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Smoked Paprika Baked Cod with Brown Rice (Version 1)

This one is easily one of my best food creations so far with a #taste_score of 9.5/10! #milestone I am so proud of it not only because it tasted and looked phenomenal but also the preparation and cleanup process were very optimized. I'm becoming much more efficient and faster at cooking which makes me delighted when I cook these days.

For full credit, the recipe was inspired by the one and only Chef John, in his Seabass a la Michelle recipe over here.

#ingredients:

  • 1lb Wild Alaskan Cod cut into 4 equal portions (the recipe calls for Seabass but cod is healthier, similar and more available) 
  • Apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (the recipe calls for Sherry vinegar but I didn't have it)
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Jalapeño (prefer red for color but I only had green)
  • Green onions
  • Lemon Juice
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken stock

#recipe:

  • Prepare the brown rice. Not going to go into details, but I have found to avoid burning the rice like last time I cut the cooking time from 45 minutes to 40 minutes and during the last 5 minutes I ensured that I can still see a glimpse of the water simmering at the bottom of the pan. I prefer a slightly mushier rice rather than a slightly burnt one.
  • Add equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar in a mixing bowl.
  • Add salt and generous amount of smoked paprika. Mix everything with a whisk.
  • Add the green onions and jalapeños
  • Add the portions of cod and smother them with the mixture all over.
  • Place the portions on a baking sheet pan. Add some more paprika on the cod for color and drizzle a few drops of olive oil on each.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15 minutes (the cod will flake a bit which is an indication that it's done)
  • Serve on top of rice and drizzle some lemon juice on top (makes a huge difference so don't skip that part!!)

#lesson learned for next time:

  • Since cod is very low in fat I think this will pair wonderfully with some coleslaw with Avocado mayo (or even tartar sauce)
  • I should have kept the green part of the green onions and added to my brown rice for better visuals and taste (and less waste!)

This is the super delicious result:


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Chicken Fajitas on Whole Wheat Tortillas (Version 1)

A couple of days ago I made Fajitas for the first time! #milestone The #taste_score for my recipe was 8/10 mostly because I overcooked the chicken and it turned out a bit rubbery but still good try overall.

#ingredients:

  • 1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
  • Fajita seasoning mix
  • Fajita vegetables: Green and Red Pepper, Jalapeno, Onions
  • 1 Lime
  • Garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, Pepper and cayenne
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Coleslaw with Avocado mayo
  • Slice of American Cheese

#recipe:

  • Mix the juice of 1 lime with a tablespoon of olive oil and some fajita seasonings as well as some salt/pepper and cayenne. Place them in a plastic bag.
  • Add the chicken and using your hands mix them thoroughly.
  • Tightly seal the bag (removing air out) and let it sit in the fridge up to 4 hours to marinade
  • Heat a skillet on high heat
  • Add the marinated chicken to the pan and cook for 6 minutes (tossing and turning the chicken every now and then)
  • Drain some of the marinade and let the chicken rest
  • Add some more olive oil to the pan and then add the veggies
  • Add salt, pepper and some more fajita seasoning and let the veggies cook for 4 minutes
  • Reduce to medium high heat and then add back the chicken into the veggies and mix and cook for an extra 2 minutes
  • Server on whole wheat tortilla with some cheese and coleslaw (use a griddle to heat the bread and melt the cheese)

Huge #mistakes I did with this above recipe and the #lessons I learned are the following:

  • Avoid tossing the chicken straight from the bag into the pan as that is too much marinade that will prevent the browning of the chicken. Dry it a bit first.
  • 6 minutes as well as the extra 2 minutes is too much to cook small strips of chicken. Next time just do 3 minutes in the skillet instead this will avoid the rubbery texture of the chicken.
  • Just giving myself some props about reducing clean up time: I asked the butcher to cut them into strips and I mixed everything into the hefty bag without transferring into a bowl and making extra mess. The more I cook the more I dread the cleanup so it's good that I am working on improving this.

Aside from that it turned out well, here is the result:



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Pasta and Ground Beef (Version 4)

Last week I revisited an old recipe of mine which is the beef, pasta, veggies and cheese. I did it just like last time but the only difference is using a slice of American Cheese rather than shredded Mozzarella. The #taste_score for this specific one was 8/10.

The #mistakes I did with recipe are:

  • I crowded my pan by cooking the veggies, the beef and the tomato sauce all at once.
  • I also ended up very finely breaking down the ground beef to small grains rather than small fluffy balls. Regardless it was still a good recipe and that is the only #lesson that I learned from this one is:

The #lessons learned are:

  • Start with cooking the ground beef in an individual pan (without the veggies) and avoid breaking them very finely (let them sit for a minute undisturbed).
  • Then proceed with cooking the veggies and once they are cooked add back the beef and then add the tomato sauce and let everything mix for a couple more minutes.

This is the result:


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Grilled Chicken with Cajun Baked Potatoes

I originally cooked a grilled chicken dinner with some baked cajun potatoes but never recorded the recipe. My #taste_score for this recipe was actually 9/10 but the potatoes easily get my 10/10, they were the best potatoes I have ever tasted (whether store bought or home cooked and that says a lot) ! #milestone

#ingredients:

  • 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 220g of peeled white potato
  • Avocado Oil cooking spray
  • Olive oil
  • Lebanese 7-spice blend (or any spices work really)
  • Oregano + Thyme + Salt
  • Cajun seasoning for the potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Ketchup and mustard

#recipe:

  • peel the potatoes and cut into small rectangles (see picture below for reference). I prefer a smaller cut for maximum seasoning coverage.
  • Spray the potatoes with the cooking spray and then season with cajun seasoning
  • Place in oven at 400degrees and convection bake for 35 minutes
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over high heat
  • Cut the chicken into 4oz portions and use a meat mallet to flatten them as even as possible 
  • Season the chicken with the spices and herbs
  • Cook chicken for 4 minutes each side on high heat then place in a separate plate to rest
  • Prepare a dressing for the chicken and potatoes consisting of ketchup + mayo + garlic (extremely delicious and works with both chicken and potatoes!!)

#lessons learned here:

  • The chicken tasted amazingly well and was tender and juicy but I was afraid I might have undercooked it a bit. The temperature was 145 max when I took it off the stove so it probably did rise a bit as it rested but unlikely to have reached the recommended 165 (although I remember Chef John mentions that even 145 is enough but trying to be extra cautious here) . I still ate them without issues. I learned from the overcooked Turkey lesson to avoid that so next time maybe instead of 4 minutes each side I'll go 4 and a half and hope it's as tender and juicy as this time. The key to cooking great chicken is the browning from the outside and minimizing the heat time which is why I went with high heat for a shorter amount of time rather than medium high, curious if a cooking expert can elaborate on this.
  • The potatoes were crispy and flavorful, the best really! I will always bake my potatoes this way from now on! Even better than fried potatoes actually.

Anyways this is the very tasty result:



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Turkey Cutlets with Gravy over Brown Rice

I did the promised Turkey, Beef Gravy and Brown Rice recipe. My #taste_score for it was actually 7/10 mostly because I overcooked the turkey that it ended up tasteless and tough to chew.

#ingredients:

  • 1 lb Turkey Cutlets
  • 0.5 cups of brown rice
  • Leftover Beef and Veggie stock (from our pounded beef recipe)
  • Balsamic Vineger
  • 1 tablespoon of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Seasoning Mix: Oregano + Thyme + Black Pepper + Cayenne + Salt

#recipe:

  • Rinse 0.5 cups of brown rice and then add them to a covered pot alongside 1.25 cups of beef broth at high heat until it boils
  • After they boil crank the heat down to low and let it cook for 45 minutes
  • Season turkey cutlets with our seasoning mix
  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil on high heat and then cook the turkey for 5 minutes on each side
  • Take the turkey out into a separate plate to rest
  • Add balsamic vinegar to the pan and deglaze it then add the remaining beef stock and let it reduce on high heat for 6 minutes or so
  • Add the tablespoon of butter to thicken and heat for another minute before serving the gravy over the turkey and over the rice

#lessons learned:

  • The brown rice was a bit burned! I should have checked on it after 30 minutes and ensured there is enough water. It wasn't terrible but not exactly as I expect.
  • The turkey was overcooked! Maybe 3-4 minutes on each side would have been enough. I'll check with a thermometer next time. The cutlets weren't too thick but I'm always afraid to undercook poultry so I end up drying them out sometimes. The #plan with poultry is to use a thermometer until they reach 155 degrees before taking them away from heat (the residual heat will get them to the recommended 165 degrees without drying them out)
  • There was no need for butter the beef stock was already rich and the aged balsamic vinegar that I use has a wonderful taste that makes the gravy taste phenomenal with no extra butter!

This the result:


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Slow Cooked Pounded Steak with Veggies Pot Roast (Version 2)

Take 2 on the slow cooked steak with veggies and this time we have a winner! My #taste_score for this one is 9/10. #milestone

The exact changes I outlined in my plan last time (March 31 entry) worked like a charm. To summarize here is the ideal way to prepare this dish.

#ingredients:

  • 1lb thin sliced of top round steak (trimmed). This seems to be the best choice for this dish and works so much better than the eye of round that I chose last time (almost same calories and nutritional profile too).
  • Mushrooms
  • 1 Red Pepper
  • 1 Jalapeño Pepper
  • 1 Onion
  • Crushed garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lebanese 7-spice blend (or any pepper mix)
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt
  • Cayenne

#recipe:

  • Use a meat mallet to tenderize the steaks on both sides
  • Season with 7-spice blend, salt and cayenne pepper
  • Preheat a skillet on high heat for 5 minutes
  • Add olive oil to a large skillet then add the steaks
  • Cook for 30seconds on each side and then take them out in a dish to rest
  • Add more olive oil to pan and toss the garlic, onion, red pepper and jalapeños. Season with salt, 7-spice blend and cayenne. Let them sear for a couple minutes until the onions have some color.
  • Finally add the mushrooms and stir everything for 3 - 4 minutes on medium high heat until the mixture releases water and is no longer simmering.
  • Add the vegetables to a pot then place the meat on top of them
  • Cover the pot with some more water.
  • Raise the heat to high until they start simmering then crank it down to low and let them cook covered for an hour and a half (or until the meat is tender)

This is the result:

If I can ask a pro one #question it would be: how to make the vegetables less soggy while slow cooking. The mushrooms were perfect but maybe I should add something other than peppers as those basically fell apart.

Also I learned from Chef John (foodwishes.com) to never get rid of 'accumulated juices' so I collected the broth and saved it as this week I decided to make rice and turkey cutlets so this broth will be used in the recipe for both dishes! I like that I started to plan my meals and think like a chef who doesn't like to waste any food or flavors haha. Stay tuned for that dish by the way!


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Slow Cooked Pounded Steak with Veggies Pot Roast (Version 1)

I slow cooked some Steak (Eye of Round) alongside with veggies (mushrooms, peppers, jalapenos...etc.) and seasoned with a Lebanese 7-spice blend for 30 minutes.

The veggies turned out perfect but the steak was tough which was a bit disappointing.

I did some research and here is what I #plan on doing next time when cooking this steak:

  • Tenderize the steak with a meat mallet (especially since eye of round is usually a very tough but lean steak with barely any fat which is why I chose it)
  • Sear for 30s on each side instead of 1 minute like I did today
  • Simmer on low for 1 hour (at least) instead of 30 minutes. I'll check tenderness and add 30 minutes if it's still not there yet. I read somewhere that 2.5 hours is customary.

Here are some pics from today's attempt so I can compare next time:


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Turkey Tacos on Crunchy Shells (Version 1)

I'm back from traveling and as explained in my Journey to Live a Healthier Lifestyle I have decided to start cooking 4 serving meals at a time just for convenience and time saving sake. The meals have to be high in protein (around 35-40g) while keeping them at around 400 calories.

The latest and very delicious meal I just cooked yesterday is Turkey Tacos with taco seasoned 99% lean ground Turkey, Jalapenos, Peppers, Tomatoes and Onions served on a hard shell taco with a slice of American Cheese.

Recipe is coming soon but here is the result before I forget!


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I watched this late night clip about making a shepherd's pie that makes me want to learn how to cook it sometime! #plan

This pie matches what I look for in a meal since it's not only tasty but contains protein, fats, carbs, as well as vegetables that I like. Also I can cook a whole tray and easily store it in the fridge to last me a few days of meals.

I've recently decided to switch from cooking individual meals into meal preping and portion sizing since it:

  • Saves me more time
  • Helps me enjoy the food! One thing I noticed is that right after cooking my meals I don't actually enjoy eating them because of all the effort that I would have just exerted
  • Keeps me from buying takeout or opting for less healthier options since I don't feel like cooking when I'm super hungry.

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Homemade Pizza EXPRESS Version 1

I attempted to make my first homemade pizza for dinner today. It was made of mostly store bought pre-packaged ingredients like pre-made dough and sauce jar but I wanted to test the waters first and hit that #milestone that I was waiting for.

My #taste_score for this recipe is 8/10. It was OK but not what I expected from a home-made pizza. The main reason was that the pre-made dough was very bland (no surprise there). More minor details in the lessons learned section below. Nonetheless it was tasty for a first try.

#calories for this are around 1070 calories

#prep_time is 15 minutes

Here are the #ingredients:

  • Pillsbury's Best Pre-Made Pizza Dough (thin crust)
  • Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce
  • Non-Stick Grape-seed Oil Non-Stick Spray
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Quarter cup of Pizza Sauce
  • One Small Tomato
  • Canned Diced Olives
  • Turkey Pepperoni
  • Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • 2 White Pearl Onions
  • Quarter Green Pepper
  • Dried Oregano


Here is the #recipe:

  • Spray a 9'' round pan with non-stick spray
  • Spread the dough on the pizza pan
  • Add half a cup of classico pizza sauce on the dough
  • Add one cup of shredded mozzarella cheese over the sauce
  • Chop 2 small pearl onions, quarter of a green pepper and half a small tomato and spread on the pizza
  • Add 15 slices of turkey pepperoni
  • Sprinkle Oregano on the pizza
  • Place the pan in the toaster oven (or regular oven) and let it bake on the pizza setting (or 400F) for 20 minutes
  • Serve and cut into 4 slices

#lessons learned for next time:

  • Use a real 12'' pizza pan instead of my 9'' regular pan (with no edges to make it easier to remove pizza after it's done and to have more room for toppings)
  • The dough was bland and didn't taste great! Gotta make my own dough next time
  • Shred my own mozzarella cheese next time, it will taste fresher
  • DO NOT use canned olives, they're disgusting
  • DO NOT use turkey pepperoni. It doesn't taste as good as it looks. Just stick with a veggie pizza next time.
  • I was about to skip the tomatoes as a topping on the pizza but I'm glad I didn't. They tasted great especially when mixed with oregano. More next time!
  • Put the cheese OVER the toppings next time. I think it will look better.

This is the process and result: