Well, it’s been a few days since I started my objective. The goals were basic, and that’s what kept me on the path. Keeping it simple is so important and yet I seem to try with all my might to over complicate what I’ve discovered as easier to do that I thought. So I am going to recap the entire adventure as a way to keep the experiment rolling along. So let’s recap.
FRIDAY – Breaded Chicken with sweet potato fries, spinach leaves, and cauliflower rice.
Total time prep and cook was an hour and thirty minutes.
Logan helped me out which slows down the process, but it’s worth it since he’s so picky I figured him seeing the work that goes into the cooking might make him more inclined to try it. It worked too.
Chicken – I cut the chicken breasts into small pieces, and I made a breading of panko bread crumbs, celery salt, a little garlic powder, and a Tuscan season.
The point is I tried to make my own breading, keeping it simple. Need to reduce the salt though. I used wheat flour to dust the pieces, then into the egg wash, and then finally into the breadcrumbs. I always got that backwards before, so now I know this is how to do it. Yay!! I also fried them in a skillet with olive oil, and I waited until it was hot before I put the chicken in. The chicken came out crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The brown coloring of the chicken is when I knew to flip them.
Sweet Potato Fries – It was the first thing I prepped and got cooking. I sliced the sweet potato into long thin strips, and then cooked them in extra virgin olive oil. Once done I lightly salted them.
These are a great deal more challenging to cook than potato fries since they take longer. You have to keep a watch on them or they got burned, or worse under cooked. Mushy or burnt aren’t the flavors I’m going for. I ended up burning them. Logan helped cut some of the pieces, with supervision of course, but he loved determining the shapes that we were cooking, and even noted one of the ones he ate as the one he made.
Cauliflower rice – This is so easy to make. It just takes a little elbow grease. With Logan’s help we took turns grating the whole head of cauliflower on a cheese grater. The idea is to have it grated down to rice sized pieces. I then cooked it in a little butter, salt, and pepper. So easy, and so delicious.
The result was delicious, although next time I will try not to burn so many fries. Ah well, it was never going to be perfect right off the bat. We had no leftovers, and my son especially loved the chicken. It was nice to know that I had complete control over the ingredients. There were a few pieces of chicken left over which we ate the next day at lunch.
SATURDAY – Wheat penne with a marinara sauce and Gruyere cheese and chicken sausage by Aidell’s. Served with Brussels Sprouts and Spinach Leaves.
Total prep time – 30 minutes prep to cook.
This one I did solo so it was the quickest, but I think it would still be this fast if the kids were here too.
Chicken sausage – It was made by Aidell’s so no real prep time, other than I cut it into small squares, and cooked it on a separate skillet. I kept it on the side, as it turned out to be a bit peppery. Logan liked it, but felt it was too spicy so he only had a few.
Brussels Sprouts – So easy to make. I cut the Brussels Sprouts in half, and then placed them flat side down on the skillet with a little olive oil. I salted and peppered them as I cook them until then get charred a bit on the front, and then I flip them, and let them cook out. I dice up a clove of garlic and cook that with the sprouts at the end. Garlic cooks too quickly.
Marinara sauce – I wanted to spice up the store bought sauce. I bought one that only had ingredients that I knew of, and was low in salt. I then added some sauteed diced onions, and a little garlic bell pepper spice. It brought it to a new life. Someday I will make my own.
Wheat penne pasta is easy enough to cook. Boil some water, add the salt, and a little olive oil, and then cook until the pasta is firm, but cooked. Pretty easy once you get used to it. I’ve noticed that wheat pasta seems to take a little longer to cook than the normal pasta.
It was served with some spinach leaves which I leave hole since they are fun to eat with your hands. Especially for the kids, and I kind of want them use to that slightly bitter taste.
Overall this was a great meal, and we only had a little bit of pasta left over which we did use for the kid’s lunch the next day.
SUNDAY – Lime and black pepper center cut pork chops with Asparagus and barbecue black beans. To be honest this was my first time really messing with pork, but I have heard less horror stories than I have with chicken. Pork is delicious, and from what I have read, it’s pretty nutritious. May be high in sodium, but it’s got high B1 vitamin content and is a good source of B2, B6, B12 and Niacin. So why not give it a shot. It turned out pretty good at least the way I cooked it.
Total time was 1 hour for cook and prep.
Pork – I chose center cut pork chops, with no bone. I am considering getting it with the bone since I have heard that cooking with the bone adds a lot of great flavor and moisture. I will have to see. I cooked the pork chops on a skillet with a little olive oil, and put them on plain. I salted and peppered one side as it cooked and squeezed the lime. There were four pieces, so I used a quarter of a lime for each. I cut the lime into eight pieces and used a wedge for each side. I started cooking it on high, and then when it looked cooked, I flipped the meat, repeated the process with the salt, pepper and lime, and reduced the heat to low.
Black Beans – I get the no salt black beans, and started off by sauteing some diced onions. After draining the water from the can, I put the black beans in and let them cook on a medium heat. I added the barbecue sauce, to be honest it was a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. I do want to make my own, but it did the trick.
Asparagus – It’s a similar process to the Brussels Sprouts. I cooked them in olive oil, and saute them until they are slightly burnt. Then I add the minced garlic at the end, and let them finish off.
Overall the food came out amazing. The pork was juicy and full of flavor. There were no left overs after this meal. Sadly Ellie wouldn’t eat the pork, but I think this week I’m going to go with breading the pork.
The overall experiment was a success! I had an average cook and prep time of about 45 minutes, and since I clean as I go, I had very little clean up at the end. I utilized a small amount of space in the refrigerator to store the items. I kept them simple, and easy. The cook time wasn’t too bad, but I’m going to have to figure out how to shorten it some. Realistically it should take an hour to have food of some quality, but figuring out shortcuts is going to help me become a better chef for my family. I use the skillet a lot, and need to start working with the crock pot, and the oven. I have no desire to use the microwave for much. I feel I can do little things here and there to modify what I’m already doing to insure my family is eating healthy and delicious food. The next three day menu is already set, and from here on out, I’m only going to the one blog to review the experience. I have also some of the same ingredients, and am challenging myself to come up with different ways to prepare them. It should also be noted that I only spent around 55 dollars for the meals which equates to about $4.5o per person per dinner, and it was good!!!
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of meals that we are having, and the idea of keeping it fresh and different 365 days a year is a daunting task. If I could, I would like it to have at least 60 solid dinners that I can rotate throughout the year. Keeping it fresh, but familiar, and add room for new and inventive dishes. Also having my kids help me out made the experience even more fun. I already made Mondays meal, and Ellie helped, she was so excited she told everyone. This is the cooking adventure of a Real Beat Dad! Stay tuned.