week 13

FRIDAY: flank steak with horseradish sauce
SATURDAY: dinner out
SUNDAY: lamb burgers with mint-feta pesto
MONDAY: shrimp & avocado salad with miso dressing
TUESDAY: ginger beef salad with miso vinaigrette
WEDNESDAY: chicken souvlaki with greek salad
THURSDAY: salmon with pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto

“all by myself…. don’t wanna be… all by myself…” thinking of bridget jones right now, but in actuality, i was abandoned for dinner on friday.  my husband was stuck working super late and my boy was out with friends. so i was all alone. normally i wouldn’t bother to cook a proper dinner but (ugh) i’m starting this two week test on sunday and i’d marinated the steak already so it needed to be cooked.  poor me, having to eat a steak and potato dinner all by myself.

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this is absolutely one of my family’s favourite meals, so i actually feel bad that they missed out. flank steak with horseradish sauce. i accidentally discovered that this steak does not in fact need to be marinated overnight, as per the recipe; so if, like me, you wake up one morning, fully intending on serving this dish for dinner, but realise you not only neglected to marinate your flank steak the night before, but you forgot to even take it out of the freezer, well all is not lost. i made up the marinade while thawing said steak, then put both in a ziploc bag and let them sit for several hours on the counter. i probably wouldn’t do this in the middle of summer when it’s boiling both inside and out, but it was fine at this time of year. fyi, that horseradish sauce is the shit!! i boiled and then pan fried some nugget potatoes to go with, along with some green beans. deeelicious!

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okay so to kick off this two week test, i made lamb burgers with mint-feta pesto. i made this for the first time not too long ago and quickly added it to my recipe box! it does suggest you serve these burgers in pita bread, but both times i’ve served them without and they are delightful as is, with a big dollop of that amazing pesto. it’s also pretty quick to make. i probably should start paying attention to how long things take, hey? i’m going to say an hour from start to finish? but probs less than, actually. mince shallots, garlic and herbs; add lamb & beef; shape into patties. you’re supposed to grill them on the barbecue but it was pouring rain so i did them in the oven under the broiler. while they were cooking (15-20 in total), i dumped the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and voila, pesto! then i chopped the veg for a simple greek salad. see? quick.

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two week test meal #2: shrimp and avocado salad with miso dressing. here’s a meal i’ve made a handful of times, but this one was the best yet! i’m usually a wimpy baby when it comes to spicing things with chili, but i did what i was told and used both chili powder and cayenne and i’m so glad i did! the spiciness is perfectly balanced with the zinginess (zingyness?) of the dressing and the cool and crispy cucumbers and creamy avo. so good! also, i used baby kale this time instead of spinach and i think pushed it to the top. i always found the spinach version too watery. i did have to make one change to adhere to this test — i swapped out the lime juice and honey in the dressing and replaced them with rice vinegar. a bit of lime juice is fine but i can’t have honey or any other kind of sweetener for two weeks and rice vinegar is weirdly naturally sweet anyway so it worked perfectly. yum yum!

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next up was a new recipe, one i’d planned on making the last week or so ago, but ran out of time. lucky for me, it didn’t include any forbidden foods in the recipe. and guess what? it was bloody delicious!! ginger beef salad with miso vinaigrette. i’ll definitely be making this one again, carb intolerance or not! so flavourful! start with a pound of sirloin steak (at least i did — not a fan of flank steak unless it’s been marinated for hours and hours and hours like with the horseradish sauce above), and rub a ton of freshly grated gingeroot and minced garlic over both sides, then pop it on the barbecue (on under the broiler as i did) and cook till preferred doneness. it looks raw in the pic above but was actually perfectly rare. served thinly sliced on a big bed of mixed greens, chopped cucumber, yellow pepper and slivered red onion and tossed with the most delightful miso dressing. hey i just realised i made two main dish salads, each with a miso dressing, back to back. and they were both amazing!

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so far this test is not so bad when it comes to dinner. i’ve been avoiding recipes that include sweet potatoes and legumes, which are staples here, but there are so many other mealtime options that i’ve really not missed them. that hard part is not being able to have any fruit all day! but i’m certainly not complaining about the greek salad we’ve had twice this week! i know tomatoes and cucumbers are both technically fruit but they’re so low sugar that they’re on the “allowed” list — yay for that! and when it’s accompanied by chicken souvlaki? even better!! and both are so easy to throw together. chop up a few ripe tomatoes and toss them in a salad bowl. add to that some chopped cucumber and bell peppers (tradition says green but i alway go with yellow peppers), and a bit of diced red onion. most people would add olives as well, but we don’t like ’em. we do what we learned on the island of santorini; we add capers and caper leaves! season well with salt and pepper and a good sprinkle of dried oregano. pour a good tablespoon or three of quality extra virgin olive oil over top and mix everything together. then let it sit to marinate while you prepare the chicken (we’ll add the feta right before serving).

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first, light your barbecue (or, heat up your broiler like i did cos it’s pouring rain again), then cut your boneless skinless chicken breasts into bite sized chunks. season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then thread them onto some skewers. i used metal ones but if you’re using wooden ones, they always recommend soaking them for about 30 minutes prior to. once the bbq/oven is hot, cook the chicken skewers for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken cubes, flipping halfway through. while the chicken is cooking, make the souvlaki sauce. this recipe was given to me by my former greek-restaurant-owning friend. until then i’d always been marinating my chicken in a bunch of spices and olive oil overnight but she let me in on the authentic recipe… mince 1 clove of garlic and add to a small mixing bowl, then add about a half teaspoon of sea salt, a quarter teaspoon freshly ground pepper, a half teaspoon of dried oregano (or more, to taste), the juice of a good sized juicy lemon and about the same amount of extra virgin olive oil.  mix well. when the chicken is ready, remove it from the oven/bbq, and very generously glob that sauce all over the skewers! back to the salad… give it a quick toss and then take a good slice of feta cheese and place it on top of the cut veggies; drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a small sprinkling of dried oregano. that’s it.  so simple. so delish. normally i would serve roast potatoes on the side but this time, i did green beans and they were lovely.

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and last but not least this week is a fave i discovered several years ago, when bon appetit was doing one of their first new year’s cleanses: salmon with pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto. i know that looks like a professional pic but i did actually take it. anyway, they say to pan fry the salmon on the stove but i always bake it in the oven. and the pesto is super easy to make. tip: when i toast the raw pumpkin seeds (fyi, no oil necessary; a dry skillet is fine), i always do more than necessary cos toasted pepitas make for a great salad topper. there’s always leftover pesto too and that goes straight into the freezer for the next time i make those rebar-inspired quesadillas. normally i serve this meal with a side of french green lentils but, because legumes are a no-no during the test, i just made a massive salad with leaf lettuce, julienned carrots, chopped cucumber, chopped avocado, thinly sliced red onion and a simple olive oil-rice vinegar dressing.

see you next week, where i cook seven more meals while doing the two week test. truth be told, it’s not been bad at all, aside from not being able to eat any fruit (well sweet fruits anyway, cos we’re eating tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados on the daily) and cocktails! i miss fancy cocktails!

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