Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 7--Guest Post, Courtesy of Erica!

As I've been learning how to cook such a wide variety of things, Erica has expressed interest in expanding her repertoire as well.  Since I've been doing most of the cooking, our cooking adventures struggle most on the weekends, since I'm always working.  

So I challenged Erica to make us dinner Saturday night with the following stipulations: She had to choose and shop for the recipe herself, it had to be clean and healthy, and not something she's ever made before.  I figured the best way to share this experience was to allow her to tell it herself, so what follows is a guest-entry from her, where she documents both her adventures in cooking and her progress with our water-only commitment:

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During Val's first 60 day challenge, I was pretty much on the sidelines.  But in this new challenge, it's 2-player mode. 
We're a week into the water-cleanse challenge, and it's more difficult than I thought it would be.  I have not been a soda drinker for years, but I do miss my morning coffee.  I enjoy the taste, and the little daily ritual of brewing a pot.  Also, it's cold out, and nothing beats a hot beverage on a cold day. 
 The first couple days, during caffeine detox, were tough.  I had already been tired from traveling and had to hit the ground running for the work week, and on top of that I had a splitting headache from withdrawal.  But that's behind me.  I've had to force myself to get more sleep every night,   and while I am usually up and ready to go in the morning now, I'm more tired in the evenings. 
 But I'm staying the course. 
 Now let's talk about last night's dinner.  It feels a little strange to be cooking with meat again.  I went looking for some clean eating recipes, and was surprised at how much variety is out there.  I wasn't expecting to see some of the recipes that popped up (pie? mac and cheese? meatball subs??) but I guess I wasn't grasping the core concept, that clean eating doesn't mean depriving yourself but instead means conscious cooking (nearly all the recipes had a nutritional breakdown estimate), cooking as close to scratch as possible so you know and control what goes into your food, and substituting unhealthy ingredients with healthier choices. 
 Anyway, a shepherd's pie recipe caught my eye.  I actually found two recipes, one with turkey, one vegetarian, and hybridized them.  I thought biscuits would go well with it, so I printed out the biscuit recipe too. 
 Oh, and I stumbled upon some muffin recipes.  I love muffins.  And I have a muffin pan, so obviously the universe wanted me to make muffins. 
 Biscuits.  Shepherd's pie.  Muffins.  In other words, a hat trick.  I didn't know if I could do it, but damned if I wasn't going to try. 
 After a quick trip to the store for supplies, where I may have inadvertently double-bought some stuff we already had (check your pantries, kids!) I tried to prep as much as possible.  I set all the ingredients out in three clusters, one for each recipe, along with measuring tools.  Since all three required the oven, my biggest challenge was parceling out the oven time. 
 I decided to start with the biscuits.  After a quick mental calculation, I knew I could wash and prep ingredients for the shepherd's pie during the biscuits' first stint in the oven, and boil the potatoes in tandem with their second stint, since they needed the same amount of time and I only have one kitchen timer. 
 Since I don't have a biscuit cutter, they turned out ugly, but with a little bit of butter they're not bad.  And whole wheat, of course. 
 On to the main course.  Here's the thing about shepherd's pie--it's an involved process.  Between the saucepan and the searing pan and the cutting board, it was a juggling act.  This included but was not limited to:  turkey, carrots, celery, green beans, onions, chives, rosemary, and garlic.
 I also mashed the potatoes with nothing but a fork.

Behold, this glorious beast.  

I still had another 45 minutes before Val was due home from work.  Plenty of time to get the muffins done, and after the crazy circus of putting together a shepherd's pie, the muffins were a breeze.  These were apple-cinnamon, and also sugar-free. 
These would go great with a cup of coffee.  Sigh. 
 PS  I like white pepper, and Val's vegetarian pot stickers were awesome.  

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