftovers on Monday for lunch and Tuesday for dinner. It was delicious every time. This recipe is a cold-weather winner!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

There and back again.

At the end of August, I was able to accompany Mr. Awesome to San Francisco for the first couple of days of his week-long VMWorld conference trip. We traveled with Brian and Courtney who, like Frank, stayed for a week while I had to return to the real world of a new fall semester after three days. Three days is better than no days. Over the next few days we squeezed all we could out of San Francisco. Some highlights:
  • Eating dinner at Boulevard, the 2012 James Beard winner for Best Restaurant. On the way back to the hotel, our cab drove past Fleur de Lys, the restaurant run by Hubert Keller. Guess who we spotted standing out front, at 11 at night, in his white chef's garb, looking all chefy and awesome. Yep. The man himself. It was surreal and special.

  • Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Eating meatballs in the Castro.

  • Eating lunch with Courtney at The Slanted Door. Can't go wrong with Vietnamese. Also, notice the "eating" theme. We were the group who ate San Francisco.

  • Walking up and down steeper hills than during our Rocky Mountain hikes.

  • Going to the bathroom in the Academy of Sciences building so we could see the dinosaur without paying for admission.

San Francisco is a lively, exciting, fascinating place and I am looking forward to hopefully returning soon so we can hit up sights we missed this time around (I'm looking at you, redwoods).

Upon our return, we had a couple of weeks off before we headed out again, this time for a week in Texas for a few Ben Folds Five shows. The shows were great, and we managed to find a few really great things to do in Texas that we highly recommend to anyone heading there in the future.

1. The Dallas World Aquarium. Nestled downtown, it looks like an office building with some tropical plants scattered about the exterior. But once inside, the place is amazing! Otters, a sloth, an octopus, alligators, birds, fish, turtles, a jaguar - so many things to see! We loved this place.

2. The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Thousands of butterflies, a cocoon viewing area where you can watch butterflies being born, more butterflies, spiders, ants, centipedes, and even more butterflies. Butterflies everywhere!

3. Densetsu sushi restaurant in Plano, Texas. One of the most creative - and affordable - sushi places we've been. Super fresh, lovely and delicious. Here's our spread from one of two visits:

We would have eaten there a third time, but we got a flat tire on our way from Houston to Dallas and didn't end up in Dallas until late.

So now we're home for a while, and though I love traveling, seeing new places and eating my way through new cities, I'm really glad to be home. I'm ready to do some home cooking!