Saturday, December 5, 2009

"everything you need you know, you learned in kindergarten"

My Mom has always used this phrase, and I found out this week that it applies to after5chef cooking, too! Continuing with the weird schedule and eating dinner at my desk in my office, I thought I'd try something classic this week: peanut butter and jelly, chips (just a serving size), fruit, and a brownie ... exactly what I used to find in the lunches my Mom packed when I was little. I'll admit, it's not the most nutritious meal I've ever put together, but it is quick and satisfying. The key to this one is really the serving sizes. Seriously - read the back of the chip bag. It might say "low calorie!" on the front, but how many chips equal low calorie? It's definately not the whole bag. And take a grown-up approach to your pb&j - multi-grain bread, organic peanut butter, and fruit jam that isn't dorwning in high fructose corn syrip ... just a little food for thought.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

smoothies and a floor-cleaner margarita

Okay weird schedule ... you've met your match. The secret weapon was a breakfast smoothie! Quick, refreshing, and full of anti-oxidants a smoothie is a great way to start the day ... and pack in a few extra nutrient. Below is the recipe I used, but you can substitute any fruit you have around, throw in some wheat germ ... just about anything!

after5chef breakfast smoothie

1/2 c. non fat vanilla yogurt
1/2 c. fresh, frozen blueberries
1/4 c. orange juice
2 tbsps honey
1 cup ice

Just put everything in the blender, and mix until smooth!

AND this week's Sunday Dinner:

Jason is leaving on business tomorrow, so we made dinner reservations somewhere new for this week's Sunday Dinner. After two wonderful Thanksgivings we couldn't even think about eating any more turkey, and since J is going to be in Taiwan, Asian food of any sort was out (I was lobbying hard for sushi!) We settled on Mexican, and turned to for the reviews. We weren't looking to drive too far, and in the after5chef style, obviously not too expensive ... which is how we ended up at Sol Azteca on Beacon Street in the Fenway neighborhood. We were seated right away, but despite the empty dining room the hostess sat us basically IN the kitchen door. We asked to be moved to the second section of the room where we couldn't hear the chefs yelling in the kitchen. Much better. Our server, I should point out, was absolutely wonderful. Attentive without being annoying, friendly, and polite. But, then there was the food ... we both had margarita; mine frozen and Jason's on the rocks. I ordered a mango margarita, got a few sips in, and knew something wasn't right. Jason tasted it too, and we decided that while it was supposed to be mango, it definately had more of an eau-de-floor cleaner. It tasted like chemicals. The (wonderful) server brought me a strawberry marg instead which was a little better, but still definately the cheap frozen mix kind - nothing like the fresh fruit margaritas at Agave in Portsmouth, NH! Entrees were next, and I was pleasantly suprised. The enchilada de mole poblano were definately not standard mexican-food fare, and I appreciated that they weren't smothered in cheese. Jason had the house special of the night. Neither of us can remember what it was actually called because after his first bite we referred to it as cat food... I'll leave you to imagine what it tasted like. Suffice it to say, we won't be going back to Sol Azteca. My date,though? He's a keeper!

With Jason getting on a plane tomorrow morning, there's a new twist in this weird schedule challenge I've been up against ... cooking for one! For me, part of the joy of cooking is seeing someone I love eat good, healthy food that I've spent time preparing. I love to cook (and eat!) but it doesn't always seem worth the trouble when you're the only one who's going to be eating. This week I'm hoping to find some more time to post, with suggestions on cooking for one while still adhereing to the after5chef asthetic; whole foods, quick preparation, and most of all ... FOOD THAT TASTES GOOD!

check back soon! but in the meantime ... whip up one of those smoothies!



Sunday, November 22, 2009

new week, new recipes!

well, here's the score:

crazy schedule: 1
after5chef: 0

My first week with the unusual work schedule really threw me for a loop. Working through the lunch hour as well as a reasonable dinner time was, to say the least, challenging. But, it's a new week and I'm back up to the challenge! I started with another slow-cooker recipe to begin the week, and we will see what tomorrow brings!

Taco Casserole


1.3 lbs ground turkey, browned
14.5 oz chopped tomatoes
1 can cream of onion (I actually used cream of chicken, and it worked fine)
1.25 oz packet taco seasoning
1/4 c. water
6 tortillas, sliced into 1/2 in. strips
hot sauce (to taste)

Brown the turkey, then combine it with the tomatoes, cream of onion, water, and taco seasoning in the slow cooker. Stir in torilla stips, and cook on low for 4 hours (in a 5 qt slow cooker). Serve topped with sour cream and shredded cheese.

We were both a little skeptical about the tortilla strips, but we actually loved them! Also, since we like different amounts of spicy in our food, we added our hot sauce to our individual bowls. If you're sure about the amount you want to add, go ahead and put it right in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

breakfast of champions

These days, being a twentysomething with a college degree doesn't necessarily mean working a 9 to 5 job. For the next month, it definately doesn't mean that for me. Over the next four weeks, I'll be experiencing eating well while managing a weird work schedule - something that most twentysomethings are probably up against. For this post, it seemed to make sense to start with breakfast. I know I don't make enough time for it in my day, but now that I have morning off, I'm pretty much out of excuses. Simple is still the key here; even if I have the whole morning ahead of me, I don't necessarily want to spend the whole time doing dishes after pancakes flambe, or something like today. The solution? A classic egg mc muffin:


1 egg
1 english muffin
1 piece of ham (or bacon ... whichever type of nitrate treat you choose. or for that matter, leave it out if you'd like)
1 slice cheese (again, take it or leave it).


Fry egg. Toast english muffin. If you're going with cheese, put it on top of the egg for the last few seconds, to melt it. If you're going with the meat, throw that on the skillet for a few seconds to heat it up (you're probably going to need a new skillet if you're cooking bacon). Assemble sandwhich. That's all there is to it!



Monday, November 16, 2009

slow cooker success!

A slow cooker is an after5chef God-send. Throw everything in there, turn it on, and leave for work. By the time you get home from work, dinner is done and it's time to eat! Tonight was my first slow-cooker venture, with a lasagna. It seemed a little untraditional for a slow cooker (those always seemed like a casserole only kind of deal) but I thought I'd give it a show. absolutely loved it (and so did J!). In true after5chef fashion, minimal ingredients, not a whole lot of prep, and barely any clean-up! This recipe makes about 6 servings, and you know what that means ... left overs!!


1 lb ground turkey, browned
5 cups (two big jars) of spaghetti sauce
1 egg
1 24 oz carton cottage cheese (I know it sounds weird, but go with it)
8 uncooked lasagna noodles
mozzarella cheese


Brown the turkey; once all the fat has cooked off, combine it with the spaghetti sauce in a mixing bowl, and set aside. In a separate, smaller dish, combine the egg and the cottage cheese. In the crock pot, layer the turkey/sauce mixture, noodles, cream cheese mixture, and mozzarella (in that order) until you've used all the ingredients. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours (or on low, for 8 to 9 hours).

Suggested Side: Garlic bread.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner

After a crazy week (and usually a busy weekend!) we love to have a big Sunday dinner. Tonight was Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Carrots. Not only was it easy (and impressive!) but there are relatively few ingredients and really not much of a mess to clean up afterwards (Jason appreciates this - dishes are his territory). We have stuffing and cranberry on the side, but this dish is easily satisfying on its own!


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 large chicken thighs with skin and bones (we made enough for leftovers tomorrow, of course)
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds unpeeled medium gold potatoes, halved and sliced about a half in. thick
2 pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick spears


Preheat oven at 450 degrees, and spread 1 tbsp oil around a rimmed baking sheet. Place the thighs on the baking sheet, and turn to coat them in the oil. Mix the salt, poultry seasoning, pepper, and cloves and sprinkle about half of the mixture lightly over the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes.

Prepare potatoes and carrots, coating them with the remaining 2 tbsps oil and remaining spice mix. Take the thighs out of the oven, and place them on a plate - cover with tin foil, and set aside. Place the vegetables in the same roasting pan, turning, to cover them in the juices. Roast for 30 minutes. Take the tray of vegetables out, and places the thighs back in top. Put the whole thing back in the oven for 15 more minutes.

Suggested sides: stuffing and cranberry.




Thursday, November 5, 2009

Date Night!

Good BBQ food is hard to find. Contrary to popular belief, good BBQ does not mean cooked meat with cheap sauce poured over the top. I'd been craving fried pickles lately (fried pickles on the menu is the first mark of a great BBQ place!) so we decided to check out Red Bones ( Davis Square in Somerville. Long story short, you haven't had good BBQ until you've ventured here. With 28 beers on tap, huge plates of fried pickles and the best ribs either of us have ever come across, we're already talking about when we're going back. Entrees were reasonably priced - I had a huge platter of pulled pork, cole slaw, beans, and potato salad, all for $9.99 ... that definitely fits in the after5chef budget!

And the best part? Left overs for lunch tomorrow!

...are you seeing a theme here?

all the best,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

is it "chili" in here?

Fall is, by far, my favorite season of the year. Pumpkin Spice lattes, new sweaters, perfect temperatures ... if there was a place where a New England-esque fall existed all year, I would move there in a heart beat. Some of the recipes that come with fall are favorites too - my Mom's chili recipe being at the top of the list. I'm pretty picky about chili. I've never come acros a bowl that's surpassed one of my Mom's. I did come across a great "quick" chili this week though in a cookbook that the Jason's Mom sent to me, and that's what we had for dinner tonight. It was souper easy (ha! couldn't help myself) and actually came out way better than I thought it did, though we did make a few changes. Here is is:

after5chef quick chili:

- 4 chicken sausages, in 1/2" slices (go with a spicy flavor if you can find it - we used sundried tomato, which was great)
- 2 cans (15.5oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (15 oz) turkey chili with beans
- 1 can (8 oz) whole kernel corn
- Hot Sauce, to taste

Put a little olive oil in the skillet, and cook the sausage pieces. While they're browning, combine the tomatoes, turkey chili and corn in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. When the sausages are done, add them in and simmer the whole thing for 4 to 5 minutes (or whenever you're ready to eat). You can add the hot sauce into the whole pot, or in your individual bowls. Yield: 2 to 3 servings. Goes gerat with crusty bread (and leaves enough for a leftovers lunch at work tomorrow!)

The hot sauce was Jason's idea. I'll admit I was skeptical... but it added a nice touch! He likes things really spicy, so he handled his own hot sauce and it worked out great.

Quick recap: 5 ingredients (read: cheap!!), less than 20 minutes to prepare, and it passed the picky-boyfriend test. Definately a "make again" recipe!

all the best,


Monday, November 2, 2009

read the label

Tonight: Chicken Pot Pie

It seems ironic that the official kick-off night of the after5chef is going to be a frozen dinner. Really? This is supposed to be about cooking: fresh ingredients, slow food, local vegetables .... and I here I am with a frozen chicken pot pie in the oven. Granted, it's an all natural one from the Clear Conscience Cafe in Central Square, but still.

I considered making something else tonight, something a little more impressive. But, the more I think about it, the more this is actually entirely appropriate. My intention with the after5chef is to share recipes and ideas for busy young professionals who can't relate to the "busy mom" angle or the professional chef. The twentysomething is somewhere in between - we want food that's easy to make, while still being good for you. It has to be a little grown-up (we're past pb&j or ramen every night) but it still has to be fun to eat (I love chicken fingers). So, all that said, I'm sticking with my chicken pot pie. Why not - it's protein and vegetables ... all in one place! And the best part? Leftovers to take for lunch at work tomorrow!

So the lesson? Frozen doesn't equal bad .... just make sure you read the ingredients. This pot pie (Blakes's) had a list of ingredients that I could have made the pot pie with myself (had I had the time). I don't know about you, but my pantry doesn't have any emulsifiers in it.

all the best,


the appetizer

ap⋅pe⋅tiz⋅er [ap-i-tahy-zer]

1. a small portion of a food or drink served before or at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the desire to eat.

I haven't always loved to cook. It just seemed like a lot of work, you know? I wasn't until I moved into my first apartment, sophomore year of college, that all of the sudden I had to learn how. And fast. Basically, it was figure it out or live on ramen. And ramen didn't ever seem that appetizing, so I took my only other option, and dove in. Ever since then, cooking dinner at night has been my favorite part of the day - my creative outlet. This blog is meant to highlight the adventures (and mishaps) of a twenty-something chef who does her best to make food (on a budget) that tastes good and avoids additives (well, usually), all while appeasing her picky-eater of a boyfriend, who - despite what he might tell you - is always willing to at least try a new creation.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for this weeks adventures.

all the best,