Book Review — A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

This edition was released today, August 30, 2016. I received a copy through NetGalley.

If you would like to cook more, but time just doesn’t allow it, this is the book for you. We live in a world where cooking a good, healthy dinner takes time we just don’t have. This book divides its more than 150 vegetarian recipes by the time it takes to prepare them. There are recipes that take just as long as it takes to set the table, all the way to elaborate meals that take a long time.

Personally, this book was not meant for me. My husband and I are not vegetarian (he couldn’t be if he tried), and a lot of the recipes use ingredients that just aren’t very approachable for us. But if you’re vegetarian, interested in being one, or just want to try new things, check out this book and see if there is something in it for you.

Meal Plan – August 29

This Wednesday, we’re closing on our new house! I can’t wait to get started renovating and have lots of before and after pictures to post! We’re hoping to move in in less than a month, so we have to work fast. Pretty soon I’ll be able to set up a picture-taking area with some better light, so these food posts will have better pictures.

Last Week’s Meals:

Sunday Night: Sausage and Quinoa. This is my favorite dish with quinoa yet. Cooking it in chicken stock really helps cut down the bitter taste.

Monday Night: Chicken Stroganoff. I have to work on my sauces, they often don’t thicken up like they should. But this was a tasty dish.

Tuesday Night: Tilapia and Rice. I marinated the fish for about half an hour before cooking. It helped, and tasted good, but we’re just not the biggest fans of fish like this. The rice was good though, plain rice with broccoli and edamame.

Wednesday Night: Taco Skillet. This was delicious, as most dishes with meat, vegetables and rice are. I could have gone a little heavier on the spices, I only used one tablespoon of my homemade taco seasoning blend.

Thursday Night: Ravioli with a Vino Cream Sauce. I saved the best for last, mainly because I was intimidated. This was absolutely delicious, and you can see how thick and creamy my sauce turned out. This was my first time cooking with wine, I will definitely continue.

 

This Week:

Two Timing Pasta — This is an old favorite dish of ours (mine more than my husband’s) because it’s simple, fast and so so delicious. This week (made it Sunday night) I added some chopped up sausage to it. Meal cost for this week: $4.68

Shrimp and Orzo — I’m making this with some frozen asparagus this week. Just need to pick up some feta cheese at Aldi at some point this week. Meal cost for this week: $0.79 for a lemon, negligible cost for olive oil I stocked up on. I stocked up on shrimp last week.

Brown Sugar Chicken — Just a basic baked chicken recipe. No idea of the source. Will probably serve it with mashed or baked potatoes. Meal cost for the week: <$3.49 for (a bag of) potatoes.

Green Pepper Casserole — Another old favorite dish for being easy and nutritious.  Meal cost for this week: $1.45

Portabella Stroganoff — A second stroganoff recipe to use up my egg noodles and sour cream from last week. This will probably get bumped if I end up not making dinner on Wednesday because we’re too busy with house stuff. Meal cost for this week: $0.79

Total for this week’s dinners: $11.20

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Inspirational Stuff:

I love the way this bullet journal’s weekly day is set up, and drew inspiration from it for my own bullet journal.

This is great writing inspiration, and the reason I started writing in the first place. I wanted to make someone else feel the way my favorite author, L. M. Montgomery, made me feel.

I need some inspiration to jumpstart my writing again. This might help.

 

Style:

This is a great way to look at your wardrobe so you have something for every occasion. For example, if you have three pairs of flats, have a plain pair, a statement pair, and an in-between pair. Repeat for all types of clothing.

This dress is gorgeous, one of my favorite colors, and I love the watch and style of shoe too, except not the color.

I love how simple this outfit is and how easy it would be to put together.

I love everything about this look: the full skirt, the blouse, the cardigan, the shoes, the hair.

Food:

These look absolutely delicious and I need a use for the cardamom I have in the cabinet.

I don’t usually combine meats, like ground turkey and shrimp, but this sounds like a delicious dish.

Home:

We’re going to have a lot of work to do once we get our house, this is a really cute way to outline what needs to be done.

Everyone needs to clean more, and this looks like an idea to make a sort of game out of it.

The house we’re buying has a tiny little laundry closet and I really want to make it look more homey and organized.

I adore card catalogs, this is a way to turn a small entertainment center into a lookalike! It doesn’t have drawers, but it has the look.

Meal Plan – August 22

I’m switching things up a bit to not focus on what I buy, but instead on what I cook. My meal plan always felt like an afterthought of my grocery posts, and this blog isn’t about that. Now these posts will revolve around the meals I made the previous week, what I changed, and what I’m making this week.

Last week:

Sunday Night: General Tso’s Chicken. This recipe wasn’t good. It was very wet, probably should have cooked the breaded chicken before putting it in sauce. The taste was good though, and I used a green onion garnish for the first time, which was delicious.

Monday Night: Garlic Style Shrimp. Another not great recipe from the same source. The sauce was very salty and didn’t have much flavor. My husband didn’t like it at all and didn’t finish his dinner, but did end up eating more later when he was hungry. Way too much fish sauce. Green onions improved it though.

Tuesday Night: Orzo Skillet. Always a favorite dish of ours, it always turns out well and is always delicious.

Wednesday Night: Simply Great Pork. I had Honey and Soy Pork on my meal plan but I changed it last minute because I really didn’t have enough honey. Coating the pork chops in brown sugar and Italian dressing mix is always a great and easy dinner option.

Thursday Night: Smoked Sausage and Rice. Very simple dish, with some sausage, some rice and frozen vegetables. Can’t really go wrong there. Instead of adding cheese, I cooked it with some Turkey and Cheese sausage, where cheddar cheese oozes out. It was definitely good. Instead of just adding broccoli, I used a frozen veggie mix with broccoli, carrots, beans, red peppers and chickpeas.

Friday Night: Pizza Night. I often make a homemade pizza on Fridays and this week I made a pizza with almond flour crust, from the cookbook I worked on. It wasn’t terrible, the crust was pretty thick and kind of tasted like cornbread.

 

This week:

Sausage and Quinoa — I’m not generally a fan of quinoa. I get a bitter taste often, and it just doesn’t have the taste and texture of rice. But this dish cooks it in chicken stock, which made it much better. I cooked this on Sunday night, with some frozen broccoli and a can of chickpeas. Total meal cost this week: $2.49 for the sausage.

Chicken Stroganoff — This is a new dish this week. I had mushrooms left over from last week, and I bought a large package of chicken thighs. I’m planning on making it Monday night (today). Total meal cost this week: $4.77 for chicken, egg noodles and sour cream.

Taco Skillet — While we don’t like things spicy, I like making light Mexican food every once in a while. This is a delicious dish with some taco seasoning, ground turkey, bell peppers and spinach. Total meal cost this week: $3.29 for the ground turkey, still need to buy bell peppers at Aldi.

Baked Marinated Tilapia with Broccoli Edamame Rice — We love shrimp, but we’re generally not big fish people. I made some salmon a few weeks back and despite everyone raving about how delicious salmon is, we weren’t really fans. I’ll eat it on my sushi though! This week I’m going to try marinating the fish before cooking and see if that improves the taste. Total meal cost this week: $3.39 for frozen tilapia.

Ravioli with Creamy Vino SauceI adore ravioli but my husband gets sick of it easily, and I was looking for something a little out of the box to try this week. So I’m going to attempt a cream sauce to pour over the ravioli. We’ll see how it turns out. Total meal cost for the week: $5 for ravioli, whipping cream, and mozzarella cheese.

Total for this week’s dinners: $16.45

This week in my grocery shopping I also concentrated on snacks for my husband (of course) and lunches for me. Last week I ate some tuna on crackers for lunch, which isn’t the worst, but I could have done better. So I bought some veggie burgers at Aldi for when I need them, and sardines and an avocado for avocado toast (already gone).

 

Chicken Stock, Revisited

I wrote about chicken stock in my very first blog post here. It’s been more than a year and I still make it regularly the same exact way. Here’s how to make chicken stock in your own kitchen with no effort whatsoever!

Of course, you can just buy chicken stock already made from the store. Except then you have to pay money, you don’t get a lot, and you have to use it up quickly once opened. This homemade chicken stock is more nutritious, lasts longer, and is totally free!

First you need chicken, obviously. If you regularly buy whole chickens or bone-in pieces, you’re already all set. One of my favorite ways to make chicken stock is to cook a whole chicken in my slow cooker, eat it for dinner, and then throw all of the bones back into the slow cooker. This leaves the drippings from the chicken in the stock, as well as lending a roasted flavor.

You don’t need to do that though. All you have to do is de-bone a handful of chicken thighs or drumsticks. If you roasted a whole chicken in the oven, you can use the chicken carcass. You can use any already cooked chicken, roast the bones, or just put the bones in raw. Cooked chicken seems to make a darker flavored stock, and it will have all of the flavors of anything you seasoned it with.

When I de-bone and cook some chicken thighs and don’t need stock at the moment, I just throw them in a freezer bag and into the freezer for later. You can build up a stockpile this way and you’ll never be out of stock again. Just put the chicken in raw and frozen and it will thaw right out.

Put the bones in your slow cooker and fill it with water. Some people add vinegar to help break down the bones a bit better, but I didn’t notice a difference. You can season the water if you like, or you can leave it plain so you can season your dishes you use it in later. I often throw some crushed bay leaves in mine.

Then, you just turn it on low and forget it! I put mine on before I go to bed, and wake up to a house smelling of delectable chicken in the morning. Leave it on for 8–12 hours before turning it off and letting it cool slightly.

My average slow cooker makes three mason jars’ worth of chicken stock. Simply place a strainer over the jar and pour in the stock. You will still get some sediment that settles to the bottom, but this isn’t a problem. If you don’t like it, you can use something finer like cheesecloth to strain it all out.

Once it cools and is placed in the fridge, all of the fat will rise to the top and form a solid layer. I’ve read that this somewhat seals the stock and makes it last a lot longer. The jar on the left was poured first, from the top of the slow cooker, and the one on the right was near the bottom, so it has less fat. If you use a cup to scoop and pour into your jars, you’ll have more even layers of fat.

When you want to use it, simply scoop the fat out with a spoon. I usually pour my stock through a strainer into my measuring cup, just to make sure I catch any bits I don’t want in my dish, like bits of fat. Though I’ve never done it, you can use the fat for cooking in place of oil, but beware, there are claims that any toxins/pesticides in our meat are stored in the fat. Always do your research.

If your stock becomes somewhat solid after being cooled as well, good news! This means you’ve extracted a lot of collagen from the bones and your stock is extra nutritious. It will return to liquid after being heated, just add a tiny bit of water.

Lastly, what is the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth? This is a recipe for stock, as it uses primarily bones. If you boil meat to make it, that makes it broth. Stock is richer because of the bones releasing their gelatin.

Meal Plan and Grocery Shopping – August 15

I am so ready for fall! It’s been so hot this week, plus a heavy rainstorm on Wednesday (Aldi shopping day!). That was so irritating to go out in. If it could be fall soon so I could not sweat every day and wear my pretty fall clothes, I’d be so happy.

We’re still waiting to close on our house, the tentative date is the 23rd. I can’t wait!

Found lots of good deals this week, plus it is the beginning of a new work thing that is pretty exciting. More on that in my meal plan down below.

Aldi haul:

  • Chicken tenderloins – $4.36
  • Ground turkey – $3.29
  • Chickpeas – $0.65
  • Lactose free milk – $2.79
  • Diced tomatoes – $0.55
  • Pork sausage – $2.99
  • Grapes – $1.98
  • Meat snack sticks – $2.69
  • Bowtie pasta – $0.99
  • Mushrooms – $1.19
  • Brookie dough ice cream – $1.99
  • Quick oats – $2.39
  • Frozen fruit – $2.09
  • Cereal – $1.29
  • Greek yogurt – $0.65 each
  • Breakfast cookies – $1.99
  • Tub of yogurt – $2.99
  • Blueberries – $1.29
  • Pasta sauce – $1.19

Total for the week (minus chicken, see below): $34.29

Shaw’s haul:

  • Oatmeal cookies – $2.50
  • 4 Regular Power Bars – $1.25 each
  • 1 Protein Plus Power Bar – $2 (I had a rebate for Buy 5 Power Bars Get $3 Back, so spent $4 altogether)
  • Almond flour (see below) – $10.99
  • Fish sauce (see below) – $3.49
  • Free range eggs – $2.50
  • Half gallon of milk – $1.99
  • Orange juice – $3.49
  • Shrimp (see below) – $4.99
  • Corn – $2
  • Spinach – $1
  • Green onions (see below) – $0.99
  • Red pepper – $1
  • Grapes – $2.91 (savings of $6.23 because they were $1.27lb!)
  • Bananas – $1.33
  • 4 Rev Snacks – $1.50 each
  • 2 Deli Snacks – $1.79 each (all 6 snacks had $1 off coupons on them!)
  • I also had a coupon for contact solution that brought it down from $10.99 to $5.99. Not included in total.

Total (minus ‘see below’ ingredients): $26.22!

Total for the week: $60.51

One of my freelance jobs is editing cookbooks. I’ve been doing this for a while now and they’ve asked me to test out some recipes from the books. In exchange for this, my ingredients for those dishes will be reimbursed.  That is why I purchased the chicken, shrimp, almond flour, fish sauce, and green onions, and did not include them in my grocery total.

My Meal Plan:

  • General Tso’s Chicken (from cookbook) – Chicken, almond flour, green onions
  • Honey and Soy Pork with Corn – Had all of the ingredients except the corn.
  • Orzo Skillet – Was on my list for last week and didn’t make it because I did not make chicken stock.
  • Smoked Sausage and Rice – Purchased pork sausage
  • Garlic Style Shrimp (from cookbook) – Shrimp, fish sauce, green onions

 

Weekly Pinterest Roundup

Welcome to a new weekly post on my blog where I feature some great stuff I’ve found on Pinterest during the week. Click on each picture to head to the source!

Inspirational Stuff:


I love this creative layout for the bullet journal, it really inspires me to make mine look better.

This is the story of my life, considering I’m an editor.

Some good writing advice.

Style:

I love this makeup and hair look together.

I really like how all of these outfits are like business casual but are still stuff I would probably wear.

My husband and I have been binge watching The Office, and I adore Erin’s style. I wish there was more of her on Pinterest.

Food:

I have leftover frosting from the cakes I made a couple of months ago, this seems like a great idea to use it.

I love spinach, I love grilled cheese, how amazing does this look?

Home:

So our new house that we’re waiting to close on has these awful cabinets, and I’ve been looking up ways to make them look awesome. Expect a lot of before and after pictures in the coming months!

I adore the look of white cabinets  with silver accents, so this is gorgeous.

And this pantry is so inspiring.