An exciting day for SeaJetCook: A feature!

Today I’m going to take a step back from my normal recipes and write about a little personal success. About two weeks ago, someone from Spry magazine contacted me and asked if they could feature one of my recipes on their website, Spry Living, for an upcoming Kentucky Derby feature. I was over the moon with excitement, especially after I learned more about Spry magazine and found that it perfectly aligns with my personal health and fitness mantras. Obviously, I gave them the green light to go ahead with the feature – and I even got a little bio! Now, I want to share it with all of you.

Spry Living featured my Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip as part of a collection of The Best Kentucky Derby Menu You’ll Find. Here’s the link to my recipe featured on the menu, along with my bio.

When I started writing SeaJetCook a little over a year ago to inspire other busy professionals to get in the kitchen and start cooking easy, healthy meals, I never expected something like this to happen – I’m still jumping up and down with excitement. In my academic days, I wrote often and had a few articles and even a book published. But this blog is deeply personal. It’s a small passion project that launched out of my love to cook and desire to keep my writing muscle strong. I found small successes all along the way as family and friends commented on how much they liked my recipes and how it has inspired them to start cooking more. After almost 14,000 reads later (thanks to some other small success on Pinterest) and now this feature, I’m floored at how much this little passion project has taken off.

To all my regular readers, supportive friends, and loving family, I’m dedicating that feature to you. Thank you for inspiring me to keep cooking and writing.

Love, SeaJetCook.

Advertisements

SeaJetCook’s One Year Anniversary

A little over a year ago I had a little dinner party at my house with one other couple. I cooked, of course, and the conversation eventually drifted to how cooking seemed so difficult and intimidating. After explaining how easy it was to put together that night’s meal, I seemed to flabbergast them more by saying that I actually enjoyed cooking and that I cooked a meal every single night. That’s when the idea for SeaJetCook struck.

I recalled the many conversations through college, grad school, over dinner parties, and at work where I exclaimed how easy cooking is if you took out the complicated recipes and expensive ingredients. I thought that if I could write down my ideas in a blog, then perhaps I could reach more people and possibly even inspire them to get in the kitchen and cook more. Not to mention, it sure is a handy way to write down my recipes so I don’t forget them!

SeaJetCook has turned into a small passion project of mine where I can combine my loves of writing and cooking. Nowadays, you’ll constantly find my camera in my kitchen and Clinton coming home asking, “Okay, what new recipe are we trying tonight?”

Thank you to everyone who has read my recipes, I hope you have found some small tidbits of inspiration. Thank you to my family and friends for your constant support, feedback, and ideas. Lastly, thank you, Clinton, for being my guinea pig and my food critic (not all my recipe attempts make it to the blog for good reason!). I have had a blast over the past year and am excited to continue growing, cooking, and writing for the next many years to come.

Now for the stats:

Since February 23rd, 2012, SeaJetCook has nearly 8,800 reads.

My best day ever was January 27th, 2013 with 220 reads by 178 visitors. The most popular post that day was my Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa with 175 reads.

Readers from 66 countries have read SeaJetCook, with the top 5 being the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Mexico.

I’ve written 73 posts so far, with 23 categories and 100 tags.

My Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa is by far my most wildly popular post with 3,592 reads, followed by Quick and Easy Quinoa, Overnight Oatmeal with Bananas and Coconut Milk, Southern California-Style Steak Tacos, and Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Bowl.

Lastly, 29 people have signed up to receive email notifications every time I post  new blog (thanks, guys!).

Overall, I’m ecstatic on how my blog has been growing over the past year. Since the end of 2012 alone, my blog reads have nearly doubled. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Click here to see the complete 2012 report.

Thank you, loyal readers, for continuing to read my blog. Keep reading, keep sending me feedback and ideas, and most importantly, keep cooking.

Love, SeaJetCook.

Super Bowl 2013: A few good recipes

The Super Bowl is only one week away and there’s a lot to look forward to. Watching football is always fun, and while neither team playing is “my” team, I’m looking forward to a good brotherly showdown. It’s also the only time I don’t fast-forward through commercials. And of course, you can’t beat football food and beer.

Over the past year I’ve written a few good football food recipes on my blog, so I wanted to bring them back and highlight some of the recipes I’ll be making for the big game.

Let’s start with my most recent football food post: Mom’s Crazy Chili. In fact, last year my group of friends had a chili cook-off for the Super Bowl. I don’t think we ended up awarding a winner, but I will say that there wasn’t a drop of my chili left by the end of the game (I admit, I ate a lot of it). Chili is great for the game watch because it’s so versatile. Put it over the top of nachos, smear it on a burger or hot dog, or even use it as a dip – I’ve even dipped potato chips in it, yum!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

You can never go wrong with chili!

Speaking of dips, I make this Simple Spinach and Artichoke Dip every year. It’s so delicious and it’s so easy! Make it ahead of time and reheat it for the game; it takes only about 10 minutes to make.

This little kick of cayenne makes this seemingly ordinary Spinach Artichoke Dip extraordinary.

This little kick of cayenne makes this seemingly ordinary Spinach Artichoke Dip extraordinary.

Of course, I couldn’t let a Super Bowl pass without a giant bowl of homemade guacamole. Try my Los Gol Inspired Guacamole for a little taste of Southern California.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don't cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

Pulled pork sandwiches are also a great entree for Super Bowl Sunday. I have a super easy 2 Ingredient, 3 Step, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe that you can set and forget while you watch the game and enjoy at halftime.

So delicious. So easy. You really can't go wrong with this dish.

So delicious. So easy. You really can’t go wrong with this dish.

If you’re looking for super healthy alternatives to typical football food, I have those for you, too. Make the chili with ground turkey instead of beef, or use low-fat cream cheese in the spinach and artichoke dip. But you can also make turkey meatballs, which are great by themselves on a toothpick or in a lettuce wrap.

The beauty of this is that it leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy - if you've ever eaten a giant meatball sub you know what I'm talking about.

The beauty of this is that it leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy – if you’ve ever eaten a giant meatball sub you know what I’m talking about.

I also have this super healthy Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip that’s a delicious addition to any veggie plate. Plus, you can save money by cutting up your own carrots, celery, broccoli, and tomatoes instead of buying the pre-packaged plates.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert - Bob Harper.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert – Bob Harper.

Munch on some Sweet Potato Chips or Kale Chips instead of feasting on a giant bag of greasy Doritos. These healthy chip alternatives will satisfy your salty, crispy craving while allowing you to indulge on more beer.

There's a reason why I always save

This may look like a heap of veggies, but with a little salt and a quick roast in the oven, these are crispy and delicious.

I’ve listed a handful of dishes that would be great for watching the big game, but feel free to browse through the rest of my recipes for other ideas. I have chowders, healthy mac n’ cheese, fajitas, steak tacos, pasta salad, and more. Enjoy!

Cranberry Pear Sauce

Cranberry sauce out of a can is fine, but cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries is phenomenal. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, and I encourage everyone to steer clear of the can. Making fresh cranberry sauce from scratch is so easy! It not only tastes better, but the texture is night and day different from the canned jelly kind and it only takes 15 minutes to make.

I love the pear in this cranberry sauce because the sweetness of the pear balances the tartness of the cranberry. I also added honey to sweeten it up a little more, but you could use Splenda or Truvia instead if you want to save some calories. Whatever you decide to do, I promise you’ll want to make this more often than late November.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

What you’ll need:
12 ounces fresh cranberries
2 ripe pears, cubed
1/2 cup honey
1 cup water

What you’ll need to do:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a medium pot. After the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, or for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

It’s that easy! Enjoy!

Thanksgiving: The Feast

The Feast.

Thanksgiving is a cook’s Super Bowl. It’s an opportunity to break out all the favorite dishes and go nuts. Rather than a typical meal with one or two side dishes, Thanksgiving calls for at least five – and that doesn’t include dessert. It’s also an opportunity to cheat a little on the healthier options I usually cook and add a little butter. Besides, there is nothing more relaxing to me than cooking all day.

I’ve had the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a couple years now, but this year was my best yet. My whole family flew out to Chicago to celebrate and SeaJetCook in action (get it?!). This year, my lineup included a beautiful turkey with gravy, sourdough bread stuffing, a tangy cranberry pear sauce, sweet potatoes in orange cups, a skinny scalloped potato gratin, steamed green beans, fluffy biscuits, and two kinds of pie: the obligatory pecan and pumpkin.

I’m going to do this series of posts a little differently than normal. This post won’t actually include any recipes. Instead, it’ll be a play-by-play of how I organized the day. Don’t worry, I’ll include links to all the recipes, too. But the most daunting part of planning Thanksgiving is figuring out how to make everything by yourself in one oven. So here’s my game plan. Enjoy, everyone!

A Few Days Before the Big Day

Get all your groceries, including the turkey. You can also get all your veggies and keep them in the crisper in the fridge. Only potatoes and onions need to stay out on the counter.

I generally like getting  a fresh turkey instead of frozen. But if you do buy frozen, put it in your refrigerator to defrost over the next few days – it generally takes 24 hours for every 5lbs to defrost. If you’re in a hurry to defrost, you can put the turkey in a big pot of cold water (like my chicken recipe). It takes about 30 minutes for every pound to defrost in water.

The Night Before the Big Day

Double check that you have all your ingredients for the next day. There’s nothing worse than running to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day while juggling 5 side dishes because you forgot something.

Clean the turkey. Remove everything from the cavity (giblets, neck, and plastic bag) and discard. Place the turkey in the sink and thoroughly rinse the inside cavity and skin with cool water. This helps remove any bacteria within the cavity or on the skin.

Brine the turkey in a large pot. This takes about an hour to prepare the brine, so don’t do it too late! Store in the refrigerator overnight. I’m all about brining these days. It’s makes the turkey perfectly moist and seasoned. Brine the turkey no matter how you cook it!

The Morning of the Big Day

8:00 A.M. Wake up and make a good breakfast for the family. Our tradition is Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

  • While the cinnamon rolls are cooking, start preparing the pumpkin for pie. Cut the pumpkin from the skin and steam for about 15 minutes. If you want to use canned pumpkin, skip this step.
9:00 A.M.Start making the pumpkin and pecan pies – this takes about 15 minutes. Make sure both are ready to go in the oven at the same time.
  • Start with the pumpkin pie. It takes 15 minutes on 425 degrees before you turn down the head to 350.
  • When you turn the heat down to 350, pop the pecan pie in. Both pies cook at 350 for an hour.
  • While the pies cook, peel and prepare the potatoes for the skinny scalloped potato gratin. Have the gratin ready to go in the oven as soon as the pies are done.
  • If you have extra time, skip ahead and start getting the sweet potatoes ready – these take a long time!
9:30 A.M.The pies should done. Take them out of the oven and set them aside to cool. Crank the temperature back up to 425 degrees and bake the Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin for 45 minutes.
10:30 A.M.(with a little time buffer) Your gratin should be done, and the sweet potatoes and the stuffing should be prepared. Turn the temperature on the oven back down to 350 degrees. Put the sweet potatoes and the stuffing in the oven for 40 minutes.
  • Do some dishes, then go relax! You deserve it!
11:20 A.M.Pull the sweet potatoes and stuffing out of the oven and set aside to cool. Get the turkey out of the fridge and start getting it ready for the oven.
  • Place the turkey on a roasting pan and season with garlic salt, Italian seasoning, and melted butter.
  • Chop up some leftover veggies and fill the cavity of the turkey (I used 4 stalks of celery and 2 small onions). This adds flavor and moisture to the turkey, even if you’re not going to be eating those veggies.
11:30 A.M.Put the turkey in the oven at 325 degrees. Here’s a timetable for roasting the turkey from the USDA:
  • 8 to 12 lbs: 2 3/4 to 3 hrs
  • 12 to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 3/4 hrs
  • 14 to 18 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hrs
  • 18 to 20 lbs: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hrs
  • 20 to 24 lbs: 4 1/2 to 5 hrs
  • Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
The Afternoon of the Big Day
11:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.Relax! Play board games with the family. Have a glass (or two) of wine. Put your feet up. Every couple hours check on the turkey and baste with more melted butter.
3:30 P.M.Check the turkey. If it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it rest so the juices can redistribute in the meat.
  • Turn the temperature up to 350 degrees and pop in some Pillsbury rolls. I know I cheated a little bit here, but those are so delicious and easy! They take 15 minutes to make. I don’t have a recipe for this one, so don’t forget them at the store.
  • While the rolls cook, get the gravy and the cranberry sauce on the stove. Both are easy to make and only take about 15 minutes.
  • After the gravy and cranberry sauce are simmering on the stove, prepare your green beans.
4:00 P.M.FEAST! Break open a couple bottles of wine, set the table, and dig in.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and can use my guide for next year. Until then, enjoy all the components by themselves! Turkeys are on sale now, so I already bought a couple small ones and stuck them in my freezer. Sometimes in January I’ll pull one of them out and have a feast, part two.

The Feast on my plate!

Welcome!

The first blog post is always the most intimidating, so I’ll start with how to navigate through the blog.

I really encourage you to check out my pages: “About” really gives my food philosophy, “Kitchen Staples” are what you should stock your kitchen with before we really get going, and “Gadgets and Tools” are what I think are essential to making the magic happen every night of the week.  Please note that most of my recipes are meant for two people, so expand or detract as necessary!

Additionally, I’ll add tags to each of my posts, making it easier to find what kind of food you’re in the mood to make each night. For example, I’ll denote the type of food. I’ll also let you know whether it’s a whole meal or a component of a meal – sometimes I’ll just give you the main course, and you can fill in the blanks for side dishes, and other times I’ll give you a whole meal idea. I’ll let you know about the level of fanciness (in other words, there might be extra ingredients you would need). I’ll try to break down if the meal is super low-calorie healthy or whether it’s more of an indulgence. And lastly, I’ll mark about how long the recipe or meal takes to make.

Above all, please use this as inspiration. Adding your own twists is the most exciting part to any recipe idea! For example, I tend to shy away from super spicy food, but if you love it, add some extra cayenne or sriracha to make it work for you! Have fun, enjoy, and remember that cooking every night can really be easy, healthy, and inexpensive – from my humble kitchen to yours.