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  • This Week’s Healthy Dish: Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    As I mentioned previously, I’m making one new healthy dish per week this year to help me conquer my fear/reluctance to try new foods and techniques.

    One of those is quinoa. Well, it was, because I made it on Monday and it was great! I’ve actually had quinoa before, but I’ve just never liked it. Maybe it just wasn’t cooked well or something, because I was quite pleased with how it came out. I used one cup of uncooked quinoa, 3/4 cup of low-sodium chicken stock, and 1 cup of water. I combined them in a small saucepan, brought the mixture to a boil, and then left it to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. To be honest, I forgot about it until I smelled a slightly nutty odor and ran into the kitchen in a panic, convinced that I’d just burned the quinoa! But it was perfect – perfectly fluffy, that is.

    I then made this quinoa salad, although I skipped the carrot and added some sauteed shrimp. I sliced the cucumber pretty thin, and the salt from the feta pickled it slightly and gave it a marvelous crunch. I also added some Meyer lemon zest and lemon juice, since I wanted some acid to brighten the flavors.

    Quinoa Salad with Cucumber, Feta and Shrimp - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I will definitely make this salad again, and am on the hunt for other quinoa recipes to try.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    New Cooking Strategy in 2015: A new, healthy dish each week

    Cook a new healthy dish each week in 2015 - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve learned a lot about establishing new habits from James Clear, so instead of thinking in terms of goals and resolutions this year, I’m focused on changes and habits, and especially on changing habits.

    One change that I want to make this year is better eating habits – especially eating more produce and reducing my sugar consumption. However, I’ve noticed that I shy away from unfamiliar ingredients, or ingredients I’ve struggled with in the past even though they are supposed to be healthy.

    A good example is quinoa. I’ve never really liked quinoa, whether I’ve had it at a restaurant or made it myself. But a lot of people do like it and it’s healthy, and I’ve got a whole bag that I got for free at Ralphs sitting in my pantry. I’ve also got a bunch of beets from my CSA – I love eating them, but I’ve always been afraid to cook them. And, I just came across a recipe for Oven-Roasted Tofu, which is a way of eating tofu I’d never thought of.

    That got me thinking: Each week, I can plan to make a new “healthy” dish that makes me uncomfortable – whether it’s because of the ingredients and/or techniques, I will stretch my cooking abilities and knowledge, which is always a good thing, and my family and I can explore new foods. I know we may not like many of them (there’s always cereal to fall back on!), but I’m confident we’ll also discover some new favorites that will move out of the “uncomfortable” zone and into regular rotation.

    If you have beloved recipes for alternate grains, please leave them in the comments! Just keep in mind that we are a nut-free and seed-free house due to allergies (the only exception is sesame, for some odd reason). I’ll keep you updated in my weekly menu plans as to which recipes we are trying, and what we think of them.

    Spoiler alert: Since the beets are perishable, they’ll be the first new thing I try!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by KEKO64.

    Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things: Progressive Chop Turner

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    Progressive Chop Turner - Chief Family Officer's Favorite Things

    Over ten years ago, when I first began cooking for my husband, one of the first things I learned was that he likes his ground meat to be as miniscule as possible. We have a wooden spoon that curves into a point on one side, much like this OXO Wooden Corner Spoon:


    It was our utensil of choice to mash ground beef and turkey as it cooked, but the cooking process required a lot of intensive attention – time that I could (and preferred to) spend on other meal prep tasks while the meat cooked. Still, I love my husband and I want him to enjoy his food, so I did my best to get the ground meat as small as possible.

    Then, one day, I received a promotional pack for some product. The box included the item I was supposed to promote {I honestly don’t even remember what it was anymore}, as well as various kitchen items, including the Progressive Chop Turner:

    It’s really odd-looking, and I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m not even sure why I decided to use it, but I’m so glad I did! More than any utensil I’ve ever used, it gets my ground meat down to uniformly small pieces:

    ground meat using the Progressive Chop Turner

    It’s hard to make out each individual lump of meat because of the uniform color, but that’s now how all of my ground meat comes out looking if the recipe calls for crumbling it – tiny! And the best part is that I don’t need to stand over the stove while the meat is cooking. I can wander away for a few minutes to do something else, then come back, vigorously stab and turn the meat a few times, then leave again. (Yes, I get to work off some angst too!) I repeat the process for as long as it takes the meat to cook, and by then, I’ve accomplished quite a few other tasks around the kitchen too.

    Not long after my husband and I got together, I discovered that one of my friends likes her meat the same way {I learned this because she pulled out a lunch from home one day, and I gawked at how perfectly small and uniform her ground turkey was}. So for perfectionists and picky eaters alike, I highly recommend the Progressive Chop Turner!

    You can buy the Progressive Chop Turner for $7.99 at Amazon.

    See all of Chief Family Officer’s Favorite Things here.

    Baking When You Only Have Cold, Hard Butter

    How to Quickly Soften Cold Butter for Baking - chieffamilyofficer.com

    Many baking recipes call for softened butter. But I rarely remember to take the butter out of the fridge to soften, and all too often, when I do, I run out of time to bake and end up tossing the butter back in to the fridge. Fortunately, I picked up a little tip from my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I adapted from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home, and this technique works great for all of my baking now:

    To quickly soften cold butter for baking, simply cut the cold butter into small pieces, then put the butter in a mixer and beat until creamy.

    As you can see in the photo above, I cut the butter lengthwise four times on each side, then slice the butter into half-tablespoons, which creates a cross-section of sixteen small pieces. A stand mixer is great for this method, because you can dump the butter pieces in, start the mixer, and walk away. But a hand-held mixer should work fine too. The process takes anywhere from five to ten minutes, depending on how cold the butter and air in the room are.

    This method works a lot better than microwaving butter, which tends to melt the butter rather than softening it.

    Happy baking!

    Meal Prepping for the Week

    Simpler Menu Planning - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I’ve been discussing my menu plan struggles for the last few weeks, and my plan has been to use Mondays to prep for the week. I haven’t been very good at accomplishing much, though, and I’ve decided today is The Day It Happens. Here’s what I’m going to get done:

    1. Bake brownies
    2. Make strata for tonight’s dinner
    3. Roast cauliflower for tomorrow’s dinner
    4. Make tomorrow’s dinner
    5. Wash and chop veggies for salad {I keep lettuce in the salad spinner in the fridge}
    6. Cut pineapple {my “second” mom gets us a year-long organic fruit-of-the-month subscription from Harry & David}
    7. Turn brownies into bons bons
    8. Make simple syrup
    9. Make chai tea latte concentrate {recipe to come}

    I’ve already got the brownies in the oven, and the bread and ham for the strata are defrosting. My plan is to have everything done and the kitchen clean by the time we’re sitting down for dinner.

    If this goes well {fingers crossed}, I will try to do this every week!

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