Real Simple: Week Four

This is the last week of my self-imposed Real Simple challenge. And, thank God for that. This has been probably the worst month of eating I’ve ever had. Seriously. From the bland to the weird, in 20 different recipes, I found maybe two worth making again. Pretty bad ratio. If you’re interested in past weeks, you can read them here:

  • Week One (back when I was eager to try new things)
  • Week Two (then I started to feel a bit irritated)
  • Week Three (the week of starvation

For those of you who love to see me in pain, my last week will not disappoint.

Monday: Tilapia with Pecan Brown Butter

  • 1 C wild and long-grain rice blend
  • 1 lb  green beans, trimmed
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ C chopped pecans
  • 2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 t fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 t canola oil
  • 6-oz tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise

Cook the rice according to the package directions. Steam the green beans until tender, 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until foamy, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the pecans and cook, stirring, until the butter is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tilapia with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper. In two batches, cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Drizzle the tilapia with the sauce and serve with the rice, green beans, and lemon wedges.

Results

Em said that the best part of this recipe was the rice… which was Uncle Ben’s wild rice from a box. Pecan butter is fun and easy to make, but it just kind of sat on the fish and beans. Honestly, I think a crushed pecan crust over the fish with a pecan butter on the green beans would have been an improvement.

Tilapia with green beans and wild rice

Tuesday: Turkey Cutlet Sandwiches with Oven Fries

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1½ lbs), cut into ½” wedges
  • 3 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ¼ C mayonnaise
  • 1-2 t hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ head red cabbage, shredded (about 3 C)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 4 turkey cutlets (about 1 lb total)
  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread, lightly toasted
  • 4 dill pickles, sliced lengthwise

Heat oven to 450°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with 2 T of the oil and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until browned and crisp, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, hot sauce, and sugar. Add the cabbage and carrot and toss to combine.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the turkey with ¼ t each salt and pepper. Cook until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Form sandwiches with the bread, turkey, slaw, and pickles. Serve with the fries.

Results

The weird thing on this was forming the sandwiches with pickles cut lengthwise. I like my spears on the side. But, let’s not stop the weirdness train at the pickles. Let’s talk about this slaw. Or rather the blandness of the turkey with the slaw. Real Simple, would it kill you to maybe marinate or cook the meat in something other than salt and pepper? The slaw also didn’t have enough of anything to really have a flavor. It either needed more vinegar or rather it needed vinegar. Sigh.

Turkey sandwich with slaw

Also, you’ll notice from the picture that I didn’t have pumpernickel bread. I went with rye. Sue me. By this point, I figured the bread choice didn’t really matter much.

Wednesday: Steak with Peppers and Polenta

  • ¾ C instant polenta
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1½ lbs skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • ¼ C red wine vinegar
  • 2 C baby spinach
  • ⅓ C pitted kalamata olives, halved

Cook the polenta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steak with ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper and cook, 3-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Add the bell peppers, shallot, and ¼ t each salt and black pepper to the drippings in the skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the vinegar and ¼ C water and cook, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and olives and cook, tossing, until the spinach begins to wilt, 1-2 minutes more.

Serve the steak and vegetables with the polenta.

Results

I didn’t even take a picture of this one. That’s how disgusted I was by the entire thing. Let’s talk about skirt steak. The beauty of this cut of meat is that it’s hugely flavorful but a bit on the tough side. That’s why normal people marinate the heck out of it before cooking it in a pan. Or, they slow cook it at low temperatures in a crock pot or Dutch oven for an afternoon. They DO NOT pan sear it with a bit of salt and pepper. Barely edible, folks at Real Simple. Am I angry? A bit.

As a bonus, polenta should have something in it. Like butter or cheese or an herb. For crying out loud, throw a thyme sprig in that pot. This was a horrid example of a meal. Oh, and let’s not even talk about the olives. You need to get over olives, people.

Thursday: Pork Ramen Soup

  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2 boneless pork chops (½” thick; about ½ lb total) I used that pork tenderloin I had in the freezer from last week.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 6 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 3-oz packages ramen noodles (discard the seasoning packets)
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ C fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ¼ t each salt and pepper and cook until cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes before thinly slicing.

Add the scallion whites and ginger to the drippings in the Dutch oven. Cook, stirring, until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and boil, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce.

Serve the soup topped with the pork, carrot, radishes, cilantro, and scallion greens.

Results

By gum, this wasn’t bad. (It did not redeem the recipe above… or maybe my expectations are so low at this point… you decide.) I would like to take a few seconds to point out that this past month used a lot of scallions. Go ahead, scroll back and take a look at the scallion numbers. It’s like someone at Real Simple works for the Scallion Board. What do they have against onions? They tend to keep a bit better than their green brethren. (I get it in an Asian-inspired recipe like this though…)

Pork Ramen Soup

Anyway, this one was a decent soup. It needed a bit of garlic and a bit of Sriracha sauce, but other than that… not bad.

Friday: Mushroom and Egg Pizzas

  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for the baking sheets
  • All-purpose flour, for the work surface
  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 C marinara sauce
  • 8 oz mozzarella, grated (about 2 C)
  • 4 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 oz mixed greens (about 6 C)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425. Brush 2 large baking sheets with oil. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into four 8″ rounds and place on the baking sheets.

Dividing evenly, top the rounds with the marinara sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, and onion; season with ¼ t each salt and pepper. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, just until the crust begins to brown, 18-20 minutes.

Carefully crack an egg on top of each pizza and return to oven. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the egg whites are set, 5-7 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with the vinegar, the 2 T of oil, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Serve with the pizzas.

Results

So, when you put the egg on the pizza, crack it into a small bowl first. This way, you will avoid shells on your pizza. Next, as you slide the egg out of the bowl on the pizza, press the bowl into the pizza so as to make a well where the egg can sit. If you do not, you will get this mess:

Egg Pizza in the Oven

But, that’s OK because then you can put the fried eggs on top and make a sick looking face.

Egg Pizza Face

This recipe was decent. Mostly due to the processed dough and the jarred marinara sauce. So, it actually had a bit of flavor. Whatever. I’m over Real Simple.

What I Learned

  • Real Simple recipes are good in small doses—like Monday night for the ease of it all.
  • Planning ahead saves money on groceries but forces you to actually cook meals each night.
  • I like flavor in my food.

Next challenge? Oh, I’ve got an old cookbook that has a week-by-week menu planner. Just wait for that one…

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  1. #1 by Katie on 11.1.2012 - 7:11 pm

    Congrats on finishing the challenge! I’m excited for the next one!

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