Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

This post is sponsored by Sunkist lemons. I have been compensated as part of an ad campaign for Sunkist. Posts by others around the Internet will be identified by the hashtags #tablethesalt.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

I think I set a record for the longest title for a blog post ever, but it’s only because I wanted to be able to include every amazing ingredient in this dinner. Let’s list them again. Sweet caramelized onions. Perfectly roasted garlic. Parsley and thyme. Tart lemon. Rich cream. Over pasta, green beans and chicken.

When Sunkist contacted me to participate in their S’alternative — that is a campaign to encourage home food providers to use lemons instead of salt in dishes for the same type of flavor — I tried to think about ways I might overuse salt in our home.

It’s no secret that consuming excess amounts of salt is not healthy. For the vast majority of Americans, the bulk of daily sodium intake comes from heavily processed foods, not from salt added during cooking or at the table. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans note that virtually all Americans consume more sodium than needed, at an estimated average intake of 3,400 milligrams per day, when the recommended amount is between 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day, for the average person.

Sunkist lemons are grown in California and Arizona and available all year round. In addition to helping boost flavor and reducing sodium intake, lemons can be used in a number of ways – from household cleaning to healthy living.

lemons instead of salt

The good news is lemons play on your taste buds the same way as salt, so by using more lemon juice and zest, you can reduce the amount of salt added during the cooking process.

So I use a lot of salt when I’m trying to cut through something dense and heavy, such as potatoes or cream. That’s why I thought making pasta would be a great way to experiment with using more lemon and less salt. And what a grand experiment it was. It couldn’t have turned out more delicious.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

To make this dish, I used Sunkist’s cooking recommendation ratio of salt, lemon and zest. (See the infographic below, for more on that.) [Read more...]

Green smoothie

Green smoothie

green smoothie

Let’s talk about kale for a minute. A few years ago I read a weight loss blog where a woman had lost 100 pounds or something major. In one of her posts she listed one personal benefits about losing weight for every pound that she lost, one of which was that her new body craves kale. She said she was as shocked as anyone about it. Honestly, I didn’t believe her. I mean, I liked kale at the time, but I could never see my body craving lettuce. You guys, it’s totally true.

I started making these protein smoothies (full of kale!) as a way to sneak in some extra greens in our diet. They’re delicious. They’re so delicious. But also, after making them nearly every day for a month, my body seriously needs them. That weekend we just spent in Chicago? All I wanted was some kale. But also, I’m telling you, despite it’s suspiciously green color, you can’t even taste the kale. You’re going to have to try it. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

There are two secrets to green smoothies: 1) use frozen fruit and 2) make the green base first. This creates the best, most well blended texture. Also, here’s another secret, I make these the night before, pour it in two plastic solo cups and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Then I take one with me when I leave for work and drink it on my commute. They definitely  have a better consistency coming straight out of the blender, but making them the night before makes my mornings less hectic, and traffic is so much better when you  have a smoothie.

Let’s start. I make two at a time, so A.J. gets some sneaky greens in his diet too. Into the blender goes one container of light Greek peach yogurt, two scoops of vanilla protein powder (I buy this protein powder because it only has 6 net carbs), and one cup almond milk (I like Silk’s unsweetened, original). On top of that goes as much kale that can possibly fit. Blend. (I use the liquefy button.) [Read more...]

Slow cooker beef stroganoff

Slow cooker beef stroganoff

slow cooker beef stroganoff

A.J. asked me what we were having one night, and I told him this beef stroganoff, and he was so pleased that I got nervous that this dish might not meet his expectations. That’s me — creating stress where there is none. I am happy to announce that this dish did meet his expectations so much so that he asked me to make my beef stroganoff pizza for his upcoming birthday. I think making beef stroganoff over the stove using fresh ingredients would taste a tiny bit better than this dish, but considering I just dumped everything into a slow cooker and forgot about it, it’s pretty tasty.

It’s good for like a tasty, satisfying, comforting, easy weeknight meal, but maybe not good for that dinner you’re hosting where your boss or your in-laws are invited over. [Read more...]

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs

deviled eggs

I recently found, like, 10 seasons of Master Chef on Hulu (thanks Anna!), and I’ve been binge-watching it. And now I wonder if there are thousands of line cooks in the kitchens of dive bars longing to leave the deep freezers stacked with pre-cooked breaded chicken and bags of machine-cut french fries to work their way up the ranks in restaurants known for their chefs and seasonal ingredients and experimental menus — because that seems to be every contestant’s story on this show.

One interesting thing is that restaurant kitchens really do still work like the American Dream, where you can come in as a dishwasher and work your tail off until you become a prepper to a line cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine. I don’t know many industries like that anymore. Most of the time you can bypass some steps through education or connections.

My other thoughts about this show include: are they getting enough sleep, because it seems like they stay up really late every night? And also are chefs allowed to not like certain food? There was an episode where they harvested their own oysters, and I think all of them just cut open an oyster and ate it raw. That’s a nope for me. Does that mean I can’t be a chef? Probably.

That doesn’t stop me however from being a home food provider, and I like that role just fine. In our ongoing series on delicious things you can/should bring to a barbecue, next in the queue is deviled eggs.

bbq

 

Deviled eggs are a great side to bring to a party. They’re familiar and fun and lots of people like them. Of course, you’ll have to watch out for the party attendee who stands right next to them. and eats, like, 13 of them. And by watch out, I mean look on in horror and then gossip about them later. Those people really are the worst.

I recently made these deviled eggs for a lovely fortieth birthday party. I probably could have brought double the amount, and they still would have been gone in 10 minutes. People really like deviled eggs, guys. And really, they are not that hard to make. A little mayonnaise, a little salt, a little pepper, a little mustard. Easy peasy. If your husband complains about the smell of hard-cooked egg yolks in the kitchen, ignore him. He clearly doesn’t know delicious.

I started by hard-cooking my eggs. In an earlier post, I showed you two ways to hard-cook eggs: on the stove and in the oven. For deviled eggs, I highly recommend cooking them on the stove — they’re easier to peel later and the yolks all cook consistently this way.

I had a couple casualties during the peeling part. Some of the egg whites were two destroyed to consider taking them to a party, and ask people to eat them. It happens to the best of us. If this happens, make sure you still add the yolks to the bowl, so the proportions stay equal. Just know you’ll have more yolk mixture at the end than egg whites. Normal. Take this as an opportunity to have a pre-party snack. [Read more...]

Killer garden salad with bright lemon dressing

Killer garden salad with bright lemon dressing

bbq

In our continuing series on things to bring to a summer barbecue, I wanted to discuss the merits of a really good garden salad. I used to think having a salad with dinner was opening a bag of lettuce, throwing some of it in individual serving bowls, throwing some croutons (from another bag) on top and taking every kind of salad dressing out of the fridge and putting it on the table. While that’s not a bad way to get some leafy greens in your diet, salads can be so much more than that. If you take five minutes to chop up some veggies and make your own croutons and dressing, it really turns a bowl of lettuce into a work of art. And I feel like sometimes parties are lacking in vegetables, so offering to bring something a little bit healthy is a good solution.

garden-salad2

Croutons are easy! I’ve made them before. You just slice some bread into smallish cubes (I like to use ciabatta), toss them in some melted butter and add spices such as garlic powder or oregano and broil them for a few minutes. Assembling the salad is even easier. I like to use flavorful lettuce, such as arugula and watercress, which can be a little bitter, with romaine and baby spinach. Then I take a look at my fridge  and add any/all of the following fresh veggies: [Read more...]

Slow cooker pork ‘n beans

Slow cooker pork ‘n beans

bbq

We have another dish for the barbecue (as in barbecue party, not grill), and this one, I think, is pretty essential. You can’t have a summer party without pork ‘n beans. Right? Right. This version is made in the slow cooker which serves two purposes: 1) it’s largely hands off and 2) you can keep it in the slow cooker and it will stay warm.

slow-cooker-baked-beans3

Also what I like about this recipe is that you make your own sauce. I think a lot of times people make baked beans by just heating up the canned stuff, but if you add a couple of ingredients, it really enhances the flavor.

To make this, I dumped three cans of the baked beans in the slow cooker. Then I added some cut up hot dogs (you can use cocktail wieners or little smokies, but they are more expensive and basically taste the same), ketchup, chopped onion, mustard and molasses. (See! It’s a simple sauce, but it makes all the difference.) [Read more...]

Roast beef and caramelized onion grilled sandwiches

Roast beef and caramelized onion grilled sandwiches

roast-beef-picnic-sandwiches4

My philosophy on picnics is this: if you’re going to go the trouble of buying ice and then lugging the cooler out of the basement and up two flights of stairs and then carrying the filled thing back down to the car and then struggling with it again from the car to a picnic location, along with armfuls of pillows and blankets and jackets, you might as well make food that’s worth it.

Like, I’m not dealing with all that trouble to then eat pb&j’s and Cheez-its packed in snack bags.

Once (or every time, I’m not sure) my dad had to load the entire car of camping supplies while my mom and I got ready, and then we just sort of floated downstairs and got in the car, while he had gathered the supplies for days and packed everything up and then loaded the trunk. Man, I totally didn’t appreciate him enough for that. Preparing for camping is so hard and it’s so daunting and stressful when everyone is counting on you and you have to do it alone.  Going on a picnic for a few hours isn’t the same as camping, but I sort of felt like we were going on a camping trip with all the shit stuff we brought for this one evening. Luckily, A.J. is my cooler Sherpa and at least carries it from Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D, etc.

So as a reward for him (and for me for packing the thing), I made really, really good food. One bite into this sandwich under the bright sunshine made it all worth it. I promise.

So step one of making a really good sandwich is finding the right bread. I like grilled sandwiches for picnics (I say this like I’m the expert; we’ve been on exactly one picnic) because everything is melty and holds together really well during transport and consumption. Eating on the ground is hard enough, I don’t want to have to dodge dollops of sauce falling from the bottom of the sandwich or deal with crust crumbs all over my chest. For these grilled sandwiches I used ciabatta, which is one of our favorite breads anyway.

I recently read that you can caramelize onions in a slow cooker, which was sort of my plan for these sandwiches because caramelizing onions is a major pain in the butt and involves a lot of time standing over the hot stove, which is not exactly fun in the middle of summer. Except that didn’t happen because by the time I got my life together and got back from the store with my supplies we had like four hours until liftoff, and there was not enough time for slow cooking anything. So I cooked mine over the stove. Bah humbug. [Read more...]

Slow cooker ham barbecue

Slow cooker ham barbecue

bbq

Obviously when you’re headed to a barbecue or hosting your own, grill space is at a premium, so sometimes it’s great to bring a picnic-y dish that doesn’t require a grill. Enter: ham barbecue. I had never heard of ham barbecue until I moved to Pennsylvania, but it’s pretty normal ’round these parts, and it’s sooooo easy. Really you just need deli ham and barbecue sauce, but I made my own sauce for this version, just because.

slow-cooker-ham-barbecue5

So I sprayed my slow cooker with cooking spray and then threw in 2 pounds of ham. I used black forest ham from the deli. You can use whatever ham you want to use. Then in a separate bowl,  I combined water, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, white vinegar and some mustard. I poured this over the top, gave it a few stirs and then let it cook about four hours. Done and done. [Read more...]

Honey-spiced chicken thighs

Honey-spiced chicken thighs

honey-spiced-chicken6

We just talked about marinades and why they’re great for meat, and today we’re going to talk about rubs. Rubs aren’t as effective in terms of changing the makeup of chicken or meat, (they’re not going to break down protein and make it more tender) but they do a number on the flavor. This is a spicy-ish rub with chili pepper and cayenne, garlic powder and cumin and paprika, mixed with some honey and cider vinegar. What I loved about this dinner, other than the deliciousness, was that it was cheap, quick and easy. Perfect for a weeknight.

Let’s talk about its flavor? Honey and chili powder is such a great combination — they bring out the best in each other. And then you have this earthy cumin and paprika base of flavor that rounds it out into something really satisfying. It’s like you take a bite, and you’re not sure what you’re tasting — you can’t distinguish the spices from each other, but you know it’s a party in your mouth.

I started by mixing up the spices, along with some salt and pepper, with the honey and vinegar. Then I used a silicone brush to brush it all over each of my chicken thighs. (Fun fact: before I owned a silicone brush, I used an old (clean) makeup brush for my brushing. It wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. Having a silicone brush has been really helpful.)  [Read more...]

Slow cooker mushroom chicken and stuffing

Slow cooker mushroom chicken and stuffing

slow-cooker-chicken-and-mushroom3

Well this wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever photographed, but it sure was delicious and easy and for those reasons, it’s worth posting. This is slow cooker chicken with a delicious mushroom mush that’s made with soup and boxed stuffing mix. The stuffing doesn’t turn out like stuffing, but it does create this wonderful savory side that has the texture of polenta/grits/oatmeal. You’re just going to have to trust me. [Read more...]