ASK KNIGHTLEY: COOKING ADVICE

When I said that I would answer questions about cooking, I didn’t realize that so many of you would take me up on it. I’ve enlisted my friend Annie, who’s an amazing chef and lifestyle expert, to help me out with a few of your questions, including actually writing out the recipes for some of my ideas. I’m a decent cook, but she’s a bit more knowledgeable and creative in the kitchen than I am.

Alexis in the kitchenAnnie showing off her mad culinary skills.

Let’s start with the basics.

@MargaridaRPF said: I’m a mess in the kitchen, I could really use some help. You promised cooking advice so I’m waiting.

I do like cooking, though I don’t have a lot of time to do it. One of the reasons that I like it is because it’s an easy, efficient way to accomplish a goal – find a recipe for something you like, do what it says, eat something good. Mission accomplished.

My advice is to learn how to cook a staple that you can easily change up so that you don’t get bored. Also, figure out what equipment you need to make cooking as convenient as possible. I’m all for non-stick pans, rice cookers and the George Foreman Grill. Not to mention the dishwasher.

Esther Cramer and @Raissa_rcamara asked about my favorite dishes and essential recipes I think everyone should know.

Scrambled Egg Whites

Breakfast-Scramble-2-640x426Image from A Zesty Bite 

Regarding essential dishes, I think that everyone should know how to cook themselves breakfast. I personally like to start the day with an egg white scramble. It’s a quick blast of protein, and I can throw in whatever I have in the fridge so that I’m not eating the same thing every morning (and so my leftovers don’t go to waste). Peppers. Mushrooms. Onions. Tomatoes. Spinach. I’ve even used roasted potatoes.

**Annie – thanks again for writing out these recipes so that someone else can actually follow them.

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1/4 cup mixed vegetables of your choice
Salt & pepper

  • Chop up the vegetables. Separate the egg whites from the yolks by carefully cracking each egg in equal halves and transferring the yolk from one shell to the other over a small bowl, allowing the egg white to fall into the bowl. Whisk the egg whites together, but don’t overbeat them or else you’ll end up with meringue.
  • Spray a small skillet with cooking spray and add in the egg whites, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Scramble the egg whites together until they start to solidify, and then add the vegetables. Cook until the egg whites are no longer wet.

Additional tips from Annie:

  • A dash of truffle salt will give your scramble a lovely earthy flavor.
  • Another option: you can turn your scramble into a breakfast burrito by rolling it up in a whole wheat tortilla and adding a dollop of salsa and guacamole. Finish it off with some hot sauce if you like beginning your day with a little extra kick.

Roasted Potato Wedges

roasted rosemary potatoes Image from Delicious as it Looks 

I mentioned roasted potatoes when I was talking about scrambled eggs. These are really easy to make and are definitely on my list of “essentials.” Plus, while they are roasting, you can get a lot of other stuff done.

Ingredients:
4 large potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
Chopped up fresh spice such as rosemary or parsley

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Cut the potatoes into long wedges. In a bowl, toss the potatoes with the olive oil. Then add in a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  • Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and arrange the potatoes on it in a single layer. Roast for 15-20 minutes.
  • Stir the potatoes and roast for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.
  • Finish off the potatoes with a dusting of fresh herbs.

Additional tips from Annie:

  • If you like your potatoes extra crispy, rub the baking sheet with olive oil and heat up it up in the oven before you put the potatoes on them.
  • In addition to salt & pepper, you can also add seasoned salt, paprika, cayenne pepper or garlic to the potatoes for a different flavor.
  • Try not to open the oven door while the potatoes are roasting (other than when you shift them around on the pan). It lets out all the heat. Instead, check on their progress by using the oven light and looking through the window.

@AgeOfIrony asked for my favorite 30-minute recipe, and Alison Rawleigh and Paula Grejo asked for suggestions for easy recipes, including hot healthy meals you can take to the office for lunch.

My favorite 30-minute recipe is the 30 minutes it takes for the Chinese food delivery guy to make it to my front door…but I’m guessing that’s not the answer you were looking for.

I have to admit, I’m a sandwich guy when it comes to lunchtime. Easy to make, easy to take. The key for me is really good bread. I used to just stick to smoked turkey with whole grain mustard, lettuce and tomatoes, or roast beef with some horseradish sauce, but Annie and Emma have actually turned me on to mixing it up a little by using different spreads. Never thought I’d be a guy who owned a jar of red pepper olive tapenade, but it’s just proof that who you work with can change how you feel about things. Since I’m just a sandwich guy, I asked Annie for a quick lunch idea. Here’s what she came up with.

Mushroom Vegetable Quiche

mushroom vegatable quiche_edited

Hi all – Annie here! This is of my favorite recipes for a light lunch that heats up easily at work. Plus, you can make the quiche once and get several meals out of it, which is ideal for the busy working guy or gal.

Ingredients:
Prepared pie crust from the freezer department at the grocery store
1 cup chopped leeks
1 1/4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large egg whites
2 large eggs (white and yolk)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded Gruyêre or Swiss cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare the filling: Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place it over a medium-high flame until hot. Saute the leeks for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and saute for an additional 5 minutes. Remove these from the heat and spoon the vegetables into a bowl.
  • Combine the milk, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, dill, thyme, egg whites, eggs and spinach in a blender until smooth. Add it to the bowl containing the leeks and mushrooms and stir well. Pour the entire mixture into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle with Gruyere cheese.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Wait at least 5 minutes before cutting into the quiche.

Additional tips:

  • Feel free to add vegetable favorites, such as tomatoes or asparagus.
  • You can use low fat cheeses to lighten up the quiche.
  • For a complete meal, pair the quiche with leftovers from dinner the night before, such as the chopped baked squash and broccoli pictured above.


@lyrical_amelia and Rachel Dully both asked questions about “food suggestions for guys.”  

@lyrical_amelia said that she cooks for her boyfriend a lot, but feels like it’s always the same, while Rachel asks for some recipes to impress the guy you like, going with the idea that the way to a man’s heart is indeed through his stomach.

It’s tough to get out of a cooking rut, especially when you already have a few dishes in your back pocket that you know are sure hits with your boyfriend.  Making something new means risking that he might not dig it. But just remember that he’ll be thrilled that you put in the extra effort (and if he’s not, maybe you should rethink whether this guy deserves the “boyfriend” title).

Hopefully the guy you’re dating is somewhat self-sufficient, which means that he’s got the basics down, including a recipe or two for chicken, burgers and steak. If you want to impress him, try taking on something that might be a little bit outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t mean you have to slave over a hot stove for hours, but think about making something for both of you that doesn’t often show up on your plates or that he doesn’t already know how to make himself. For me, this would include soup, something that spices factor into (they mystify me), or something beyond an omelette for breakfast. Another way to impress a guy you like is to make something that includes an ingredient he loves. An old girlfriend of mine made me whiskey BBQ chicken for Valentine’s Day, and I still have a taste for the dish (the chicken, not the girl). And of course, surprising him with homemade dessert will always score you points.

I don’t actually know how to make any of the things I just suggested, so this is where I turn it over to Annie.

Peach-Whiskey BBQ Chicken

peach whiskey bbq chicken Image from The Pioneer Woman 

Yep, it’s Annie piping in again! I think Alex’s suggestion to cook something that uses one of your partner’s favorite ingredients is a wonderful idea. I couldn’t track down Alex’s old girlfriend (he’s kind of tight-lipped about those sorts of things), so I did the next best thing – I tracked down a fantastic recipe for Peach-Whiskey BBQ Chicken from The Pioneer Woman. This savory recipe is a tasty example of how to let your guy know that you’ve designed a meal around his specific cravings.

Ingredients:
12 whole chicken thighs (bone in, with skin)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cup whiskey
12 ounces, fluid barbecue sauce
1 jar peach preserves
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 whole green onions, sliced thin

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Heat oil and butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Place chicken thighs, four at a time, in the pot, skin side down. Brown both sides, then remove to a plate and repeat until all chicken is browned.
  • Pour off half the grease, then return pan to stove. Add onions to pan and stir, cooking for 2 minutes. Pour whiskey into the pot, being very careful if you’re using an open flame. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan, allowing whiskey to reduce for a minute or two. Pour in barbecue sauce, peach preserves, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Throw in garlic cloves. Stir until combined, then return chicken to the pot, skin side up. Cover and put pot in oven.
  • Cook for 1 1/2 hours, then remove from oven.
  • Serve pieces of chicken over a big pile of smashed potatoes. Sprinkle sliced green onions over the top.

@AmethystMarieTM: are shot luges #KnightleyApproved?

It depends on what’s coming down the slide, and how much work I have to do the next day.

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