Cooking Tips and Recipes

— Written By and last updated by

As the county slows down, many of us are finding ourselves slowing down too. I’ve seen some beautiful projects folks are doing to keep themselves busy. I’ve also seen a lot of tasty recipes being made now that we have a little extra time to cook. For those of you navigating cooking at home more frequently, or just looking for new recipes to try, I’ve included some cooking tips and a few of the recipes I have tried recently that were so good I had to share!

Tip 1: Be Flexible. Have you had a recipe in mind, but didn’t want to make a grocery store run or couldn’t find the ingredients you needed when you went to the grocery store? This is where being flexible is key! Try to think of ingredients that would be a great substitute that you may already have on hand. Recipes are not rules, make them your own! For example, last week I made a delicious marinated pork tenderloin. In my normal day-to-day, marinating requires planning out what you’re going to eat, and that is not a strength of mine. So, I thought this would be a great time to try a new marinade (I’ll include the recipe below). Unfortunately, I did not have a lemon for the lemon zest the recipe called for, and I am trying to limit my grocery store trips. I did, however, have an orange which we thought gave it an even better flavor than the original recipe. To find a substitute, think of what that ingredient is used for. If it’s lemon juice it’s probably for its acidity, so try substituting another citrus fruit or a mild vinegar in its place. If its lemon zest, it is being used for flavor, so it could be omitted completely and other spices or herbs could be used for a different flavor profile. If it’s dates (you may see several desserts classified as “healthy” calling for dates), then it is being used for sugar, so another sweetener could be used as a substitute. If you ever have a substitution question, don’t hesitate to ask!

Tip 2: Plan. I know, I just told you this isn’t a strength of mine. However, these aren’t normal times, and we should be trying to limit our grocery store trips. Also, we now have the time to cook and limited commitments getting in the way of that, so plan away! Here’s the best way to plan. First, take note of what you already have on hand. This past week, we had a ton of eggs thanks to a friend with chickens, we had frozen bananas which I use to make banana pancakes, and we had hash browns in the freezer that needed using up. So, for Wednesday, I wrote down “breakfast for dinner” in my planner. I also made note that I had shrimp in the freezer, a variety of veggies, and was in need of panko. In planning, you can either plan for the whole week prior to shopping, or if you have some experience cooking, you can see what is available at the grocery store and get creative. It is best to plan beforehand, so you don’t find yourself having to make an abundance of substitutes for cooking. This is usually what I run into because I’m not a fan of planning, so don’t be like me.

Tip 3: Try something new. My last tip for cooking, especially during these times, is to find a new recipe to try. This week I had a few new recipes. One was the marinade I mentioned earlier, and the others were recipes a friend had sent me. Both of what I tried were a hit, and my family absolutely loved them. I now have something new to add to our recipe bank of things our family loves! This is always great as it gives you a variety of options.

Check out these recipes I made this week. Let me know if you liked them! Don’t forget to check out our newest virtual program, “Cook Smart, Eat Smart.” This will begin April 14th, and we only have limited space available. Visit Sampson.ces.ncsu.edu to sign up!

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap Chopped Salad

From SkinnyTaste.com

This was shared by a friend and it was so good. We made them into lettuce wraps instead of a salad. It’s also a pretty quick recipe!

INGREDIENTS

For the Salad Dressing:

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 tsp kosher salt and pepper

For the chicken:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce*

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce

2 tablespoons less sodium soy sauce*

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

cooking spray

1 pound ground chicken

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and diced

2 tbsp chopped unsalted cashews

2 scallions, thinly sliced

For the Salad:

1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, chopped

1 romaine lettuce heart, chopped

2 carrots, grated

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oils, honey, ginger, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Set the dressing aside.
  2. For the chicken: In a medium bowl, whisk together the hoisin, vinegar, Sriracha, soy sauce, and ginger. Set aside.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray then add the chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add the water chestnuts and cashews to the pan. Pour the reserved hoisin mixture on top and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat through. Stir in the scallions. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. For the salad: In a large salad bowl, combine both of the lettuces and the carrots. Toss the salad with the dressing and divide in 4 bowls. Top each with 3/4 cup chicken mixture.
  6. Serve immediately.

Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole

From: LillieEatsandTells

Another great recipe from a friend. This was loaded with vegetables and lasted for a few days with just two of us at home. It does have a lot of chopping, but you can buy the pre-cut veggies for convenience.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup carrots, chopped (2 big carrots)

1 cup celery, chopped (3 stalks)

1 cup onion, diced (1/2 a medium onion)

1 cup bell pepper, diced (1 medium – any color)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ tsp celery salt

4 cups rotisserie chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces (save the rest for another recipe or meal!)

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup fat free milk

½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce (They were out of Frank’s when I made this, so any buffalo sauce will really do)

4 oz reduced fat cream cheese

*1 large cooked spaghetti squash, pulled into strands

Optional – ¼ cup reduced-fat blue cheese

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. *For this recipe, poke spaghetti squash several times with a knife, and microwave for 5 minutes. Rotate and assess, then microwave for another 3 minutes or so if needed, until the skin gives when you squeeze it. If you hear a lot of sizzling, check on it! You don’t want it to explode. Use an oven mitt to hold it while you cut in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop out the seedy center with a spoon. Shred with a fork.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat with about 1 tsp of olive oil (I add more if needed). Add carrots, celery, onions, bell pepper, salt, pepper, and celery salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until veggies are fragrant and soft.
  3. Add chicken and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Then mix in milk, buffalo sauce, and cream cheese.
  4. When cream cheese is melted, add strands of spaghetti squash, making sure everything is mixed together well.
  5. Put in casserole dish to bake. Smooth the top and sprinkle with ¼ cup of blue cheese, or cheese of your choice (we used low-fat cheddar).
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or if you’re in a hurry, just broil for 5 minutes.