L2C Challenge – Skinny Taste One & Done – Petite Meatloaf Dinner

This week – PETITE MEATLOAF DINNER (p. 97)

Meatloaf is one of my comfort foods! When I was pregnant with each of my boys, meatloaf was the first freezer meal I made in anticipation of the first few weeks home with baby. Gina Homolka’s petite meatloaf looked too good (and cute!) not to try. Plus, the fact that it is made with turkey is an added bonus to making this a healthier dish!

Ingredients –

  • Lean ground turkey
  • Quick-cooking oats
  • Egg
  • Onions
  • Green beans
  • Carrots
  • Ketchup
  • Dried marjoram
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Difficulty level –

This week was another easy one. One thing I have noticed with the recipes I’ve made from this cookbook thus far is that they are all straightforward – this is another truly beginner dish.

Price –

If you don’t have any of the required ingredients, this dish will cost approximately $30-$40 (given the required sauces/spices). Since I had most, I paid under $10 for the marjoram and turkey.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

Nothing! AGAIN!! This is very straightforward!!!

Alterations to Recipe –

The only alteration I made was to the carrots – the recipe called for heirloom carrots but I couldn’t find any at my grocery store so I just used regular carrots that I had on hand. They tasted great but I do think the heirloom carrots would provide a better crunch and will be sure to use those the next time around.

Verdict –

Like I’ve said before, I like when dinners are large enough that we have leftovers for lunch the next day. This recipe says it serves 4 and (for our family) it served 3. When I think of meatloaf, I think of making several pans which yield bigger sizes; so this sheet pan recipe was different in that manner.

This was my first time cooking turkey in a sheet pan. I was afraid that the meat would be dry but it wasn’t – the flavour was delicious and very moist. The final verdict is that this is definitely a make again dish (I’ll just have to double the recipe to make it fit our family needs)!

L2C Challenge – Skinny Taste One & Done – Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Potatoes

This week – ROASTED SAUSAGE, PEPPERS AND POTATOES (p. 89)

We usually have a pack of sausages in our freezer for whenever we need to make a quick and simple meal. Grilled sausages with a side salad is a common dish in our house during BBQ season. I had never roasted them in the oven before and, to be honest, Paolo is the only one who uses the BBQ, so I thought this might be a good way for me to cook our “BBQ season staple” without actually using the BBQ!

Ingredients –

  • Bell peppers
  • Russet potatoes
  • Onion
  • Sausage links
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & Pepper

Difficulty level –

On a scale of 1 to 10, the difficulty level for this one is a ZERO! Aside from mixing the vegetables and seasoning in a bowl beforehand, the whole recipe is made in a sheet pan.

Price –

All of the ingredients for this recipe – except the fresh rosemary – are things we usually have on hand; so I didn’t have to get anything to make this week’s recipe. If these ingredients are not regulars in your home, then you’re probably looking at about $10-$15 to make this meal. At $3-$4 per serving, you can’t go wrong.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • Difference between roasting and baking? I panicked for a moment when I realized my range didn’t have a “Roasting” button but, turns out, the difference between roasting and baking is just the temperature. (Phew, crisis averted!)
    • According to Google, anything 400oF and more is “roasting”, while baking is when the temperature is 375oF or less.
      • But then I wondered, if roasting is 400oF and more and baking is 375oF and less, then what do we call something that is cooking at 376oF to 399oF? [I haven’t found the answer; if you know, please enlighten me in the comments below!].

Alterations to Recipe –

This recipe uses basic ingredients and is literally a 2-step instruction process, so no alterations were needed.

Verdict –

I loved this recipe for many reasons. The first being, of course, that it was delicious. Theo is not usually a fan of potatoes (unless they’re fries) or onions but even he ate them! This is a great weeknight meal – you can even dice the vegetables ahead of time and then just spread on the baking sheet when it’s time to cook.

The only potential “negative” for this recipe is that it takes about 1 hour to roast. So this isn’t something I would make on evenings where we have activities but, if you’re home and have the time, you can prep the entire recipe in less than 5 minutes, put it in the oven and forget about it (except for 2-3 times where you’ll need to stir and add the sausages).

I’m definitely going to keep this one handy for those days where we need a hassle-free quick(ish) meal!

L2C Challenge – Skinny Taste One & Done – Open-Faced French Onion Burgers

This week – OPEN-FACED FRENCH ONION BURGERS (p. 71)

With the beautiful weather this week, I figured what’s better than enjoying some freshly made burgers! My whole life, I have disliked onions; then, when I was pregnant with Luca, one of my biggest cravings was caramelized onions – go figure… Now, even after having Luca, I still love caramelized onions (although my dislike of raw onions remains)! So when I saw this recipe, which combines the fresh burgers and cooked onions, I knew it would be perfect to try!

Ingredients

  • Lean ground beef
  • Onions
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh parsley
  • Gruyere or Swiss cheese
  • Ciabatta rolls
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Butter
  • Sherry Wine
  • Beef stock

Difficulty level –

There was nothing difficult about this recipe.

However, the instructions say to cover the onions for the first 5 minutes of cooking but I actually ended up burning my onions a bit by doing that, so I probably did something wrong there…

Aside from the onions mishap and needing some patience for the caramelization (it takes about 30 minutes), this is an easy one to make.

Price

This recipe does require some ingredients that I don’t usually have on hand – such as the fresh herbs, cheeses and ground beef (we mainly use ground chicken) – so the whole dish came to about $25 for 4 servings.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe

This is my second recipe from this book and, I will say, that the instructions are very straightforward and the ingredients are all common items that you’d find in any grocery store… So, once again, I didn’t have to use google this week!!!

Alterations to Recipe

We had Vermouth on hand, so we used that as substitute for the sherry wine.

Verdict

This recipe was delicious but, to be honest, it wasn’t exceptional. It is just your average burger and onions.

If I want to make tzatziki again (like last week’s challenge) then I would definitely turn to this cookbook for the recipe. If I were to make burgers or caramelize onions, however, I likely wouldn’t be thinking of reaching for this specific recipe.

Don’t mind the happy face fries, this was Theo’s dish!

L2C Challenge – Skinny Taste One & Done – Weeknight Chicken Souvlaki

This week – WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN SOUVLAKI (p. 34)

I chose the chicken souvlaki as the first recipe to make from this cookbook because it looked fresh and bright – perfect for the start of June – and who doesn’t like souvlaki?!?

Ingredients –

  • English cucumber
  • Chicken thighs
  • Onion
  • Pocketless pitas
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Lemon
  • Red onion
  • Greek yogurt
  • Garlic
  • Fresh chives
  • Fresh mint
  • Salt & Pepper
  • EVOO
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh oregano

Difficulty level –

This is an incredibly easy recipe to make. It’s also convenient because it can technically be made in stages – the chicken can be marinated overnight and the tzatziki can be made way in advance or can be stored in the fridge afterwards for different meals. So, if you’re willing to prep ahead of time, this is a recipe that can come together in just a few minutes.

Price –

This recipe uses pretty simple ingredients that we already had on hand. The only thing I had to purchase were the fresh herbs – which came out to about $8.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

For the first time since starting this challenge, I didn’t have to use google!!! I’d like to think that it is because I’m finally getting good at this whole cooking thing but, realistically, it’s probably more a reflection of the simplicity of the ingredients and steps in this recipe.

Alterations to Recipe –

I didn’t make any changes this time around; although, in the future, I will definitely be doubling the recipe because it barely yielded enough to fill two pitas (yet it says it’s supposed to serve 4)…

Verdict –

This is a delicious recipe – very straightforward and can be quick to make if you marinate the chicken overnight and make the tzatziki ahead of time. We’ll definitely make this again, especially the tzatziki.

I was, however, disappointed at the amount of dishes I had to clean after making this recipe. I find the book title misleading because, although the chicken was technically cooked in “one skillet”, everything else was prepped in different bowls – so this is definitely not a “One & Done” recipe.

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – BOOK REVIEW!

I had big expectations for this cookbook since I’d been following Tieghan’s recipes for a long time on Instagram. Tieghan’s first book, Half Baked Harvest, won her several awards back in 2016. Her Instagram page is mesmerizing – she posts beautiful photos of food with recipes linked to her blog and, everyday, she posts stories of a new recipe. It’s no wonder that she has almost 3 million followers; the only thing that is surprising is that she has accomplished so much and is so talented yet she is only 27 years old!

The Super Simple cookbook is laid out the way you would expect a restaurant menu to be. After going through the basics, the chapters are divided by meal courses – breakfast, appetizers, salad, pizza, meats, etc.

As I have noted in my weekly recipe reviews, Tieghan did not lie, her recipes were Super Simple! And that’s coming from someone who has limited cooking experience. Having said that, the recipes I’ve made were absolutely delicious that I think even the most experienced chef would enjoy this book and, of course, it goes without saying that this is a good “starter” book for anyone looking to find their way around the kitchen.

The four recipes I posted were not the only ones I tagged; in addition to those four, the following are on my to-make list!

  • Overnight Cinnamon Roll Bread (p.44)
  • Herb and Garlic Pull Apart Rolls (p. 57)
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Seasoned Pretzels (p. 94)
  • Spinach and Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells (p. 121)
  • Lemon Butter Cod with Orzo and Asparagus (p. 243)

and the list goes on and on!

In case it is not clear by now, I LOVED this book and fully recommend it! The recipes I made were simple and delicious and I loved the fact that there was always plenty leftover for other meals.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

I sort of feel bad for next month’s cooking challenge book since it has really big shoes to fill; however, I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised since next month’s book is none other than from one of the very popular Skinnytaste collection. I chose Skinnytaste One & Done in part because it claims that all of the recipes can be made in one pot from start to finish! Less dishes to wash at the end of a meal seems like a great reason to commit to a cookbook for a month!

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – Curried Thai Spring Roll Lettuce Wraps

This week – CURRIED THAI SPRING ROLL LETTUCE WRAPS (p. 155)

Ok, so I know that the recipes I’ve chosen from this book make it seem as though it is all Asian-inspired food but, it really isn’t, there are a lot of different recipes in here – I’m just gravitating towards Thai food lately… Plus, you’ll notice this week’s ingredients are very similar to the ones I purchased for last week’s beef, so I chose these spring rolls in part to make use of the items that I already had in my pantry.

And, as usual, Tieghan did not disappoint with these wraps!

Ingredients –

  • Rice Noodles
  • Bell Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Avocados
  • Lime wedges
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Fresno chiles
  • Rice vinegar
  • Thai sweet chili sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Low-Sodium soy sauce
  • Red curry paste
  • Sesame oil

Difficulty level –

This is another beginner recipe. The prep work was straightforward and quick. You can prep everything ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Then, when ready to eat, just cook the pasta and everything else is tossed together afterwards.

Price –

Since this is my second Thai recipe in just over a week, I had almost everything I needed to make these rolls. The only ingredient purchased was the red curry paste; so total this week was $6.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • What are Fresno chiles? Turns out they’re the same as Fresno peppers.

Alterations to Recipe –

The only change I made to this recipe was to use jalapeños peppers instead of the Fresno chiles simply because I had those on hand. The rest was so straightforward that I didn’t have to change a thing.

Verdict

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Full disclosure, I made this for lunch, not dinner. I don’t think lettuce wraps alone would be enough for a dinner-time meal but it was the perfect amount for lunch. It also makes lots and keeps really well, so I ate lettuce wraps for about 3 days! The peanut sauce is versatile and I used it as a veggie dip during the week. I’ll be making this one many times over – it is fresh, light and really savoury.

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – Thai Basil Beef

This week – THAI BASIL BEEF WITH PEANUT SALSA (p. 213)

My Asian food cravings are still going strong (nope, not pregnant, just hungry…), so this week we tried the Thai Basil Beef dish and, to be honest, even before I read the description, Tieghan had me at “Peanut Salsa”…

Ingredients –

  • Rice Noodles
  • Ground Beef
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Limes
  • Salted peanuts
  • Fresno peppers
  • Onions
  • Sesame Oil
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Carrots
  • Thai sweet chili sauce
  • Low-Sodium soy sauce
  • Mint leaves

Difficulty level –

I prepped the veggies beforehand, so that wasn’t too bad when it came time to assemble things but it did require putting the different ingredients into various bowls, so the clean up was longer than I like on weeknights… In terms of the actual process of making the meal, in my opinion, this is another beginner level dish. The only “criticism” I would make is that once you start cooking you do have to stay by the stove the whole time. There’s only about 5 minutes between each step and you need to be prepping for the next stage so not much time to chase after (I mean… “attend to”) the kids while making this.

Price –

I only had the sesame oil, soy sauce, carrots and onions on hand, so I spent approximately $40 on this dish. I will say, however, that there was quite a bit leftover so Paolo and I were each able to get a second meal from this recipe.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe –

  • Different types of rice noodles? There was about 5 different packs of noodles in the grocery store and they all said “rice noodles”!
  • What are fresno peppers? Similar in look to the jalapeño peppers but with less heat.

Alterations to the Recipe –

The ingredients are pretty straightforward for this one so there wasn’t much to change. The only substitute I made was with the noodle size – the picture in the cookbook shows a thinner noodle but I opted for the large noodle and don’t regret it (it soaked up the flavours perfectly!).

Verdict –

I have an unexplainable desire to change my verdict from my past reviews just to be different but I can’t – this is again 100% a make-again dish. The recipe was delicious when eaten fresh but just as good (Paolo said it was better) reheated the next day. Plus, in addition to extras, there was lots of peanut salsa leftover which I mixed in with some plain chicken breast and rice for a tastier lunch during the week.

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – Cheesy Poblano and Bacon Quesadilla

This week – CHEESY POBLANO AND BACON QUESADILLA (p. 49)

This week, I was looking for something from the HBH book that required a little less prep time. I figured quesadillas would likely go over well with our preschooler’s picky habits and the ingredients list was nice and short. Technically, this dish is under the “Apperizers & Sides” chapter, so I knew I was going to have make another side (I made a big salad) for Paolo and me but it was the perfect amount for Theo. It would also probably be just the right amount of food if we were to have this for lunch instead of dinner.

Ingredients –

  • Thick-cut bacon
  • Peppers
  • Flour tortillas
  • Pepper Jack cheese
  • Baby Spinach
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Salsa

Difficulty level –

Once again, Tieghan didn’t lie – this recipe is SUPER simple. It is definitely a weeknight-approved quick meal. If you’re able to find shredded pepper Jack cheese than it’s even quicker to prep.

Price –

The bacon, peppers, tortillas and spinach are staples in our home, so I didn’t need to purchase those. I just had to purchase the cheddar cheese and I opted for the store-made salsa as opposed to making our own. So, in total, I only had to spend about $13 for this meal and, again, the cheese and salsa will be good for other meals/snacks.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe

  • Difference between bell peppers and poblano peppers? (Poblano peppers would have made it a bit more smoky).

Alterations to Recipe –

The recipe includes the option to make your own Pickled Jalapeño Pineapple Salsa. We’re not really fans of pineapples in our meals, so I opted for the traditional salsa (store bought) instead. I also used the bell peppers that I had on hand as opposed to the poblano peppers that the recipe calls for.

Verdict –

This is likely to be another staple in our house. So easy to make PLUS everything is made in one skillet (less dishes is always a win!). There wasn’t enough for any leftovers, so this is a one-and-done dish.

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – Korean Beef with Yum Yum Sauce

The first book in my Learn to Cook Challenge is by the amazing Tieghan Gerard, who is the chef behind Half Baked Harvest. I first learned of Tieghan when I stumbled upon her Instagram account (@halfbakedharvest) and it was love at first sight! She has almost 3 million (!!!) followers and posts daily recipes/how-to stories. I own both her books – Half Baked Harvest and Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – and for this month’s challenge I picked the Super Simple cookbook because, well, my skill set would not allow me to do anything above the “super simple” level!

My first recipe – KOREAN BEEF WITH YUM YUM SAUCE (p. 214)

I won’t lie, we have been ordering out a lot lately (trying to support local during the pandemic and eating our feelings about all of these lockdowns…). Each time we seem to gravitate towards Asian-inspired cuisine so it was no surprise that I chose the Korean Beef as my first recipe to make from this book.

Ingredients –

  • Flank Steak
  • Onions
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Rice
  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Gochujang
  • Sesame seeds
  • Tahini
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Chili powder

Difficulty level

Tieghan was not lying, this recipe was simple. The only thing I would say, however, is that I found it to be time consuming. Others with more experience chopping vegetables and slicing meat could easily breeze through this recipe but for the newbies like me, it took me about 40 minutes just to get all of the ingredients ready.

Price

I paid about $75 to get everything I needed for this recipe, which is wayyy more than I wanted to spend. However, you have to keep in mind that I am starting with a blank slate so there were a lot of pantry items that I purchased that I will be able to reuse many times over in other recipes.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe

  • What is gochujang and Where do I find it in the grocery store?
  • How to cook rice?
  • How to toast sesame seeds (I couldn’t find any ready-made toasted sesame seeds, do they even exist?)?

Alterations to Recipe –

I followed this recipe exactly as described and I think it turned out as intended (although my food pictures will never be as beautiful as Tieghan’s). In the future, I will probably substitute the mushroom and spinach side with another vegetable. My whole family is not particularly a fan of mushrooms to begin with and the mix of spinach, mushrooms and olive oil tasted like dirt to me…

Verdict

Right off the bat, I can vouch that I will be making this recipe many times again! The beef, rice and sauce were a hit with everyone, including Theo (the four year old chicken fingers lover)! The meal was delicious served fresh and just as good reheated the next day for lunch. Plus, we had left over Yum Yum sauce that we used as a dip with some veggies.

Learn To Cook Challenge

While I sit in our rental home, reviewing the millwork drawings for our future kitchen and dreaming of the day I will cook our first meal in our new home, something dawns on me – I have all of these dreams of having big family dinners but… I don’t actually cook!

I mean, I put food together that we consume daily but, often times, I’m defrosting something that we have frozen (soups, pasta sauce, etc.), adding some vegetables and a carb source and calling it “dinner”. Nothing I make actually amounts to “cooking”…

At the same time, I have an unexplained obsession with buying beautiful cookbooks! I even go as far as tabbing all of the recipes that I want to try but rarely (almost never) end up making.

So, in an effort to address my cooking shortfalls (as well as justify my cookbook purchases), I’ve created a little challenge for myself.

Each month, I will choose one cookbook (ideally, it will be one that I already own but I can’t commit to not buying new ones – it’s “for the challenge” after all!) and make at least one recipe per week from that cookbook. I won’t post the recipes on my blog because they are not my recipes to share but I will share the ingredients in case it entices any of you to try them. I will also document my experience with making each recipe and what our family’s final verdict is.

Not sure how long my challenge will last but, since the goal is to learn to cook, I feel it will be a while…