Healthy Meals for Novice Chefs

Healthy Meals for Novice Chefs

Hey everyone! While I was browsing the social media sphere today I came across this great article from the Reno Gazette-Journal. Pretty cool that it just happened to be from my local newspaper, right? Anyways, this article is perfect for Lessons in Adult Life – just look at the name! I especially like the part about planning your meals beforehand, when I plan, I actually make the food instead of just going to El Pollo Loco again.


BuzzFeed’s Ultimate Roast Chicken Tournament

BuzzFeed’s Ultimate Roast Chicken Tournament

Have you heard the hype about BuzzFeed’s Ultimate Roast Chicken Tournament? I woke up today and this was all over my Twitter feed. It’s definitely worth a read, and all of the chickens look delicious – but I won’t give away which one won.

This article is great because, as I’m sure you know, roast chicken is both delicious and healthy, which sometimes can be hard to find. Even if there’s one that calls to you more than the winner, worry not, they have the recipes available for all of them. Happy roasting!

Crock Pot Spinach & Basil Brown Rice Risotto

I know I just recently did a Crock Pot recipe, but I’m here today to tell you that Crock Pots aren’t just for soup, y’all. You can seriously make almost anything in them these days. There are tons of resources for Crock Pot recipes that go anywhere from beef and broccoli to tacos. Today, we’ll be making risotto!

I got this recipe, again, from the Better Homes & Gardens “Skinny Slow Cooker” magazine. I got this around a year ago, so I don’t know if it’s still available, but it’s got some great recipes in it!

“Spinach And Basil Brown Rice Risotto,” pg. 117. This is technically intended to be a side, but I ate it as a main dish.

You will need:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 & 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped red or green sweet pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 & 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach, coarsely chopped (I only used one cup, two seemed like way too much, but to each their own!)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Remember, gather your ingredients first!

Remember, gather your ingredients first!

Start by coating your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Then, add in your rice (uncooked!), sweet pepper, and salt. Pour the water over it and slap on the lid.

Doesn't it just look soo appetizing at this stage?

Doesn’t it just look soo appetizing at this stage?

Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 2 & 1/2 hours. Now, I think something might be wrong with my Crock Pot, because I had it on high, and it took 4 hours for the rice to become tender. So make sure to check before you take it out!

In the meantime, prepare the rest of your ingredients. I would wait to do this part until around 30 minutes before your cook time is up. All you really have to do here is chop your spinach, snip your basil, and grate the lemon peel. Use a cheese grater!

Then, once your rice and pepper mixture is finished cooking (when the rice is tender), throw in the spinach, basil, nuts, oil, lemon peel, and garlic. Cover again and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add some cheese if you like, and you’re done! This is probably the world’s easiest risotto recipe.

It tastes better than it looks, I promise.

It tastes better than it looks, I promise.

I have to admit that my rice came out pretty mushy, but the flavors were really good, so I’m sure someone with more cooking prowess could make this amazing. Happy crocking!

Quick & Easy Apple Orchard Panini

Okay, okay, I know I said my next post would be about budgeting. But when I saw this recipe, I changed my mind. I was scouring my new favorite blog, Iowa Girl Eats (check it out!), when I saw this beauty. You had me at brie!

It also is SO easy to make and takes only a few minutes!

I can't even get over how good this is.

If this doesn’t look good to you I just don’t even know what to say.

The great thing about sandwiches is that you don’t have to be exact, so feel free to use as much or as little of each ingredient as you want. I just eyeballed it for what looked good.

You will need:

  • Italian bread
  • Green apples
  • Brie
  • Roasted deli turkey
  • Apple butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Start out by gathering all your ingredients, as usual.

I realize this is missing the bread and the olive oil. It's been a long week, okay?

I realize this is missing the bread and the olive oil. It’s been a long day.

Next, slice your brie and apples, and your bread if you need to.

I was super excited about this part just because I finally got to use my marble cheeseboard.

I was super excited about this part just because I finally got to use my marble cheeseboard.

Lay out two pieces of bread and brush the olive oil on ONE side of each. This is a college house, so we don’t have a kitchen brush, so I just drizzled a little bit and spread it around with a knife. Then flip ’em over and smear your apple butter on. I did it on both sides, but I imagine it would taste just as good on just one side. I think next time I make this I’m going to try it that way – it was a little rich for me this time (but still delicious, trust me).

It even looks delicious before you make it!

It even looks delicious before you make it!

In Kristin’s recipe, she used roasted deli turkey instead of the honey smoked kind I had. I think it would probably be better with the roasted turkey, but I already had a bunch of turkey that I needed to use, so here we are.

Next it’s time to put it all together!

This is when I discovered I am really bad at slicing apples.

This is when I discovered I am really bad at slicing apples.

Then pop your top slice of bread (olive oil side up) on top! Kristin used a panini maker, which is another amazing kitchen item I don’t have, so I just used a Foreman grill. Put the sandwich in your Foreman grill/panini maker/skillet until it’s “golden brown and crispy.” Use a spatula to take it out and let sit for a couple of minutes so you don’t burn your hand. I unfortunately learned this part the hard way, when a glob of hot apple butter went through a crack and burned my finger when I was trying to cut my sandwich in half. Oops.

So. Good.

Here's another angle.

Here’s another angle.

And there you have it! Told you it was easy, right? Thanks to Kristin for this awesome recipe!

Hearty Mediterranean Beef Stew or “I feel like we should have a party to celebrate you cooking.”

Before we get started, I just want to welcome everyone to Lessons in Adult Life! This blog will document my personal journey of trying to live like an adult while still a junior in college. I’ll tackle everything from cooking (healthily!), managing money, cleaning, and every other adult life skill you could think of. Think of it as life hacks for floundering college kids. Lessons in Adult Life will not only follow me as I attempt to live life like an adult, but also will serve as a resource for readers where I will answer questions, teach you how to do things, and provide tips and tricks for living like an adult. Let’s get started!

I decided to start off with something that every broke college kid – I mean, adult – needs: A Crock Pot.

The holy grail.

The holy grail.

If you haven’t bought one of these yet, immediately step away from your computer and get to it. You’re a busy college kid, I get it – which is why you need this! Crock Pots (or slow cookers) are amazing because you essentially just throw in all of your ingredients, wait a few hours, and BOOM! Dinner’s ready! You don’t even need to be at home while it’s cooking, so feel free to actually go to your 9:30 am class for once.

I chose to make mediterranean beef stew for one simple reason: It looked really yummy on the cover of “Skinny Slow Cooker”.

This is probably not what mine will look like.

Mine probably won’t look as good as this.

I also just wanted an excuse to use this picture.

I also just wanted an excuse to use this picture.

This recipe is super easy, even if you’re an awful cook like me. I was actually kind of shocked at how fast I was able to get all the prep done. And, like I said, the Crock Pot takes care of the rest! So, without further ado, let’s get cooking!

Mediterranean Beef Stew – Better Homes & Gardens Special Publication: Skinny Slow Cooker, pg. 62

Prep time: 25 minutes (according to the recipe, but it took me probably more like 40, because I am terrible at chopping)

Slow cook: 7 to 9 hours (low) or 3.5 to 4.5 hours high, plus 30 minutes on high

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds of lean beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (most places will already have pre-cut stew meat)
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 medium yellow sweet pepper, seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • Optional: cooked pasta

The first thing you have to do before you start cooking anything is to get all of your ingredients together. Now, I admittedly have had a history of being terrible in the kitchen, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s always get your ingredients gathered beforehand. Too many times has my mom yelled at me in high school for forgetting the salt. Or the water. Eventually she just gave up and stopped letting me help, but look who has a blog now, mom!

The whole gang's here!

The whole gang’s here.

Now that you’ve got all your pretty ingredients together (plus an extra yellow squash – I already did something wrong. Whoops.), we can begin chopping. This is about as complex as this recipe gets, so yippee! Relish in the fact that you have a Crock Pot and don’t have to actually spend time cooking. I’d also take a moment here to measure out your spices (salt, pepper, seasoning, garlic) and put them in a small bowl. It’s okay if you mix them; they’ll all be going in the pot at the same time.

The key to chopping properly is to get a cute knife.

The key to chopping properly is to get a cute knife.

Please note that I’m using baby carrots here instead of the large carrots like the recipe asked for, because I can. And because I already had them and didn’t want to go shopping for more. Since we’re just throwing our ingredients into the slow cooker, it doesn’t matter if you’re super precise. Feel free to add whatever else you think might make it taste more interesting!

Now would be a good time to get all those feelings about Breaking Bad out.

Now would be a good time to get all those feelings about Breaking Bad out. I mean, you’re already crying over onions anyways.

Once you’ve got all your ingredients chopped and measured, it’s time to start cooking the beef. Heat the olive oil on a skillet with medium-high heat. Stir until the meat is brown on all sides. Don’t worry about being perfect, it’ll get cooked through completely in the slow cooker.

Here's what it should look like when you put it into the Crock Pot.

Here’s what it should look like when you put it into the Crock Pot.

Once you finish with the first half, cook the second half and add it to the pot. Now you can add your carrots, sweet peppers, and onions – NOT the zucchini!

We'll get to you bad boys later.

We’ll get to you bad boys later.

Now, go ahead and add the Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic. The recipe calls for garlic cloves that you mince yourself, but I went the easy and cheap way.

A spoonful of this is about the same as one minced garlic clove.

A spoonful of this is about the same as one minced garlic clove.

All you have to do now is add in your tomatoes and broth, then put the lid on your Crock Pot and start cooking! Remember, 7 to 9 hours on low heat, or 3.5 to 4.5 hours on high. Now you have all the time in the world to go to class, clean your house, or you can sit around and play Super Smash Brothers like I did.

After your chosen cook time is done, turn the Crock Pot up to high and toss in your zucchini, then cover it back up. Cook for 30 more minutes. If you’re going to add pasta, now would be the time to start cooking it.

After the 30 minutes, turn off your Crock Pot and serve, over pasta if you like. If you don’t want to serve it immediately, you can keep the lid on your Crock Pot and turn it to the “Warm” setting, but don’t leave it on warm for more than four hours.

The final product.

The final product.

Now, for the taste test: My boyfriend Patrick. He’s the one who said that we should have a party in honor of me cooking for once, so thanks for that one, babe.

This is the result of 10 minutes of me trying to get a picture of him making a normal face.

This is the result of 10 minutes of me trying to get a picture of him making a normal face.

Patrick’s review was short and sweet: “It was filling and satisfying, and goes well with Sam Adams.”

There you have it! This is just the first of many posts here on Lessons in Adult Life, so stay tuned. I hope this “Lesson” in slow cooking was helpful, and let me know what else you’d like to see in the comments!