Simple, Brilliant Banana Bread

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I’ve heard the phrase “my mom makes the best banana bread. No really!” a few times in my life. And while your mom may just very well make the most amazing banana bread, I’d have to say that no; my mom does.

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My mom always cooked growing up and now that I’m older and exploring my own kitchen, she always comes back with “you know I made that for you when you were growing up.” Sadly, I never seem to remember the meals she made us as kids.

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GRILLED ROMAINE MEXICAN SALAD WITH BEER + LIME MARINATED SKIRT STEAK

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There hasn’t been a lot of time for posting this week as we’ve been getting ready to have my girlfriend come in this week from Raleigh. Today, actually.

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The week has been lost to putting extra hours in at work, cleaning the house, dismantling the vacuum, cleaning the house again, and then again. The fact that the meals for Monday and Tuesday were terrible failures (never again orange chicken and whatever Tuesday was…) have absolutely nothing to do with the missing early week posts.

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ALL-OUT TANDOORI CHICKEN + INDIAN DINNER

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There are some foods I minimize my kitchen’s exposure to. Indian food happens to be near the top of that list (behind offal).

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Not because it’s not one of my favorite foods, but because like its equally menacing and delicious rival, Asian food, it’s pretty damn hard to nail down. The difference in cooking Indian food (vs. Asian) to me is that you almost have to make a huge spread of items – you know, like a buffet?

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CHICKEN ENCHILADAS WITH ROASTED SALSA VERDE

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Solomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy. 

It shouldn’t take you long to figure out what I’ve had on in the background all weekend. If it does, check yourself because I’ve almost got this rhyme down and now you’re behind in the game.

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About every  6-8 weeks, Eric is on call for work. That means that we can’t really go do anything in case he gets a call and has to fix whatever’s broken. Sometimes he rebels against being on call and we go venture out to a farmer’s market or event anyway – and he inevitably gets a call and the outing is cut short. And sometimes, he uses them to catch up on some good old fashioned R&R. Thankfully, the only thing we were able to do outside of the house together was going on a few runs which makes these totally worth it on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

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The poem (and assuming you get the reference…here’s my final hint) slowly whittled its way into my brain as I could hear the Justice League fighting for vengeance in the background from the kitchen while making these.

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We’ve made them a few times before and wanted to bring it to the blog. Especially since we had leftover creme fraiche which is rare its even in the house. I was able to knock these out as quickly as the Flash could take down the Yellow Lantern and look as good as Hawkgirl while doing it (ok that last part was just for the added fun).

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Hope your weekend as as kick-ass as ours.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS WITH ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 2-3

ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE

  • 1+ LB. Fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed well
  • 4-5 Cloves smashed garlic
  • 4 Serranos, seeded and rough chopped
  • 1 White onion, peeled and quartered
  • Handful fresh cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1-2 TSP. Salt
  • 1-2 TBSP Oil (I used 1-2 TBSP of the stock leftover from the chicken below instead)

Preheat your oven to 400F. Arrange the tomatillos, garlic, serranos and onion on a baking sheet and let roast for about 25-35 minutes or until the tomatillos are roasted and able to be poked by a fork easily. Place the contents of the baking sheet (and any juices) into a blender, add the cilantro, salt (to taste, optional) and oil. Pulse the contents so the salsa verde is smooth with visible chunks still in it. Set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 375F to bake the enchiladas.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

  • 2 Chicken breasts, skin removed and all visible fat removed
  • 2 Cloves garlic, smashed
  • Pot of water for boiling chicken
  • 2 TSP Salt
  • 1 TBSP Cumin
  • 1 TSP Peppercorns (I used szechuan)
  • 1 Yellow onion (halved and divided)
  • 1/3C Creme fraiche (optional, can sub greek yogurt)
  • 4 OZ. Queso fresco (optional, can sub any type of Mexican cheese)
  • Whole wheat soft taco wraps (I used about 6)

In a large enough sauce pot, place the trimmed chicken, garlic, salt, cumin and half of the quartered onion and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then to a medium simmer and let cook about 25 minutes (or until internal temperature of chicken is 165F). Remove the chicken from the pot.

When it’s cool enough to handle, pull apart (or chop finely) the chicken with your hands. Personally, I feel that hand pulled chicken is great but use a 50/50 mix of fine chop and hand-pulled in this recipe.

To assemble, spoon half of the salsa verde into the bottom of your baking dish. Begin rolling about 1/4C of the chicken in each wrap (I ended up trimming some of the edges of my tortillas to make sure it fit), roll like a cigar and place seam side down in the dish. Continue until you use up all your chicken and lay side by side

Spoon the rest of the tomatillo salsa verde over the tops of the enchiladas, smear with creme fraiche, top with the remaining half of the onion fro the chicken recipe (above) cut into slices and top with queso fresco.

Place in the already preheated oven (at 375F) and let bake until charred and browned on top and cheese has melted (about 25-35 minutes). Serve immediately and enjoy.

 

CUMIN + ROASTED GARLIC NA’AN

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I haven’t yet decided if I’m a routine-driven person or not. Sometimes I am, sometimes I wish I was nothing but with extreme routine envy, and sometimes I wish I was anything but routine. That being said, I’ve started reevaluating my routines and have been making strides to be more holistically healthy.

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A regular (almost daily!) run has wedged its way into my days. Fewer glasses of wine. Walking the boys gladly instead of grudgingly. But it’s still an uphill battle to balance between extremes, live, love, laugh, grow, rest, stretch and everything else.

One routine that we refuse to let go of usually occurs at least every other Thursday. We make a Moroccan tan-tan chicken dish, sop it up with warm na’an and watch Arrow. We’ve never dabbled with this pattern and I wouldn’t dare to. I don’t know what we’ll do when the season ends. :(

For now, our Kroger (and nearest na’an source) is undergoing major renovations and major rebranding – the worst casualty thus far is them stop carrying our required na’an. We’ve posted a na’an recipe before and ranted about how much we love it and this just reiterates that affinity.

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CUMIN + ROASTED GARLIC NA’AN

Adapted barely from Half-Baked Harvest. Makes 8 Pieces.

  • 4 cups unbleached AP flour (check out our whole wheat recipe here)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot water (but not boiling, just hot tap water)
  • 3/4 teaspoonactive dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk (I used skim)
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 8 cloves roasted garlic (optional)
  • Cumin, garlic powder, salt (for topping – optional)
  • Olive oil (for brushing)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the tops off the unpeeled garlic cloves and place in a small piece of tin foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap the garlic in tin foil and let roast in the oven for about 25-35 minutes. Once it’s cooled down enough to handle, you should be able to squeeze the garlic from the base like toothpaste.

Combine the baking powder, flour and baking soda in a large bowl (big enough to accommodate the entire list of ingredients). Stir the dried mix with a whisk lightly.

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water in a large (2C or more glass measuring cup) and mix in the active dry yeast. Let the yeast wake up and start frothing for about 10-15 minutes. It should be very foamy and smell like bread.

While waiting for the yeast to wake up, press out the roasted garlic cloves into the dry mix and break (or chop?) well with your hands (or a knife?). When the yeast mixture is ready, add in the milk (I used skim) and greek yogurt. Stir lightly to not break up the bulk of the yeast bubbles.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and turn with a spatula a few times. You’ll need to finish it off with your hands kneading for about 2 minutes. I had to put about a tablespoon more of water into the mixture to get it sticky. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for at least in a hour in a warm space (I chose in the laundry room sitting on top of the dryer while it was running – upcycle that emitted heat!)

Pound the risen dough a bit and divide into 8 equal pieces (or more if you want smaller pieces, could easily of accommodated 16 thin flatbread  pieces) and heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat (you want it to be hot but not hot enough to turn on the smoke alarm). With your hands or a rolling pin, roll out one of the portions into a thin (thinner is better and makes for more pillowy results) tear drop shape layer, brush with olive oil on one side and sprinkle with salt, cumin and some added garlic powder.

Drop it into the hot skillet and let it cook for about 1 minute until bubbles form on the other side. During that minute, brush with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with salt, cumin and garlic powder again. Flip once. Let it finish off in the pan about 2 minutes and repeat. Serve warm.

I know these look like a lot of directions – they kind of are. The dough is really easy and not finnicky like other baking ventures and na’an is supposed to be blistered and shaped funny so there’s a lot of leniency to love in making this yourself. Especially if your Kroger is becoming too uppity to sell na’an anymore. :(

 

 

Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi

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Finally I can feel some traction under my feet. And I have to say, the smell of burning rubber is a welcome scent.

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Even though I don’t really have a sense of smell.

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But nonetheless, it feels good to know that the corner is not just visible but I’m actually about to be running around it and seeing what is around the bend! I’m working out on a semi-consistent basis (as in more than never but less than beast status), the learning curve that has been crushing me at work is finally something I’m leaning into and making headway on, my relationship with Eric has been going swimmingly in enjoying our engagement.

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Surely talking about all of this stuff and putting it onto the world wide web can only make more good things happen right? Put good in, get good out mentality?

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Let’s just knock on wood in case. All together now.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH SHRIMP SCAMPI

Serves 2-4

SPAGHETTI SQUASH

  • 1 Small-medium spaghetti squash
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil (spray works)

Preheat your oven to 375F. Spray a baking sheet with the olive oil. Slice the spaghetti squash in half length wise, scoop out just the guts and seeds; then place dome-side up on the baking sheet and insert into the oven for about 30-35 minutes. Check the spaghetti squash (it gets super hot) when you take it out of the oven by flipping over the spaghetti squash and poking the inside with a fork. If it pierces through easily, it’s ready. Let it cool a bit while you create the shrimp scampi part.

After it’s cooled a bit, scrape out the insides with a fork and voila – noodles. Place on a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper (optional) for added flavor. Top with the scampi sauce (recipe below) and serve immediately.

SHRIMP SCAMPI

  • 1/2 – 3/4LB Medium Shrimp, peeled, deveined and tail on
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1/3C Chiffonade basil
  • 2 TBSP Olive oil
  • 3 TBSP Butter
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP Red pepper chili flakes
  • 1/4C Fresh lemon juice

Peel and devein the shrimp first and set aside. The sauce comes together pretty quickly so it’s best to have all the components near at hand. Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (not non-stick) over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and move around constantly with a spatula for about 1-2 minutes (off of the heat if you need to avoid burning). Add in the shrimp and return to heat still moving the shrimp around (less vigorously) until cooked through.

Add in the pepper, chili flakes, basil and lemon juice. Remove from heat and mix well.

Pour the shrimp/sauce mix over the prepared spaghetti squash and top with grated parm or asiago cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Asiago Crusted Perch + Skillet Roasted Asparagus with Chili Oil and Poached Egg

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Sometimes blogging doesn’t work out the way you want it to. To me, there are three components: 1) Recipe + Instructions, 2) Photos, 3) Blog/diary. When one of those doesn’t work out, the whole equation kind of falls apart and you’re left with either a recipe card (a what? snooze..), a recipe with no pictures (the horror) or a blog post with no depth.

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So this post is about that process because blogging is a process. I got derailed from blogging for a few months and just moved, started a new job, started learning a new trade, got engaged, <insert life event>, <insert life event>. I got so off track that when I got the email to renew my domain and hosting, I seriously considered not renewing.

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Thank fate for auto-billing (and only, only, only) in this case.

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For whatever reason, it helped me get back on track. Both in regards to writing and cooking – with some pictures in between.

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In essence, my “blog block” has been caused by my blog and subsequently unblocked by writing about it.

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Go figure internet. Go. Figure.

 

ASIAGO CRUSTED PERCH + SKILLET ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH CHILI OIL AND POACHED EGG

Serves 2

ASIAGO CRUSTED PERCH

  • 4 2oz. perch filets, skin on
  • 1/2C Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 TBSP Italian blend seasoning (recipe here)
  • 1/4C Grated asiago cheese
  • Olive oil for cooking

Mix the panko, Italian blend and asiago cheese in a bowl. Pat a generous portion onto the skin of the fish fillets.

Heat a (not non-stick!) skillet over medium heat and drizzle about a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the pan. Without overcrowding the pan, place the fillets skin/crust side down and let it cook (as in do not mess with it) for 3-5 minutes or until the fish is cooked about halfway up the fish. Flip carefully and let it cook (again, avoid temptation) and let finish cook another 2-3 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with the asparagus side dish below and with a roasted sweet potato (optional).

SKILLET ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH CHILI OIL AND POACHED EGG

  • 1 Bunch of asparagus
  • 3-4 Dehydrated chilis
  • 1C Boiling water
  • 1/2C Chopped cilantro
  • 1/2C Olive oil
  • 2 TSP Salt (divided)
  • 1 TSP Pepper
  • 1 TSP White vinegar
  • 1 Large clove garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 Eggs

Rehydrate the chilis by pouring the boiling water over them and letting them sit in a bowl for about 10 minutes. While the chilis are rehydrating, mix the olive oil, pepper, garlic clove, cilantro and 1 tsp of salt in a bowl. Mash the now hydrated chilis in a mortar with a pestle until it forms a type of chunky paste. Add the pounded chilis to the olive oil mix and set aside.

Chop the bottom 1″-2″ or so off the bottoms of the asparagus.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and spoon about 1 tbsp of the chili/olive oil mix down and let heat. Add in the asparagus and shake the pan a bit. Add as much of the remaining chili oil mixture as you need or would like to use and let the asparagus cook about 6-8 minutes until charred and crispy.

While the asparagus is cooking, poach 2 eggs separately by heating about 1.5″ of water in a narrow sauce pan to a near boil. Add the remaining teaspoon of salt and tsp of vinegar. Crack one of the eggs into a small bowl or ramekin. Swirl the water slightly in one direction and drop the egg down carefully in the middle of the vortex. Don’t bother the egg for 2-3 minutes until the eggwhite is no longer clear and the yolk is covered. Carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon.

Assemble some of the asparagus on a plate next to the fish. Place the poached egg on top of the asparagus and drizzle with any leftover oil or cilantro for garnish. Serve immediately.

 

Absolutely Homemade Fish Tacos + Pineapple Jalapeno salsa

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You know what you want to do when you and your man have a really long, arduous, tedious, weathering day at work? Go home and make a dinner so good that forces you to forget about your day and look forward to your weekend. How do you do that? Spend another 2+ hours in the kitchen after a full day of work with no break, no lunch, no  nothing. (Wait, what? No I don’t.) I agree. But you do it anyway. At least until you get good at doing it.

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If there are two things we’ve gotten down – it’s homemade pizza and homemade tacos. Making everything from scratch but the cheese. Our approach to these cheat night meals have gone through a few iterations. First, the store-bought everything piled on top of the store-bought cardboard vessels. Then, the made from scratch everything with every side, topping, flavor you could think of requiring hours of prep work and hours of cook time. And then finally, now that we’re almost a full 3 years (3 years!) down the road together – the thankful realization and proof that less is better. And we’re able to enjoy an amazing blackened fish taco with pineapple/jalapeno drizzled with a creamy adobo sauce in about 25 minutes.

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You do not need chicken, beef and shrimp for taco night. You do not need lettuce, tomato, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream, salsa verde, black beans, corn and who remembers what else for taco night. The equation is simple. Amazing taco night = 1 vessel (taco) + 1 protein + 1 sauce + 1 or 2 veggies + a kickass salsa. Eh. And what the hell, some queso fresco if you’re feeling froggy.

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And that is how you do a bomb homemade taco night at home. It doesn’t hurt that they pair phenomenally with margaritas either.

ABSOLUTELY HOMEMADE FISH TACOS + PINEAPPLE JALAPENO SALSA

(serves 2)

  • <1 LB blackened white fish, cooked and chopped into chunks (recipe below)
  • 1 Bowl of pineapple-jalapeno salsa (recipe below)
  • 1/2C Creamy adobo sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2C Thinly shredded romaine lettuce
  • 3-5 oz. queso fresco, crumbled

HOMEMADE MASA FLOUR TORTILLAS*

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1-1/2C Warm water
  • 1/4 Tsp salt.
  • Parchment paper, rolling pin

Mix the salt with the masa harina in a large bowl. Add the water and knead for about 2 minutes. If the dough seems too dry, add more warm water 1 TBSP at a time. Knead it well and thoroughly as the flour takes a while for the moisture to dissolve throughout.

Break the dough into 16 even pieces, press one piece at a time in a tortilla press (oh, you don’t have one? No problem! Use your hands and then put in between two pieces of wax paper and roll). Head a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add a tsp or so of canola oil, drop the flattened masa dough and let cook until charred on one side about 45 seconds or so. Flip and let it do the same thing. Place the cooked tortilla on a paper towel and cover with another paper towel to prevent it from drying out. Repeat another 15 times

*We made our taco shells fresh from ground masa (corn flour) which takes a considerable amount of time. They’re fun to do every once in a while but the 69 cent 18 pack we grab at the carniceria just around the corner do the same thing in 1/(infinity symbol) amount of the time and cost 69 cents. So…choice is yours. Choose wisely depending on how your day is.

BLACKENED FISH

  • Blackening seasoning (homemade recipe below or store bought if preferred)
  • Full side, less than a pound of white fish, skin and bones removed
  • 2 TBSP Ground allspice
  • 2 TBSP Paprika
  • 2 TSP Salt
  • 2 TSP Pepper
  • 1 TSP Cumin
  • 1 TSP Cayenne

We used cod. I thought it would be too overpowering as cod tends to be but the flavor actually mellowed out itself and also in conjunction with the other pieces of the taco. Most fish taco joints use a more subtle white fish like tilapia or whiting. Up to you.

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Spray your grill basket with non-stick cooking spray thoroughly.

Mix all the dry ingredients for the blackening seasoning together and rub onto both sides of the fish. Place the fish delicately in the grill basket and close. Place on the grill and cook for about 7-9 minutes and flip (quickly!) and let finish cooking about another 4-6 minutes or until fish is no longer opaque. Rough chop and serve immediately with other taco items.

PINEAPPLE-JALAPENO SALSA

  • 1/2C Fresh pineapple, chopped into small cubes
  • 2 Jalapenos, seeded and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 4 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, minced

Mix all ingredients in a bowl when they’re chopped. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

CREAMY ADOBO SAUCE

  •  1/2C Non-fat greek yogurt
  • 2-4 TBSP Adobo sauce

Mix well and adjust adobo sauce quantity depending on your palate and tolerance for spicy. Obviously, the more adobo sauce, the more spicy.

ASSEMBLY

Place a handful of the blackened fish onto a taco shell, top with shredded lettuce and a few tablespoons of the pineapple jalapeno salsa. Finish the taco off with a drizzle of the creamy adobo sauce and queso fresco if you prefer. We served ours with black beans and queso fresco on the side.

Enjoy immediately and go back for seconds.

 

A Small Container Garden in Georgia

About two years ago, Eric and I had the most epic container balcony garden we could have ever conceived. It had ichiban eggplants and pole beans growing in upside down milk cartons hanging from the ceiling. An herb garden variety so vast Martha Stewart would approve. Ferns hanging from the ceiling that you swear came off of the Predator island. Cucumbers growing into the apartment terrace above us. Wildflowers and sunflowers folding themselves over the balcony to get full sun. Bumble bees buzzing around all the tomato flowers. You name it and I would find a way to grow it either upside down or in a container. Including a tree.

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The following year I pared back a lot and can’t even remember now what we tried to plant. I think an eggplant again that never really got off the ground but produced the most amazing flowers and probably an insanely powerful cucumber plant that just would not give up – determined to climb to the second balcony above us again.

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We got rid of a lot of our gardening tools when we moved and just recently found out that we have a serious lack of sunlight. I had to buy new planters and improvised with some of Eric’s old mammoth sized body building supplement jars…hoping that it actually has some kind of osmosis effect. (I wonder if the FDA would consider that a GMO?) That, however, has not stopped me from trying to plant and cultivate the following: strawberries, basil, cilantro, broccoli, carrots, wildflowers, cherry tomatoes and rosemary.

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When I was buying my seeds and seedlings at Home Depot, a very old woman walked by and said good luck with your seeds! and vanished. I’m truly hoping she is a seed shaman and actually willed my seeds to flourish. Time will tell. And then I’ll tell you. :)

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And now…the waiting game.

Italian Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Grilled Chicken

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I’m already ready to admit to my first addiction in 2014 – grilling. And the weather has only been nice for 5 days consecutively and I’ve used the grill almost 75% of those days and plan on using it possibly tomorrow and definitely the next day. I’m already scheming concoctions for when we dust off our ice cream maker. I made this dinner specifically to help start to clear out my freezer to make room for the tumbler to freeze when it gets that hot – hey, gotta be prepared right? Homemade maple bourbon bacon or lavender peach ice cream cravings can be crippling at any point. No? Just us? Ok.

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I’ve planted in every planter I can find and have had to makeshift one or two from some old protein powder jars (tomorrow’s post). I’ve walked AND ran today. Twice. Which is more than I’ve done anything in a while and can’t wait to get out in the good weather tomorrow and do it again. And I will. A nice jaunt during the afternoon and a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood at night with all three of the boys.

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In short – we can’t get enough of this weather. Reading Gone with the Wind is so much more captivating when you can hear the breeze like Scarlett does on her porch at Tara. Literally moving plants every 20 minutes so that they’re getting full sun. Watching Indy get into countless hide-and-seek fits with the bumblebees that are trying to get serious work done. Hanging out on the porch. Walking the dogs not just out of necessity. I hope it’s the same wherever you are.

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This was a great quick meal for us tonight and required minimal prep and cook time. A quick slice and dice of the ingredients along with a 25 minute total cook time let us steal enough sunlight at the end of the day to knock the boys out with a brisk 2 mile walk. It was filling enough even with the chicken breasts being cut in half and clean tasting with the bruschetta/caprese like topping spooned over. Roasting the tomatoes a bit helped bring out some additional flavor that solidifies that this will be even more amazing to make in summer when tomatoes are in peak season and simple roasted zucchini coins make a great pairing.

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ITALIAN ROASTED TOMATO & MOZZARELLA GRILLED CHICKEN

  • 2 Chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and butterflied completely through
  • 1 TBSP Garlic powder
  • 2 TBSP Dried basil, divided
  • 1 TBSP Dried parsley
  • 1 TBSP Dried thyme
  • 1 TBSP Dried oregano
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Pepper
  • 8 Small slices mozzarella (I used skim milk/0% fat)
  • 6-8 OZ Grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your grill to  medium-high heat (and make sure you have enough propane ;) ). Make the Italian herb blend by mixing one of the two tablespoons of dried basil along with the garlic powder, dried parsley, thyme, oregano and teaspoons of salt and pepper well. If you have a dry Italian seasoning blend you prefer, make my day and feel free to use that. Sprinkle the mixed seasoning generously on both sides of the chicken and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Slice the grape tomatoes in half (more easily when you place a handful between two same size lids and slice between). Throw the halved tomatoes in a bowl with a drizzle (about a tablespoon) of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of dried basil along with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until charred and shriveled.

While the tomatoes are roasting, brush the grill grates with oil and place the chicken down. Flip after 5-6 minutes and place 2 slices of mozzarella on each piece of chicken. Cover the grill and let cook through another 5-7 minutes or until an internal temperature of 165F.

Serve the chicken immediately with a few spoonfuls of the roasted tomatoes and a dash of balsamic vinegar if you like. We had ours with oven roasted zucchini with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper.

SERVES 2-3

 

Cilantro + Sunflower Seed Pesto Plank Grilled Cod

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Let’s talk about motivation people. For me, it comes in two forms – from inner or outward pressures. Also, for me, it has the capacity to hit (and literally knock the wind from my sails) at the same time which is exactly what happened this afternoon.

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I started this blog post as a meditation at first about relationships and trials and triumphs. Then we decided to shimmy on over to an Indian restaurant we’ve been eyeing since we moved here for lunch. We ate so much that I immediately felt the inward body-conscious pressure to go for a much needed run shortly after getting home which Eric happily agreed to join.

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Shortly after getting out of the complex to begin the run, I was left in the dust behind Eric and got a running cramp immediately. Totally embarrassing right? Correct. Seeing Eric muster through the entire run unwillingly but compellingly, he became my outward motivation and I felt forced to write about motivation instead. Mission accomplished. Exercise accomplished failed.

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We made this dinner earlier this week as baked cod with basil pesto is a house favorite. I switched up our traditional recipe to incorporate the grill on the first nice full week of 2014 and a new idea for pesto by swapping out sunflower seeds for pine nuts and cilantro for basil. Served with a little veggie/orzo concoction on the side and a tall glass of humbled, this makes for a pretty good meal. Needless to say, you should expect more begrudging posts about physical movement.

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CILANTRO + SUNFLOWER SEED PLANK GRILLED COD

  • 4-6 4oz. portions of cod, skin removed
  • 1 Cedar plank, soaked in water (or white wine) for at least 30 min.
  • 1/4C sunflower seeds (raw, shelled)
  • 1.5 Bunches cilantro, rough chopped including stems
  • 2 Cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 Tsp salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3C Canola oil
  • A few tablespoons of water
  • 2 oz. finely grated asiago cheese

Set aside the cod and cedar plank until the pesto is assembled.

Whiz all the remaining ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Adjust the lemon juice, cheese and salt to taste. I usually add more cilantro or sunflower seeds to make the pesto thicker and water to thin it out (in lieu of oil).

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Assemble the cod portions on the plank and slather with pesto. Carefully place the plank on the grill and let cook for 9-12 minutes or until done. Fish should have an internal around 160ish? or until the flesh is no longer opaque.

I served this with a simple side of some chopped cherry tomatoes, quartered button mushrooms and chopped asparagus and mixed it with cooked arborio rice (1/4C dried arborio cooked in stock, but I would’ve used orzo if we had it). And again, the tall glass of humble – or unsweet tea too works just as well.

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Bourbon Adobo BBQ + Jerk Chicken Pizza

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I don’t know what your weekend consisted of, but  mine consisted of Eric’s marathon birthday weekend – even though it’s not until Wednesday. Turns out (and this has been confirmed countless times) that I am terrible with surprises. Not knowing them; gotta know now. Doling them out; gotta tell you now.

Yeah, I really want that.
Yeah, I really want that.

I practiced how I wanted the weekend to go down in my head. I wanted to take him to go see a hockey game and would wake up Saturday morning and give him a card with the tickets, make a huge breakfast and surprise him that it’s his “birthday weekend.” I bought the tickets Friday afternoon and couldn’t resist telling him 5 minutes after he walked in the door from work. He even told me not to, but I couldn’t handle it.

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This meal was also part of the surprise birthday weekend, and another item on the list of foods we prefer to make at home rather than eating out and a favorite pizza style for us. Naturally, it would have to be on the table before heading out to the hockey game. And it was – and it was perfect.

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Bourbon Adobo BBQ Sauce

  • 2 Cups Ketchup
  • ½ Cup Water
  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp White Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • ¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4C Bourbon
  • 2 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 Tbsp+ adobo sauce
  • 2 Tsp Liquid smoke

In a medium Sauce pan, combine all ingredients over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about an hour. Adjust to taste depending on how much heat you like.  Stir frequently.

Jerk Chicken

  • 1 Large chicken breast, butterflied through
  • 2 Jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tsp allspice, ground
  • 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1.5Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1-2 Tsp sugar
  • 1/2 White onion, rough chopped
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 2 Cloves garlic, smashed

Blend all items in a mixer or food processor until smooth. I highly suggest that you taste and adjust as you see fit – but be really careful as the vapors from the onion, garlic and peppers can be hazardous. My jerk paste looked like mustard and while it tasted hot before grilling, it wasn’t as hot as it was precooked. Just an FYI.

Slather the butterflied chicken breasts with the jerk paste and preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until 165F internal temperature. When cooked, slice on the bias into large strips.

Pizza Toppings

  • 4-5 Slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 6-8 Slices of mozzarella
  • 1/2C Fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 2 Jalapenos, seeded and cut into ribbons
  • Jerk chicken pieces (see above)
  • 1 Cup barbecue sauce (see above)

For the crust, I followed Bobby Flay’s recipe here rather than my traditional crust recipe. The Flay way makes a crunchier, sturdier crust perfect to hold the sauce and heavy pieces of chicken.

Roll out the crust, sauce and then top with the toppings. You know – how pizza assembly has tended to go for centuries.

Cook at 500F for about 9-11 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

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Mediterranean Kebabs + Valentine’s Day at Home

We are new to accepting the fact that we may never have another date night again. On the one hand, it’s sad. But the reality is, we usually end up being disappointed by the food we get at restaurants and enjoy what we make in our own apartment kitchen so much more. This year was our third Valentine’s Day and we spent it cooking Mediterranean food at our house to celebrate…on the 15th. Close enough.

And I have to say, I’m so glad that we did. We put together grilled veggies, chicken kebabs, keftedes, tzatziki, a mezze plate and hummus so smooth you’d think it was butter.

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To many more Valentine’s Days and fancy date nights….at home. <3

RECIPES-

CHICKEN KEBABS

We found that letting this marinate for more than 24 hours produced the most tender, flavor infused chicken and suggest starting at least this portion that far in advance. If you’re unable, a minimum of 30 minutes should be allotted.

  • 1/3C Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 1 TBSP Pepper
  • 1/4C Lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP each basil, oregano and parsley flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic rough chopped

Whisk the top 6 ingredients in a small bowl and taste the marinate. It should be strong in flavor in order to best infuse the chicken. Depending on how much chicken you plan to cook, adjust the measurements above  based on amount and desired taste.

  • 3 Chicken breasts, trimmed and diced into cubes

Place the chicken in a container (or plastic bag) and pour the marinate over the chicken. Seal the vessel and mix well and refrigerate to marinate.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high heat and skewer the chicken. Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking and place skewers on grill. Cook for 6-7 minutes until done (try not to overcook and dry out the chicken).

KEFTEDES

Keftedes are lamb meatballs infused with mint and topped with a squirt of lemon juice. They are unique, delicious and meant to be served independently with a few wedges of lemon and/or tzatziki sauce.

  • 2 slices toast, crumbled
  • 1 LB. ground lamb
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 4 TBSP mint, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, chopped
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/3 Milk, reserved
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients above in a large bowl well. Depending on the consistency, add another egg and/or a tablespoon of flour. Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Form meatballs that use about 2.5 TBSP of the mixture and place on the aluminum foil. Bake for 15-25 minutes until the internal temperature is almost 160F. Remove from oven and let rest as they will continue to cook for the next 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and/or tzatziki (and flatbread) for a full meal.

FRUIT + DARK CHOCOLATE CUPS

I have to give Eric credit as this was his idea. It took about 10 minutes to make (including the time it took to melt the chocolate) and was so hassle-free with its no cook preparation. Paired really nicely with a flute or two of champagne.

  • 5-10 Blackberries
  • 5-10 Raspberries
  • 5-10 Blueberries
  • 1C Dark chocolate wafers, melted
  • Mint, chopped (for garnish)
  • 1 Muffin tin, sprayed with canola oil

Melt the chocolate wafers in a double boiler and pour a small portion into the bottom of 6 muffin tins (about 1/4″ thick) and freeze for 3-5 minutes until solid. Throw a handful of berries in each tin and top with more chocolate by drizzling all over the top. Freeze again for 3-5 minutes until solid and move them into the fridge to soften (otherwise they’ll break your teeth).

Remove from muffin tin and serve with mint sprigs on top and a flute of champagne – and a lovely toast.

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This happened..

Any idea why this picture is significant to us?

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Probably not – because it’s insignificant to you. But to us – it’s where this happened…we got engaged!

I’ve started this post maybe 20-25 times never knowing the best way to share our news. Until this morning.

Now it’s clear that that moment in time and that place and what happened meant so much more. Getting engaged took our relationship to a new level and brought to light how much we still have left to learn not only for each other but ourselves as well. I hope that we can continue to grow together and stronger while remembering this is a life-long learning process, as engagement is the first step in a life-long commitment.

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We’ve had a great time enjoying this new space together and look forward to seeing how great this really gets.

I love you Eric. And our sunburn. <3

 

Homemade Preserved Lemons

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It’s official – we are finally snowed in. Not iced in, not sleeted in, but snowed in. At least for 2 more hours or so as it’s already starting to melt with mid-morning sun. We took the boys out for a good romp as soon as we woke up and I am so glad to have taken advantage of the snow while we had it all to ourselves. Once we came back in we talked of board games and puzzles like we were going to need to settle in for a long cold day ahead (or at least pretend). We’d have to dig through the closet to unearth the box labeled “puzzles + board games.”

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The thought of rummaging through a closet made me want to look through some old photos as well and realized I had never posted this before. Probably because we had a simultaneously acquired a hoard of lemons at the same time we were getting into full swing of packing up the house before moving. What better way to preserve them than to, well, preserve them.

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They’re brininess paired with bitter lemon and soft rind is a great addition to many meals. We particularly like to use them in our own cooking but have used them in other instances as well. Our meyer lemon tree hadn’t yet turned for the season but have to say, preserved meyer lemons are much more flavorful and soften up more during preservation in my opinion. And in case you were every wondering if you could grow them in a container, the answer is yes. Just pull them in when it drops below 40 and maintain with sunlight and water as needed.

They’re not used too often but can be quite expensive (about $8 for up to 3 preserved lemons) from what I’ve found and not readily available at larger grocery chains.In fact, if you want a cute experiment, ask one chain grocer employee if they carry them and see if a) they ask up to 4 people more or b)they say yep! and whisk you away to the lemon curd next to the apricot preserves. It always makes me smile when they do that.

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This recipe does not remedy going and picking them up at a store or international market that does carry them, but it does give you a surprise ingredient stowed away in the back of your fridge that you’ll remember in 2-3 weeks for your big “wow” dinner moment. So for that, you are welcome – in 2-3 weeks.

-INGREDIENTS

  • 3-5 Small to medium sized lemons
  • Sterilized mason jar
  • Several tbsp of Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. capers
  • 2-3 bay leaves

-INSTRUCTIONS

*If you are using non-meyer lemons, you may want to wash and boil them for a few minutes first to soften the rinds a bit. Let them cool first before moving on.

Cut the stem end of the lemons off and score in with two perpendicular lines with about an inch deep incision. Use your fingers to pry the pieces apart a bit but be careful to not rip the lemons apart at the base. Sprinkle the insides of the wedges generously with salt.

Add 2-3 tbsp salt to the bottom of your sterilized mason jar and about 1/2 tbsp capers and a bayleaf. Add lemons 1 at a time (you may have to get physical with them) and add capers and bay leaves as you see fit. Stuff as many lemons as you can in the jar (4 is probably about your limit depending on the size of the lemons). Add water (or lemon juice if you prefer) to top off the liquid and add about a tablespoon or so of salt on top. Seal tightly and shake vigorously.

Leave the sealed jar out for a few days and then stick in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks to preserve thoroughly. They seem to last forever from what I can tell. I know it seems like a lot of salt, but just use more or less of them depending on what you’re cooking. We usually us a whole one across a meal.

 

 

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Camarones + Masa Corn Cakes

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Nearly 4 months ago, we made the risky decision to trust ourselves and each other. We picked up, moved to another state, changed jobs and changed our scenery. We moved from Raleigh, NC to North Atlanta in less than 12 hours we were so ready to get started which includes the 7 hour commute with a moving truck. After the truck was unloaded and we were surrounded by stacks and stacks of boxes, I secretly started to panic hoping that some of these boxes had the answer “yes” hidden in it somewhere that everything would be ok and this was a good decision for us.

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The next day, we had nearly everything unpacked and decided to check out the small downtown strip closest to us when we ran across Pure. We hadn’t really had a lot of time to talk during the final hours of the move and while unpacking and looking back, maybe that was by choice and a good thing. We were seated and ordered a house margarita on the rocks with salt and waited. The waitress came back and filled the silence by noting some worthwhile restaurants, shops and venues as we were brand new to town. We took timid sips of the margarita to find out it was perfectly concocted and balanced. Baby steps – at least enjoying this margarita was going to be ok.

Then came the ordering. For some reason, it felt like what I selected for my entree would set the tone for the town. Instead of rolling with the traditional artisan tacos, I opted for “Camarones a la Parillas” – or shrimp and corn cakes. It could not have been a better choice as the dish was so amazingly flavorful and fresh. Eric ordered the artisan tacos with fresh made shells that were also a definite winner. We took our first bites after eating with our eyes for a good while and nodded to each other. Not only that the food was great, but we were going to be as well.

Camarones_MasaCakes_4

Since then, our trust in each other has gone from requiring delicate footing to allowing for steamrolling. Patience has been more than a virtue in this house – it’s a learning curve for us. We’ve learned new skills not only personally but professionally as well and have grown together because of it. I hadn’t trusted a lot of what I was doing lately but last night, reconstructing this dish brought me back to that moment months ago and restored my faith and trust in myself.

Camarones_MasaCakes_8

We got this.

//DIRECTIONS + INGREDIENTS//

Assemble the items below in the order they’re laid out for fastest cook time and swift assembly. It looks like a lot of moving parts, but 3 of the 5 instruction lists below are dips that take a few minutes to assemble. Don’t worry about making knock-out pico, quac or salsa as they will all blend and layer together in the end.

PICO DE GALLO-

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped finely
  • 1/4 Yellow onion, diced
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely
  • Juice of half lime
  • Pinch of salt

Mix above and adjust to taste. Set aside.

GUACAMOLE-

  • 1.5 avocados, diced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 Red onion, diced
  • Juice of half lime

Mix above and adjust to taste. Set aside.

TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE-

  • 1 large can tomatillos (1 lb.+ fresh husked if available)
  • 1/2C corn (canned or frozen, fresh if available)
  • 1/2 jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp+ cumin
  • Water

Drain water from canned tomatillos and heat in large pot over medium-high heat. When they start crackling, add jalapeno, garlic, salt, some water (1/4 – 1/2C+) and cumin. Let bubble and crush with a potato masher. Let simmer over low-medium heat and adjust seasoning to taste. Add corn about 15-20 minutes before preparation/serving. Keep adding water as needed to make the salsa viscous and keep warm.

MASA CORN CAKES-

  • 1/2C Masa harina
  • 1/2C flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1.25C+ water
  • 1 Tbsp+ salt
  • 1C corn kernels
  • Oil for frying

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients together, add salt, masa, corn and water to taste until the dough tastes desirable and dough forms small patties in your hand. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add some canola oil (about 1-2 Tbsp max). Work in batches and place a few of the formed cakes in the skillet and do not overcrowd. Allow to brown on one side (3-4 minutes) and flip to repeat until golden brown.

Once you’ve browned all of the cakes, place in the oven for about 5-10 minutes until done. Go ahead and taste test these – there’s no raw egg.

Makes about 8-10 cakes depending on diameter and thickness.

SHRIMP (CAMARONES)-

  • 1/2 lb. shrimp (I used 31/40 but larger would work better)
  • Favorite or homemade* blackening seasoning
  • Oil

Clean, peel and brine the shrimp for at least half an hour before preparing the dry rub. Once brined, pat dry well and thoroughly coat the shrimp with the blackening seasoning (ours was 3 tbsp. paprika, 2 tsp salt, 3-5 dashes of cayenne, 1-3 dashes onion powder – adjust to taste!). Rub and pat the mix over each and every shrimp well and skewer. Oil the grates well and grill over medium-heat for 3-5 minutes (thank you Eric!). Do not overcook and set aside.

ASSEMBLY-

  • Queso fresco + cilantro to garnish (optional)

This dish looks intimidating. I know. But you’re so close you can hear the mariachi band.

Spoon a layer of the salsa verde on the bottom (I forgot to put this on the bottom in my construction – trust). Place 2-3 masa cakes on top of the salsa verde. Smear guacamole generously on top of the masa cakes and place shrimp atop so they’re all facing the same direction. Top with pico de gallo, queso fresco + cilantro. Buen provecho!

tofu_veggie_noodles_3

Tofu + Vegetable Noodle Bowl

There’s no excuse really. No excuse for the embarrassingly long space in between posts that have now gone from one year into the next. Maybe it would help you to know that we haven’t eaten from the last post until now. Or that a fluttering social life kept us from writing. Or a near natural disaster – no, really. The fact of the matter is, something that makes us both happy shouldn’t have become collateral damage for the white noise closing and beginning the old and new years.

So rewind the past 5 weeks or so and know that Eric has started an extreme (to me, routine to him) body building regimen that requires a small family’s weekly grocery budget of chicken daily and strict rationing of carbs, protein and sugars. I got this – all day, everyday, no problem.

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Tonight’s meal came on the heels of yet another impending “Walking Dead” scene due to hit in a few hours, a very well stocked fridge and a subtle reminder over the past few weeks that someone’s tired of reading the same blog post over and over again to kill precious free-time at work.

After starting down this recipe path, I noticed that a lot of the recipes I cook (posted or not) tend to be Asian. It’s not because we crave it more than half of the time, but  because it’s so damn hard to master. Where other cuisines take time, patience and babysitting, Asian cuisine makes sure you are ready to go and your pan is hot. The sauces are finnicky, ingredients require a lot of chopping, tofu is always a gamble and you probably don’t have as much of that crucial ingredient as you thought you did 5 months ago.

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There aren’t many pictures because the camera died intermittently – or is it because Asian food, as mentioned above moves so quicky from pan to plate? This recipe is low carb (especially with the tofu noodle substitute) and has a mock general tso’s sauce that ensured we’d be back for more than seconds.

Go ahead, call it a comeback.

//INGREDIENTS//

  • 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
  • 2-3 mini sweet peppers, julienned
  • 1/2C sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2C shelled edamame (frozen works)
  • 2 carrots cut into matchsticks
  • 1 pkg tofu shiritaki noodles (optional)
  • 1 pkg extra-firm tofu, drained
  • Chili oil

SAUCE-

  • 1/4C water
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1/4C lite soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1 (heaping) tsp grated or diced ginger
  • 1 tsp hoisin
  • 1 tsp+ honey, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

GARNISH-

  • Chopped cashews
  • Sliced spring onions

Whisk all the ingredients of the sauce mixture listed above and adjust to taste. Have the sauce ready to go for when you’re ready to finish.

Slice the tofu as you prefer. I tried 1/4″ slabs cut into thirds. Heat a lipped skillet over medium heat with some chili oil. Drop the tofu slices in carefully and let cook for a few minutes on each side until toasted. Flip and cook a few minutes until golden brown on the other side. Remove from the pan and repeat in batches. Set the tofu to the side. While the tofu is cooking in batches, cook the shiritaki noodles (found in my grocer’s natural food’s refrigerated section) according to instruction, drain and set aside.

Add the mushrooms, edamame, carrots and peppers to the still hot pan. Add some water and cover so the vegetables can steam for about 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the sauce, noodles and tofu and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until some of the water in the sauce cooks off. Adjust to taste as needed.

Serve immediately and garnish with spring onions and cashews – perhaps lime and cilantro, too?

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Mexican Pepper + Pork Stew

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I spent a lot of time the few weeks before Thanksgiving scheming up multiple menus, thinking of what the freshest spin on a side dish was, visions of grandeur on placement settings – bringing my “A game” so to speak. It was my intention to wow my family with my being a novice kitchen savant.

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In my head, I’d show up with everything amazing, beautiful, ready to go. Everything down to the rolls would be homemade and everything would be absolutely exquisite. My hair would have a sexy shine and a healthy bounce and I’d be perfectly done up.

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What actually happened, is I was assigned the green beans and the rolls since they’re the most forgotten last-minute items on our Thanksgiving meal year after year. My sister stayed with us for a few days leading up to the get together and we got lost in grocery, craft, thrift and dollar stores. I helped her make jalapeno macaroni and cheese, clean up Eric’s from scratch pumpkin pie. My hair is never done up so I don’t know why I’d think I could pull it off along with a 15 pound turkey. I also forgot about the green beans so they were slightly charred and the rolls were the worst-kind…store bought!

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What I did get to do was perform a magic trick with my kitchen’s black magic hat (i.e. crockpot) and culinary smoke screens. I guess my subconscious must have known what my head was thinking wasn’t going to happen nor in my character really – so it thought “Mexican crockpot food the week of Thanksgiving!” would do the trick. And it did. But, in all fairness, this is a recreate from one of my mom’s infamous crockpot “I don’t remember what I put in it” meals.

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What I learned on Thanksgiving was that I didn’t have to be the one in charge. I let other, much more exciting dishes, take over my kitchen as I played sidekick and washed dishes and cracked jokes. What actually happened and what I learned, was even better. Even though it was a little ratchet.

//RECIPE//

INGREDIENTS-

  • ~1LB Tomatillos husked, washed and quartered
  • 1/4C Masa harina, to thicken
  • 1C Chicken stock
  • 3-4 Bell peppers (any colors) julienned
  • 2-3 poblanos, jalapenos or other spicy peppers
  • 2 LB pork shoulder, cleaned and cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 Can corn, drained

SEASONING RUB-

  • 2 TBSP Cumin
  • 2 TBSP Dried oregano
  • 4 TBSP Paprika
  • 1/2 TBSP Chili powder
  • 1/2 TBSP Garlic powder
  • 1/2 TBSP Onion powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

TOPPINGS-

  • Cilantro
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Hot sauce
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced avocados

Roll the pieces of cut pork in the dry rub seasoning and sear in a skillet on all sides over medium heat (about 1.5-2 minutes on each side. Place the pork in the crockpot along with the chicken stock on high for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Check and make sure the pork is done and remove from the crockpot to cool for a few minutes. While waiting, add in the julienned peppers, tomatillos, corn and anything else you think might be good (black beans?). Add the masa as needed to thicken the base. If you think you need to add more stock…do so. When the pork is cool, shred by hand or finely chop and put it back in the crockpot. Let the crockpot work its magic for an hour or so more on high.

Top with greek yogurt (or sour cream), roma tomato slices, cilantro, sriracha and cilantro.

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Vegetarian (Faux) Curry

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So it’s no surprise that we have recently updated our zip and postal codes to Atlanta, GA. The “to-do” list has already turned into a “done” list and we’ve moved onto new experiences that include (but are not limited to):

  • Finding both a fresh taqueria and cuban restaurant that make amazing margaritas and mojitos respectively.
  • Having a lazy Sunday afternoon drive far into downtown Roswell
  • The meyer lemon tree finally turning into lemons (!!!)
  • Nursing Arlo’s stress-induced plastic-eating habit
  • Secretly debating whether or not to put Medieval Times on the “to-do” list
  • Eric ordering two (as in more than zero) new pairs of running shoes
  • Emily working out twice (as in more than zero)
  • Getting a warning that my Corolla will be towed (!!!)
  • Buying and agreeing on the very first couch we saw
  • Finding (and patronizing) a local pie shop
  • Watching both seasons of Sherlock
  • Eagerly awaiting the third…aaaand
  • The first new meal of the new huge kitchen!

And if you made it through the long list above, I’ll spare you the extra asides and let you go straight to the recipe. As some background for this specific recipe, I consider it a type of curry (even though I didn’t have any curry paste) with some great heat. Substitute vegetables and proteins as you wish!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1C Brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2C Coconut milk
  • Scant cup water
  • 1 Green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1C+ mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 Medium yellow onion, chopped into long slivers
  • 3 Red aleppo peppers, cut into rings
  • 1 Can baby corn, drained
  • 1-2 TBSP Chili oil
  • 1 TBSP Fish oil
  • 1 TSP Sesame oil
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • Cilantro (for garnish)
  • Lime (for garnish)

Cook or (re)heat brown rice for serving.  If serving with tofu, prepare either by baking or frying. The pictures here features pan-fried tofu.

Heat sesame oil in a wok over medium-high heat and saute the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add the coconut milk, water, chili oil and fish sauce to the wok and stir or whisk thoroughly. Heat the contents of the wok until bubbling and then reduce heat to let simmer until thickened (about 5 minutes).

Add the peppers, mushrooms, bell peppers and baby corn. Turn heat to medium-high and heat all contents through (about 5 minutes). Serve over brown rice and garnish with lime, cilantro and sriracha.

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Black Bean + Lentil Cakes, Tofu Fries and Tahini Cilantro Sauce

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We are officially down to a skeleton kitchen with one pot, one pan, one set of plates and one set of bowls. Oddly enough, we’ve had some really good meals that I never thought to catalog until eating them. The countdown is approaching the 15 day mark and pretty soon it will be almost complete chaos in our house. Although, no more chaotic than having 5 dogs and my mother visiting while  trying to begin to start packing.

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A few days later and the spare bedroom is now full of boxes and working from home makes me feel like I’m working in a basement stock room. After schlubbing my at-home office from the spare bedroom to the bedroom to the couch to the floor to the dining room table, I’ve finally found that I can buy (or at least rent) a square of the Starbucks kiosk floor at a nearby Barnes & Noble for under a whopping $1.89. I guess it could be at no cost, but I’d hate being the only patron not actually patronizing.

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This post came about as the first of a long line of pantry cooking meals to help clear out the freezer, fridge and stock shelves. The following meals we’ve had have unearthed a whole bunch of “oh, I totally forgot we bought this,” followed by the “why do we have so many cans of this again?” Hopefully we can find something to do with 7 cans of garbanzos – other than hummus.

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We’re both so excited about what’s next for us and are patiently sitting on our hands until the day comes where we move forward. It’s not that we are dying to leave, but so excited about what’s next. We’ve worn out our welcome here but have already been invited to crash in another city. It will be nothing short of an (I’m sure hilarious) adventure to see how we actually settle in.

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The most definitely guilty, cutest culprit ever.
The most definitely guilty, cutest culprit ever.

For now we can rely on the adage, bloom where you are planted.

Black Bean + Lentil Cakes

  • 1/2C French green lentils, uncooked
  • 1 Can black beans, drained
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • Scant 1/2 C. bread crumbs
  • 2 Tsp. paprika
  • 1 Tsp. cumin
  • 2 Scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 Tsp. chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C. cilantro, chopped
  • Canola oil

Rinse the lentils and place in a small sauce pan covered with water. Bring to a boil then let simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tender. I didn’t salt the lentils as they would be mixed in with a lot of other items later.

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, paprika, cumin, scallions, chili powder, salt, pepper and cilantro. Add the lentils when they are ready. You may need to add more breadcrumb or another egg to make the mixture of a consistency where you can create a small cake with your hands. As a reference, my mixture held together well before and after cooking but stuck to my hands.

Head a (cast-iron) skillet to medium-low heat along with some canola oil. Place 2-4 patties at a time in the hot skillet and let cook for 2-3 minutes per each side. Try to only flip the burgers once. The cakes should have a darker coloration when flipping.

Tofu Fries

  • 1 Lb. extra firm tofu, drained
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin

Preheat oven to 400F.

I’ve started draining and pressing tofu in tea towels because of the number of paper towels I was going through attributed solely to wet bean curd. Wrap your tofu block tightly in a tea towel and let rest on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board or flat surface and apply pressure with a few cans. Let the water press out for about 15-30 minutes.

Slice tofu into the “fry” size you want. Spray a baking sheet with neutral oil (or they will all stick). Lay out the fries in an even layer so they’re not touching. Sprinkle with the above ingredients or your own. Bake for about 20 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with greek yogurt mixed with sriracha!

Tahini-Cilantro Sauce

  • 2+ Tbsp tahini
  • 2-4 Tbsp. canola oil
  • Water (a few tablespoons, divided)
  • 1/4C Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Splash white wine vinegar

These are more or less guidelines than actual measurements. I typically use water to bulk up a sauce or dressing instead of oil (only because there are nearly 500 calories in a 1/4 C. of oil which are all fat calories.) Blend all of these ingredients in a food processor (a mini-one if you have it) and adjust to your own tastes. Makes about a 1/2 cup total. Garnish with scallions or a sprig of cilantro for serving.

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Thai Pulled Pork

I feel confident in saying that there’s nothing glamorous in crockpot cooking. However, crockpot cooking is brave cooking. (Which is why it’s hard to photograph cooking in one.) Even though you rely on a ceramic cooking vessel for anywhere between 4-8 hours, you really are relying on your gut feeling and tasting skills to make sure that what you’re waiting on is worth it – especially because you know you’re not babysitting it for hours on end.

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My mother made this meal 3 days ago and I couldn’t wait to get home and replicate back at home. It was unnatural territory for me – trusting a crockpot for the first time in a long while. I’m so used to manipulating and monitoring every step I take in my kitchen that spending a Sunday afternoon in actually doing things we wanted to do left me feeling restless and uneasy.

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Oddly enough, I learned something from relying on that crockpot. As I move into a new job, a new state, a new life – I need to rely on my own instincts, my own skills, my own feelings to help me through this. I need to trust myself and my decisions. And while I have been nothing but confident in these new changes for our life, it’s always nice to have a little positive reinforcement. 

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That – and Eric loved it.

PORK-

  • 2 LB Boneless pork loin, trimmed
  • 2-3 Tbsp. hoison sauce
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Sriracha
  • 2-3 Tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-5 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 C. Teriyaki sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 C. scallions, cut on diagonal
  • 1/8 C. cashews or peanuts, chopped (garnish)
  • 1/4C Cilantro, for garnish
  • 3-4 C. Blended peppers, julienned*
  • Brown basmati rice (optional)

Put your crockpot on high and add the minced garlic, pepper flakes, teriyaki and rice wine vinegar. Trim and cut the pork loin(s) into 4-5 inch portions and place into the crockpot. Set the timer for about 2.5 hours. (I turned the pork cuts once every 25-30 minutes with tongs.) Let it sit, mix and mingle.

After nearly two hours have passed, check the internal temperature. If it reads about 150F-155F, remove the pork cuts and let rest for 10  minutes or until they’re cool until to shred by hand. By hand. (Hand pulled is so much better than chopped – trust.)

While the pork is cooling, add the peanut butter, hoisin and sriracha. Mix well in the crockpot. Place the hand-shredded pork back in the crockpot and incorporate. Change the temperature to low and start rice (if serving). Taste the pork as it’s cooking and add peanut butter, hoisin and sriracha as needed (we added about 1/4 bottle of sriracha – and then more when serving).

Serve over cooked rice, garnish with sriracha, peanuts, cilantro and scallions.

*I used a blend of poblanos, bananas and red bell pepper.

Unsung Heroes + Little Hiccups

Hiccup - Dueling Ravioli
Hero - Salmon + Arucula Salad
Hero - Quinoa + Turkey Stuffed Poblanos
Hiccup - Awkward Cucumbers

I’ve been wondering about the accepted practices of food blogs lately which requires relentless googling of food blogs. Sometimes I stumble across some absolutely bizarre food mixtures (poblanos stuffed with canned tuna fish and purple potatoes – yes really). Sometimes I find inspiring writing with fun, not-so-amazing recipes. Sometimes I find food a post that I absolutely love only to find that the author hasn’t posted in over 2 years – which lead me to a short lived search of “where do food blogs go when they die.”

Fact is, I have serious food blog envy when it comes to almost every food blog I come across – better photography, better mashing of flavors, better writing, better name, whatever. And I don’t mean that in a greedy envious way, but an admirable envy that I hope to have this evolve into one day. But then I remember that these food bloggers are people too and they don’t have these mysterious week-long gaps in their lives where they spend the entire time in a dark room dreaming and perfecting their next post in their head. They’re people (which I have a strong familiarity with) and they love cooking (again with the strong familiarity thing).

Hero - Octopus + Tapenade + Garbanzos
Hiccup - Terrible Butter Mussels
Hiccup - Eggplant Steaks + Quinoa Pilaf
Hero - Incoming Serranos!

I don’t know where our food blog falls on the spectrum. We don’t cook with ingredients that most people can’t easily find, we don’t set unattainable flavor or taste standards for ourselves, we don’t post regularly, we don’t have a defined cooking-style, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t…. What we do post, is what we love – and we kind of talk to each other through our posts (because as far as we know, we’re the only avid readers). There are a lot of meals that go uncatalogued or have been purposefully forgotten (ravioli, in particular) and some meals that are absolutely post-worthy but we know we won’t ever get around to their weblog debut.

So this post is about the forgotten posts (the good, the bad and the ugly). The unsung heroes and little hiccups that slowed us down or kept us passionate.

 

(P)resident Heroes + Hiccups
(P)resident Heroes + Hiccups
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Kale + Corn + Chicken Enchiladas

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The weather is finally changing here. Finally that cool Fall weather is creeping in and its been almost two weeks since our A/C has been on (can’t wait to get that bill – no really). But more importantly than less bought air and more fresh air is that Fall weather seems to invigorate people and relationships. Something about a little nip when taking the dogs out makes you want to stand a little closer to the person you’re with or take a short stroll where you normally would opt to sit down and relax inside.

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The leaves haven’t yet turned and that’s ok. It’s not cold to entertain the thought of a fire and that’s ok. It’s not yet cool enough to warrant an 8-hour marathon lasagna cooking session and that, certainly is ok with me for the time being. Somehow enchiladas seem to be a good transition meal, warming yet spicy, not too heavy and, thankfully, not too labor intensive for a Sunday meal.

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The change of seasons is kind of fitting I would say for us as we’re about to start really coming up a huge life change for both Eric and myself in the coming weeks. I guess it is safe to say that soon, I will be leaving my job and diving head-first into a new market and who knows what else. It’s just the first of a series of changes we’re going to be going thru before 2014. At this point, I can’t wait for the change, to take the next steps into a wild and crazy adventure.

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Usually we make enchiladas with a roasted tomatillo sauce, but the season has kind of passed and the price of tomatillos has almost doubled for the time being. Having had a bland experience with a bottled red enchilada sauce and having a huge pantry stock pile to get rid of in just a few short weeks, I figured it’d be a good time to come up with a good enchilada sauce the same way we have a good marinara recipe. Turns out to be well worth the short amount of actual work that the meal required.

ENCHILADAS-

Serves 2-4

  • 5-6 Serranos
  • 5 Cloves garlic, smashed
  • Salt + whole pepper kernels
  • 5 Chicken breasts, cleaned and whole
  • 1 Can corn kernels, drained
  • 3+ Kale, chopped
  • Whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • 4 oz. creme fraiche
  • 1 White onion, sliced
  • 1/2C Queso fresco, crumbled

Start the sauce first and have it on reserve. You can use bottled sauce if you prefer.

Place the chicken breasts, whole serranos, 1 Tbsp salt, 1 TBSP whole pepper kernels and smashed garlic into a large pot. Cover by a few inches with water. Bring the contents to a boil and then let simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked thru. Drain the water (garlic, serranos and peppers too, if desired). Let the chicken cool for a bit until you can finely shred the chicken by hand. Once the chicken is shredded, add in the can of drained corn kernels.

While you’re waiting for the chicken to cool, slightly wilt the kale in a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the kale is wilted down a bit, add it to the corn and chicken mixture and combine well.

To assemble, pour about a 1/4″ thick layer of sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish or baking pan. Lay flat a tortilla wrap and smear with a spoonful of refried beans (if using) and place a generous portion of the chicken, corn, kale mixture in a vertical line in the middle of the wrap. Roll the tortilla and place seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat until the dish is filled with full wraps. It’s important (but not too important) to not overstuff tortilla wraps because they’ll come out more cleanly when serving.

When your baking dish is full of the filled wraps, pour the remainder of the enchilada sauce all over the tops of the wraps. Smear the creme fraiche on top of the enchilada followed by the crumbled queso fresco and cut up onion. Bake at 350F for about 30-35 minutes. Remember that queso fresco doesn’t really melt – ever, so don’t let that be your guide for cooking time.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and diced avocado. Serve warm and enjoy.

ENCHILADA SAUCE-

  • 1C Seeded dried chilies
  • Olive oil
  • 1-2C Stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 Cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tsp salt
  • 1/2 Tsp pepper

I know this seems like a lot of work – why would you make your own enchilada sauce? Because you bought a bad one one time and figured, how hard could this really be.

Rip the tops off of the dried chilies and try to shake out as many seeds as possible. (Don’t worry, no seeds will be in your sauce.) Throw the seeded chilies in a pot and fill with water until just covered. Bring the water and chilies to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Pour the entire contents of the pot into a blender along with salt, pepper and garlic cloves. Blend until smooth. Heat up about a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet and strain the contents of a blender through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any pulp and seeds. (I saved this seed/pulp mixture by letting it cool and jarring in the fridge – similar to a garlic-chili paste.)

Turn the skillet to high and let boil for a few seconds, then reduce to a simmer. Incrementally add the stock and tomato paste until it’s the texture, consistency and flavor that you like. I found that it took about 1.5C of stock and 3 generous tablespoons of tomato paste. I chose tomato paste to help round out the flavor of the sauce as enchilada sauce usually tends to be flat. Continue to add salt and pepper to taste.

The reduction and addition phase of the sauce took, in total, less than 2 hours which is much more than I expected. However, the work was not labor intensive and the sauce didn’t require constant stirring or sitting. I was able to work on other things while letting the sauce simmer off and I could add to it as I saw fit.

Note: I did try to thicken and cream the sauce a bit by tempering about 1/2C plain greek yogurt that ended up terribly. It seized anyway and didn’t help the flavor profile. I strained out the greek yogurt (again) and continued on with the tomato paste and chicken stock method that turned out better than I had hoped.

Yields 1 1/3 cups of sauce.

I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing in portions for future use. Would be great as a taco topping sauce as well!

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Chicken + Masa Tamales

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I am exactly in between where I’m going and where I’m leaving. We’ve got so many exciting things going on right now that it’s starting to become overwhelming just trying to think about how to get all of these moving parts on the same track running at the same speed. I’m proud of us that we’re taking the time to sit down and talk it out. Really thinking about who we need to be help both of us move forward.

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It’s not easy by any means and can be exhausting. Figuring out together how to approach a situation, delaying initial reactions and thinking about the other side before doing anything. And we know that we’re getting stronger every day.

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These tamales came about as a result of me working from home and wondering how to enhance a really bad taco salad for dinner and learning that there are about 4,273 reasons why you should have a big 10lb. bag of masa in your pantry at all times. Prepping these little guys was not nearly as labor intensive as you would think and a great presentation for an ensalada that was missing some serious south of the border flair.

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Enjoy. :)

MASA-

  • 1C Masa
  • 1C Chicken stock
  • 1 TSP Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 TSP Baking soda

CHICKEN MIXTURE-

  • 2 Cooked chicken breasts
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, rough chopped
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 Serranos
  • Splash stock or water

Carefully husk corn ears, disregard silk. You will be using the green husks in your steaming and as your wrappers to pay attention to not tear the leaves. Mix the masa ingredients in a bowl with a spatula, set aside. Pulse the chicken mixer in a food processor (if using) and set aside. Pick the corn leaves that have the widest base as your wrappers. Rip a few of the smaller corn leaves into ribbons for the tamale wrappers.

Lay down one of the tamale corn wrappers on a flat surface like it’s a rectangle with one of the longest side parallel with your countertop. Take about 1 TBSP of the masa mix and press it in a log form in the corn husk near the widest part of the husk. Press about 1 TBSP of the chicken on top of the masa.

Fold each side of the husk around the mixture so the wrapper completely covers the masa and chicken. You may need to adjust the amount of mixture pressed into each wrapper to accommodate. Fold over the long skinnier part of the wrapper over the folded seams and place folded/seam side down. Tie gently with one husk ribbon.

Two ears of corn could have made about 40-50 small tamales – so go crazy.

Fill a pot with a steamer basket with some water but make sure the water does not go into the steamer basket. Get it to a rolling boil. Stack all the tamales in the steamer basket and cover with the remaining corn husk leaves. Let boil for about 25-30 minutes and remove the tamales carefully from the steamer basket.

Want a tip? Place a nickel in the bottom of the pot so when the water runs too low you will hear the rattle.

Serve warm.

Tagine_Chicken_5

Moroccan Chicken Thighs + Couscous with Preserved Lemons

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When I want to cook a recipe, I want to learn everything I can about the history of a dish and try to make that part of the cooking experience. Maybe I take this research a little too seriously sometimes and try to tack on other traditions to the dish to make it more authentic than it actually is. That means I’ll want to serve a pie or ice cream with burgers, a crostata or budino with Italian or a tapas plate sure to include almonds and honey as an appetizer for anything Mediterranean.

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This Moroccan classic takes it up a notch, I think, actually takes my normal antics up a notch because I get to use an authentic cooking vessel that’s got a visual bluff your mouth can’t wait to call out. The best comparison I can think of for a tagine is a clay domed casserole dish traditional to Moroccan recipes. It’s also one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever gotten.

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And tastiest.

DIRECTIONS-

This recipe is adapted from this source and is specifically designed for the use of a tagine oven. Tagines are made of clay and CANNOT be used on the stove top.

If you are using a tagine, you will need to preheat your oven to 375F with the tagine INSIDE of the oven so that it heats up and cools down naturally. You do not want to shock a tagine with temperature as it may crack, or worse – explode. Start preheating your oven WITH the tagine first as prep doesn’t take too much time.

CHICKEN-

  1. About 1.5 LB cleaned chicken thighs
  2. ~2 Pats of butter
  3. Salt and pepper

Generously salt and pepper each side of your chicken thighs.

Melt some butter over medium-heat in a dutch oven and brown your chicken thighs (about 45 seconds on each side.) You may have to do this in batches as you don’t want to overcrowd and steam your chicken. Remove the chicken and set aside. Move onto the couscous

COUSCOUS-

  1. 1 Yellow onion, sliced
  2. 10-15 Portabella mushrooms, quartered
  3. 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 TSP Cinnamon
  5. 2 TSP Turmeric
  6. 1 TSP Ginger, grated
  7. 3 TBSP Capers
  8. 1 Preserved lemon, chopped
  9. 1/4C White wine
  10. 1C Couscous, uncooked
  11. ~3/4C Stock
  12. Handful briny olives (kalamata type or mixed)
  13. Salt and pepper
  14. Olive oil
  15. Handful parsley, chopped (optional)

Don’t start on making the onion or mushroom mix until after browning the chicken thighs.

Once you’ve removed the browned chicken thighs from the dutch oven, add in your garlic, mushrooms, onions, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. You may need to reduce the temperature a bit to prevent too much browning, but you will be deglazing the pan later.

Adjust the onions and mushrooms (and add salt and pepper if desired) to taste and remember that you’ll be adding plenty of salt with the capers, preserved lemon and briny olives to the couscous so salt should be faint at this point. Once the mushrooms and onions are cooked down, increase the heat again to  medium-high and add wine and 1/4C of the stock.

At this point, your tagine should be preheated completely in the oven and ready to use. Carefully remove the tagine from the oven and place on your stove top. Carefully remove the top and pour a drizzle of olive oil (like a tsp), the uncooked couscous, 1/4C stock along with preserved lemons, capers and olives. It will look like the couscous has soaked up all of the stock immediately and that’s ok.

Mix the couscous in the bottom of the bowl so the salty lemons and such are incorporated throughout. Add the remaining 1/4C stock. Place the resting chicken thighs on top of the couscous and top with the ingredients inside of the dutch oven.

Carefully replace the tagine lid and slide it back into the oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the tagine about 20 minutes through the suggested cook time and check the internal temperature of the chicken (should be 145F) and taste the couscous underneath with a fork. It should be nearly cooked. If it’s super dry still, add about 1/4C stock as close to the bottom of the tagine as you can so it has more direct contact with the couscous.

Let cook until finished (about 15 minutes), remove from the oven and wait for the wow factor when you take off the lid.

Enjoy.

Zucchini_Muffin_4

Zucchini + Banana + Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Sometimes, Eric has to eat things that are a product of me surfing around on the internet. Zucchini in a muffin is just that example. After two years, it’s not so scary any more when I start a conversation with “hey..what do you think about…” The initial hesitation has shortened tremendously and the response is a “sure, yeah, let’s try it.”

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However, this was baking. And this is not my realm. This is not what I do. This is what Eric does. (See the omg amazing crostata for proof.) So my decision to make muffins mid-morning Sunday was a little surprising but welcomed I would say. However, the adage that I was going to make my own recipe was absurd. The nerve.

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I pulled it off though and was reminded why I don’t bake. It is WAY too precise and it requires every single ingredient in the BACK of the pantry and every single bowl, fork, tool and spoon you own.

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Also – Eric ate two as soon as I left to run some errands. So – you tell me.

  1. 1C Shredded zucchini
  2. 2 Ripe bananas, mashed
  3. 1/2C Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  4. 1/4C Agave
  5. 1C Whole-wheat flour
  6. 1/2C Pecan meal
  7. 1 1/4 TSP Baking powder
  8. 1/2 TSP Baking soda
  9. 1 TBSP Canola oil
  10. 1/8 TSP Salt
  11. 2 Eggs

Blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in the agave, yogurt, eggs, bananas and zucchinis gradually until well incorporated and very viscous. Toss in chocolate chips last. Spray a muffin tin with oil (or butter) and place liners inside if you have them. We didn’t and they came out just fine.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until they pass they toothpick test). Let cool slightly and serve.

Cubano_4

El Cubano

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Growing up, my parents would take my brother, sister and I to the incredible Tampa Bay Aquarium. After that, we would go Ybor City and get cuban sandwiches and crab croquettes. This is one of my most favorite childhood memories with my entire family and the Cuban sandwich has always had a special place in my breadbox heart.

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Fast forward over a decade, Eric and I don’t spend much time around bread – or any at all. Carbs – bad. But, every once in a while our diet becomes much more flexible than we’d like it to be. We call those cheat days. Last weekend I was craving a Cuban sandwich and tried to surprise Eric by taking him to a local Cuban restaurant that was a horrible fail.

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So last weekend’s cheat Cubano does not count because it was just all wrong. The lack of copious amounts of mustard and pickles (the key flavor ingredients – no really) left a dry piece of pork between two flattened pieces of bread that was not worth the effort. Unfortunately, this was his first Cubano and I knew I had to make him understand what he was missing out on.

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Pork, salami, mozzarella, mustard and pickles pressed and toasted – yeah, hard sell. :)

Makes 2 large sandwiches.

PORK*-

  1. 1 2LB Pork tenderloin
  2. 1/3C Olive oil
  3. 1-2 TBSP Rosemary, chopped
  4. 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  5. Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375F. Place your cast iron skillet and a sandwich press (or a brick wrapped in tin foil in our case) in the oven and leave in there until ready to assemble the sandwich).

Mix the oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl well. Trim off any fat on the pork and rub the oil mixture into and onto the pork well on all sides.( I roasted mine on a baking tray with a cooling rack to keep the loin from having direct contact with the tray.) Roast for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 145F.

Remove from oven and let rest about 10 minutes. Cut the tenderloin in half and slice one of the halves into 1/4″ slices.

*NOTE: We used half of the pork loin and froze the other half cooked for another dinner in the near but distant future.

SANDWICH -

  1. 1 12″ Sub roll, fresh
  2. Mustard
  3. Pickles
  4. Genoa salami
  5. Mozzarella slices

If you can find it, Cuban bread is the way to go here. In fact, if you can find a place that sells Cuban bread, odds are they make a better sandwich than us. But, for good measure, we used a white bread 12″ sub roll sliced completely through. Remove the bread innards of the top half of the sandwich so that when you press the sandwich, the dressings stay inside.

Slather (yes, slather – that means a lot) mustard on the bottom of the bread half. Place salami, mozzarella and a lot of pickles down. Place the sliced pork on top and drizzle a little more mustard on the top half of the sandwich. Place the top half onto the bottom, slice the sandwich on a SEVERE bias.

Carefully place your (intimidatingly) warmed cast iron skillet on top of your stove, drizzle a little olive oil (or butter?) and place half of the sandwich inside. Cover the top half of the bread with your sandwich press or hot brick and press down (with an oven mitt). Press down for about 45 seconds, flip once and press down again.

Slice on a severe bias again and stack when serving.

 

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BLT Salad + Seared Cod

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Eric is sneaky. Very very sneaky. Somehow bacon has slowly crept its way back into our fridge after going months without it. Loaves of bread just make themselves comfortable where they used to be in the cupboard or freezer. Some other items are in there too that I had previously (in my own sneaky way) phased out of the house. But now, the tables have turned because at the idea of a BLT salad, I didn’t look at him with a “try again” face.

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I have to admit that this is not his fault – he works out 5+ days a week and when he says he’s hungry, it’s for a reason. Him proposing a salad (in any form) topped with a lean fish shows that I’ve rubbed off on him (or he’s learning how to get what he wants thru compromise). Also the super simple assembly makes this a great weeknight dinner.

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BUT – I can say that me working out and taking vitamins and protein shakes is sneaky. Because it is. My motto has been for the longest time “I diet – I don’t work out,” and that worked up until a certain point. Now I’m up at 6.30am doing resistance training (which he created my weekly routine) and (attempting) cardio on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’m also really enjoying the lunch leftovers of this BLT salad with cod.

This dinner, we will consider a compromise. <3

SERVES 4

SALAD-

  • 1 Bag rinsed** spinach + arugula
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 6 Slices cooked + drained bacon, chopped
  • Bleu cheese (We didn’t but a good suggestion by Eric)

**Because it needs to be rinsed. Found a dead bug in my spinach yesterday. So wash that stuff…and then dry it.

CILANTRO DRESSING-

  • See here

COD-

  • 2+ LB Cod fillets (I prefer skin on, Harris Teeter apparently did not)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil

Cut cod fillets into 4 equal portions, season each side of the fillet with salt and pepper. Heat skillet to medium heat and place cod (skin side down first if you have it) and let sit untouched for 3-4 minutes. Flip once for 1-2 minutes. Cod should be golden brown, cooked through and flaky. Let the cod rest for a few minutes or you will wilt your salad when assembling.

To assemble, place some cilantro dressing on the bottom of the plate, top with the salad fixings and top with the cooled cod fillet. Drizzle some more dressing. Enjoy a light dinner and move onto dessert (the last of the maple, bourbon, caramelized bacon ice cream).

Also, I promise to make something other than a salad this week.

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Quinoa, Spinach + Shrimp Sunday Salad

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I would say that I’m guilty of a lot of things in the kitchen. Giving the dogs too many scraps, having a heavy-salt hand, thinking I need to make every.single.thing. from scratch, serving leftovers for lunch only and whole-heartedly believing that I need to make the most laborious Sunday dinner every week.

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The last guilty admission, making a huge Sunday dinner for two every week, has resulted in some amazing weekend wrap-up dinners that test the limits of our relationship and patience (R.I.P. completely from scratch lasagna that was (oh so) amazing that Indy ate off the counter that night…). Maybe it’s the crazy past weekends and just wanting to completely do nothing this weekend that makes this Sunday dinner so lazy (so lazy that I opted to not charge the camera and take pictures from my phone) or the cool rainy weekend weather that is undoubtedly going to be followed by yet another heat stroke, but this Sunday we just completely did nothing and it shows in what I prepared for Sunday dinner. (Although admittedly, we both can’t wait for the Sunday kitchen marathon sessions when it’s Fall – lasagna round due, bring it!)

Could he be any more creepy?
Could he be any more creepy?

This cool summer salad used a lot of things we had stored in the freezer, produce bin, pantry and fridge that I almost consider it upcycling but I took so many shortcuts here. Starting from the e-z peel deveined frozen shrimp, the jarred blackening (because Eric’s is SO much zestier!), leftover dressing from breakfast burritos and more. Although, this salad is just the perfect light dinner we need for Eric’s brown-sugar, carmelized bacon + bourbon ice cream. Whattt? Yeah. Dig in that.

Serves 4

SALAD-

  • 1 Bunch spinach, washed
  • 1/2C Red quinoa, cooked and cooled
  • 4 Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1/2 LB Shrimp, blackened and cooled
  • 1/2 Avocado, cubed

Mix all items, once cooled into your salad bowl + whatever else you have around (chickpeas, tomato, walnuts, blueberries…whatever). Serve with dressing below.

CILANTRO + GREEK YOGURT DRESSING-

  • 2 Clove minced garlic
  • 1.5 Bunches cilantro, rough chopped
  • 1 C Non-fat greek yogurt, plain
  • 4-6 TBSP Olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP White distilled vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients on high in your food processor. Adjust to taste with any of the above ingredients. If you are planning to place the dressing in a squirt bottle, make sure all ingredients are well blended to prevent clogging. Lasts up to two weeks in your refrigerator.

A Family Portrait

Family Tree – Norman Rockwell

If anyone is reading this regularly, we apologize for the lag in posts. I guess we probably should’ve shared that we are entertaining this week with Eric’s entire family in.

It’s been a fun ride and a good test(ament) to our relationship. We’ve all very much enjoyed the time spent together thus far.

However, we do miss our traditional blog posting and cooking interesting meals. So far this week, we were extremely impressed by the latest go at tagine chicken with preserved lemons, cous cous and olives (recipe definitely to come).

Eric’s making bourbon, bacon candy ice cream for tomorrow that I hope to document though. J

See you next week!

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Eastern NC BBQ Pulled Pork

It’s rare that we cook something more so than not “unhealthy.” Now that’s not to say that everything we cook, we cook healthily, but we can at least say well we substituted this for that and that for this – yadda yadda yadda. There’s no yadda yadda yadda applicable to this weekend. Because then you’d yadda over the best part.

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So where to start on an unhealthy weekend – the crockpot. The original “set it and forget it” tool. Where you can look at all of the unhealthy ingredients that you will later be feasting on – but don’t have to think about again for at least 8 hours. By then, the smell in your house is so intense and the flavors so powerful that you just have to enjoy it.

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And that’s what we did. Complete with homemade lime vinaigrette coleslaw, fresh home-baked ciabatta rolls and finishing off with some fresh-churned homemade peach ice cream, the vinegar based pork shoulder was among some good friends.

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I know – there are some of you (i.e. my dad) who says western barbecue is the way to go. Well, my friend, that is what Sunday is for.

EASTERN BBQ PULLED PORK-

  • 2 Yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 TBSP Brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP Smoked paprika
  • 2 TSP Salt
  • ½ TSP Ground black pepper
  • 3.5LB Pork butt/shoulder rounds
  • 1 TBSP Liquid smoke
  • 1 C Cider Vinegar
  • ⅓ c Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 TSP Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 TSP Sugar
  • ½ TSP Dry mustard
  • 1 TSP Onion, dried
  • ¼ TSP Cayenne pepper
  • 2 Cloves garlic, crushed

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Fare with some changes to what we had and didn’t have available. Mainly – time. The referenced recipe calls for 8 hours of slow cooking in the crockpot but we got a late start. Shock. Our barbecue cooked for about 3.5 hours and was completely fork tender. Maybe because of the cut rounds rather than a large shoulder cut.

Cut and place the onions in the crockpot. In one bowl, mix the brown sugar, paprika, dry mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper in a small bowl as your pork’s dry rub. When thoroughly mixed, rub into your pork and set aside.

In another bowl, (or perhaps the crockpot itself?) mix the cider vinegar, sugar, dried onion, pepper flakes and Worcestershire. Add the dry rubbed pork and heat on high and leave alone for 3.5 hours (at least). Pour the liquid smoke over the pork cuts when you set the crockpot. I turned the cuts once halfway thru the cooking process for even cooking.

You know the pork is done when falls apart when you poke at it with tongs. When you’re done cooking the pork, remove the onions (if desired) and pork and place into another bowl. After about 10-15 minutes, it’s cool enough to pull apart with your hands or just take tongs and dig in and twist repeatedly (method I used) for about 2 minutes.

Serve it nestled in a perfectly warm, fresh cut and oven pulled ciabatta roll next to marinated coleslaw and roasted herb butter corn.

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Homemade Celery Salt

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I have to say – a lot of love goes into and out of our tiny apartment kitchen. This weekend has kept us in front of cutting boards and sitting at the table longer than we thought, but it’s so well worth it.

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This, is celery salt. Kind of. I needed it for a coleslaw recipe to go with our Saturday night “cheat” day dinner which consisted of coleslaw, NC-Eastern bbq pork AND ciabatta rolls. Oh, and peach ice cream. Yes, we really did all of this for just one weekend night dinner.CelerySalt_3

I get so excited cooking for us that I get so ahead of myself. I love knowing that what I’m making will be truly enjoyed, Eric will help wherever he can and gets as excited as I do. I love our kitchen. <3

CELERY SALT-

  • Leaves from top of celery stalks, chopped
  • Salt

Rough chop all of the leaves from the tops of celery stalks. Toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the leaves are dried out. The smell will be extremely fragrant and inviting. (I got impatient with everything else going on and took them off before they dried out completely.) When the leaves are dried out, put them in mortar and pestle them until crunched. Mix in about 1 TSP of kosher salt and continue pestling.

You might want to add 1/2 TSP at first of salt and then add more to taste.

Because mine was not completely dried out and didn’t yield too much, I don’t know how long the salt would last. Probably a long time considering the history of salt and if the leaves were dried out properly..

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Jambalaya + Cauliflower Dirty Rice

Friday could not have come soon enough. The week seemed like it hurt its ankle and didn’t have any urgency to get to a clinic in any type of timely manner. That does not mean that this week was a “lazy” week by any means. A lot of people shared in this sentiment of a truly taxing work week.
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So, when the work week drags by, it helps (me at least) to know what I have to look forward to for dinner all day. Ok, all week because I plan meals out a week in advance. I could plan forever, but I start to feel bad when I ask Eric what he would feel like next Thursday and his “um…well…” takes too long. Totally unfair, I understand. So Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays go out with a bang.

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This meal, jambalaya (delicious) substitutes traditional white, sodium-ridden dirty rice with cauliflower (perhaps not so tasty?) with non-pork sausage and shrimp. Even though I was looking forward to this meal, I knew I had to convince Eric that this was not only a good thing, but also a great substitution to the infamous “rice belly” feeling.

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Thankfully, after such a week where the winds in my sails were just not missed by Thursday  morning – this meal spoke for itself tonight and Eric said the magic words to me “I would ask for this again” which denotes instant success in my kitchen.

 

CAULIFLOWER DIRTY RICE-

  • 1 Head cauliflower
  • 1 Zucchini, chopped
  • 4 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/2C Scallions, chopped
  • 1 Can, drained diced tomatoes
  • 1 Yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 TBSP Olive oil
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1/2 TBSP Salt
  • 1/2 TBSP Pepper
  • 1 1/2 TSP Turmeric
  • 2 TSP Cumin
  • 1 TSP Paprika
  • 1 1/2 TSP Chili powder
  • 1.5 C Stock (Vegetable or chicken)

Prep the zucchini, garlic, jalapeno, scallions, onion and set aside. Trust me – do this part first and get this all prepped to make your life of making pseud0-rice just a little bit easier. Why? Because right after you prep all of these things you should heat the olive oil over medium heat in a stock pot. Toss in the onion, scallion, garlic and cook until fragrant (3-5 minutes).

While you’re waiting on the above, make yourself useful and multi-task! Do a rough chop on the cauliflower so you have large florets of cauliflower. High-pulse the florets in the food processor.

Add the cauliflower, zucchini, drained tomatoes and stocks. Mix in all of the spices and keep seasoning until it’s right for you. I tweaked the above initial spice canon quite a bit to get it right for us (i.e. hot hot hot). Bring the heat to a medium-high and stir every few minutes for about 35-45 minutes.

NOTE: Jambalaya becomes magical when you add okra to the mix. Unfortunately, Eric’s taste buds have convinced him that okra is unworthy of participating in its native dish. However, that did not stop me from forgetting that I had bought frozen okra for this specific dish.. This note serves as your final warning to add the frozen okra in either 5 minutes before serving or when you add in the raw shrimp. Alas.

Start on the turkey sausage and shrimp if you’re including.

SPICY TURKEY SAUSAGE-

  • 1 LB Ground, turkey
  • 1 TBSP Fennel seeed
  • 2 TSP Red chili flakes
  • 1  TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP Dill, dried
  • 1 TSP Oregano, dried

Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl well with your hands. While the cauliflower rice is settling, cook the turkey sausage mixture until 80% done in a skillet over medium heat. When your “rice” is about 10 minutes away from serving, throw the sausage into the stock pot and stir a few times.

If you’re using shrimp, I coated them on one side with old bay for some extra punch and salt. Throw the shrimp in about 5 minutes before the rice is ready to serve. Don’t serve the rice until the shrimp and sausage are cooked thru.

Serve with cilantro and hot sauce (preferably Frank’s) for a punch-in-your-mouth Jambalaya.

 

 

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Basil Pesto + Spinach Caprese Salad

This post is kind of like one of those “I’d hate to follow that act…” after that cherry crostata which was absolutely out of the park incredible. Especially when you know the back story of that night’s dinner where I demanded we make a three-course dinner consisting of salad, entree and dessert.

 Pesto

Maybe you’re thinking – surely you can’t be serious, why would you write about something you deem not worth posting. I’ll be frank – the entree (chicken saltimbocca) was not worth writing about, let alone eating. And don’t call me Shirley.

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This week’s got a new take on dinner though. To reserve any kind of labor intense dinner for the weekend (which requires only two or three episodes in the kitchen rather than 7..) and focus on evening walks with the bozeys and spending time with each other at the table rather than on our feet staring intently at a cutting board.

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Regardless, this is a simple salad that would pair well with any side or as a small appetizer salad. Hopefully – you’ll get a glimpse of what we’re spearing our forks into this week. :)

PESTO-

  • 1/2C Basil, shredded
  • 1/2C Spinach, chopped
  • 1/3C Olive oil
  • 1/4C Walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4C Parmiggiano, shredded
  • 1 TBSP Lemon juice
  • 2 Cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper

Blend all pesto ingredients in a food processor until well mixed. If you need more liquid, taste it first and add either a splash of water, olive oil or lemon juice depending on your taste. Set aside.

SALAD-

  • Small container mozzarella bocconcini
  • 2C Spinach, chopped
  • 1 Pint grape tomatoes

Slice each bocconcini and grape tomatoes in half. Toss the mozzarella, spinach and tomatoes lightly in a bowl. Add the pesto and continue to toss. Add a little pesto at first and begin tossing before adding more (you don’t want pesto soup…or do you?). Serve immediately or chilled.

Leftover pesto stays good in the fridge for up to a week but you will need to add some lemon juice to remove oxidation.

 

Cherry Crostata with Honey and Greek Yogurt Dressing

I enjoy baking. Really I do. Whereas Em is more off-the-cuff and savory, I find myself more by the books and sweet. I think with baking there is an order. The recipe is the word and I like that. You follow this and you will get this result. It’s a simple enough process.

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While I do enjoy baking, it does take a lot of me but only because I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to order (As Em will attest, the pillows on the bed do have to be in a certain manner or else it kills me). But she is teaching me to lighten up, to take things as they are and while there is a recipe, I can always think outside of the box.

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So, she asks for a Cherry Tart and I give her a Cherry Crostata (It’s Italian in origin). This was fun to make as it was a completely new experience for me and she absolutely loved it. So, Win.

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I will always bake her anything she asks for!

 

For the pastry dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
  • 1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

For the Filling:

  • 4 pints fresh cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. Kirsch or spiced rum (optional)

For the topping:

  • -1 8-oz. container Greek Yogurt
  • -2 Tbsp. honey

 

Okay, for starters I love, love, LOVE this recipe for the crust. It turned out exactly like  I wanted it to. Light, buttery, flaky. I will definitely be using this one again in the winter.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt and orange zest until combined. Add half of the chilled butter and pulse until flour mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the remaining butter and pulse until the pieces start to come together. You should see a lot of bean sized pellets of flour starting to come together.

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the cream until dough just comes together. Add the cream slowly and work it in as you go. I thought that I had used to much because it had almost a mushy like consistency, but it finally came together. Scrape the dough onto a work surface lined with parchment paper and knead just enough for the dough to form a loose ball.  Press into a flat circle and refrigerate at least 20 minutes, covered.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into a large circle, about ¼ inch thick. Slide the dough onto a baking sheet with the parchment still underneath and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the cherries with the sugar, salt, cornstarch and liquor. When the pastry dough has finished resting, spoon the cherry mixture into the center of the dough circle. Spread evenly to about an inch and a half from the edge. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the cherry mixture to contain the filling. I should make note here that I also sprinkled a bit of sugar on the crust to give it a little bit of a sweet taste.

Bake the crostata in the preheated oven until crust is evenly browned and the cherry filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Another thing to mention was that I did glaze the crust with melted butter every 10 minutes. I think this certainly helped with the nice golden brown glow it came out with.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt and honey.

I dusted mine with powered sugar and let it rest for about 5 minutes. I placed a spoonful of the yogurt dressing and top and served with a nice warm mug of Irish Coffee!

 

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Mahi-Mahi Steaks + Warm Kalamata Tapenade

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Have you ever paid attention to that feeling where you spend 8 hours at a desk all day and then still feel the need to sit down for a minute when you get home? I hate that. Even though 40 hours of my week is spent at a chair, by myself, in a corner, I still feel like I need to decompress. What gives? Because another 40 are spent sleeping (give or take) and another 40 are spent in between the other 80 accounted for hours.

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 I think the worst part of getting home and needing to “relax” is that I feel like between the hours of 6.20PM – 11:00PM are the only real parts of “my day” that I get to spend with Eric and the boys. And that includes a morning walk with all of them, too.

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This afternoon, after work, we made time for each other to hang out for a bit. We even left the television off and sat at the dinner table and talked. A thing we remembered that we “used to do.” So not only did we have a nice seafood dinner, but also made a resolution to have more dinners at the table together.

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And for me, that’s a pretty good Wednesday. :)

MAHI-MAHI-

  • 2 Large 1″+ mahi steaks
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Our fillets still had the skin on (best surprise ever). Lightly oil, salt and pepper each side of the steaks. Turn a stove skillet over medium-high heat until the pan is almost smoking hot. Carefully place skin side down on the grill top first and let sit for 4-6 minutes. Let it sit. Do not touch it. Do not pass go. Go do something else for those 4 minutes. The steak will be cooked about 1/3″ – 1/2″ up.

At the very end of these 4-6 minutes Flip the steaks over carefully with a fish spatula and let sit another 3-5 minutes. If you’re curious, the internal temperature of mahi should be 145F.

TAPENADE-

  • 1 TBSP Olive oil
  • 1.5 TBSP Lemon juice, fresh
  • 1 Preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1/4C Italian parsley
  • Pepper
  • 1C Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 TSP Red wine vinegar

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth with small chunks of kalamata still visible. Heat up in a skillet over medium heat to open a lot of the flavors (can also leave cold and serve on warm crostini). Serve on top of the mahi-mahi.

//ROASTED VEGETABLES + COUSCOUS//

The roasted vegetables were just whatever we had in the fridge (onion, grape tomatoes and green beans) strewn out across a lipped baking sheet with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I’d guess 20-25 minutes at 375F or until desired tenderness.

Couscous is a 1:1 ratio. Remember that , 1:1, and you’ll always get it right. Drop 1C dried couscous with 1C water in a small sauce pan (lightly salt if adding mix-ins). Bring it to a boil, cover and remove from heat (you can always add more salt at this phase as well). Stir a few times throughout the next 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork. (Emily adds golden raisins to contrast the saltiness – Eric picks them out kindly).

 

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Crispy Baked Tofu, Eggplant, Mushroom + Broccoli Stir-Fry

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Meatless Mondays have become an institution in our apartment – and today being Monday warrants just such a meal. At first we were doing it completely, utterly, deplorably all wrong and having huge portions of pasta or rice that defeat the purpose of the dinner that, by design, should accentuate a vegetable protein source. Or even three.

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Ok. So tofu can help bridge this gap. Why not bake it (without adding any extra breading or too much oil) to make it crispy? And some broccoli and mushrooms to bulk it up. But what to do with the dreaded eggplant. Oh, the eggplant.

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We want so much to “love” eggplant. So much so that we’re growing it in our garden which is saying a lot because it’s a balcony and sunny real estate is at a premium. It always comes off as over or under cooked,  bland, lacking almost like it’s trying to be something it’s not. Somehow the vegetables and crispy baked tofu complement each other so well that the eggplant becomes sought out rather than a necessary evil.

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This has been a Meatless Monday hit for a few weeks in a row now and serving it without brown rice really cements this dish as a hallmark of our viande-free victories.

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SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS-

  • 1 Medium eggplant, cubed
  • 1C Portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 14-16 oz. Tofu, extra firm
  • 1.5C Broccoli florets
  • 2 TBSP Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper

SAUCE-

  • 6 TBSP Soy sauce, low sodium
  • 1 TBSP Sesame oil
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP Sesame seeds
  • 3/4 TSP Sugar

TOPPINGS

  • 1/2C Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4C Scallions, chopped

Preheat your oven to 400F.

The tofu will take the most time to bake so go ahead and start by pressing the whole tofu block between some paper towels (weighted on top with a cutting board or plate with tin can) for at least 30-45 minutes. Once the tofu has soaked the paper towels through, cut it up into the desired portion sizes (we chose large 1/2″ thick right triangles because after a few too many times of flipping over a million 1″ die-sized tofu 6 times each, 2x per baking session we frankly had to think outside of the box..work smarter not harder). Lightly salt and pepper both sides of your tofu cuts. Spray the bottom of a baking sheet with some oi., place one seasoned side down and slide into the oven and bake for at least 35 minutes (or more depending on desired crispiness). Flip at least one time halfway through total cooking time.

While the tofu is baking, chop up your remaining ingredients and set aside. Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside (adjust flavor to your taste).

When the tofu is (just about) done, heat up a wok on medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and add the cubed eggplant. After about 2-3 minutes of tossing the eggplant should start to soften and warmed through. Quickly add the broccoli and mushrooms and toss for about 45 seconds before adding half of the sauce mixture. Continue tossing the wok’s ingredients together until the broccoli is tender. Add the remaining sauce and chopped scallions and toss again for another 35-45 seconds.

Serve with tofu pieces on the side and top with cilantro.

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Silver Dollar Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

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You know those times where someone has a food craving but doesn’t want to admit it? Eric had one this morning. I know he did as he added “maple syrup” to my 3-item grocery list this morning originally consisting of freezer bags, AA batteries, a Sunday paper and…maple syrup as I’m almost walking out the door.

This was an obvious one. We don’t have a waffle iron so it had to be pancakes.

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On the way back from the quick morning errand, I started thinking about how my dad used to make us any shape pancake we wanted most Sunday mornings. We’d try to throw him off by asking for a horse, triangle or car shaped pancake and he was always able to deliver. I couldn’t help but want to bring those memories back and make some pancakes for Eric. The only problem –  I’d never made homemade pancakes before and he was hungry. Circling the kitchen around me as soon as I got home hungry.

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 Luckily, the most recent post from the Minimalist Baker had put pancakes on my mind and confidence in my breakfast making abilities. It’s not that I’m not all for pancakes and brunch, it’s just that 5 days a week, a strict diet of 3 egg whites and plain grits for breakfast breaks you of wanting to put too much thought or effort into it.

These pancakes satiated the small sweet craving Eric was having and were easy for me to whip up. The cinnamon and honey gave the pancakes depth of flavor and whole wheat flour made them more dense so the small dollar-sized portions worked well.

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PANCAKES-

  • 1C Whole wheat flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TBSP Baking powder
  • 1.5 TSP Almond extract (vanilla if preferred)
  • 3/4 TSP Cinnamon, grated
  • 1C Milk
  • 1 TBSP Honey
  • 1 Banana, thinly sliced
  • Pats of butter (for the skillet)

Whisk the flour, egg, baking powder, extract, cinnamon, milk and honey in a large mixing bowl. Heat up a large skillet over medium-low heat and melt a small pat of butter. Drop about 2-3 TBSP of the pancake mix onto the skillet and let it start to set (about 30 seconds). Drop a few banana slices onto the pancake. (Pancakes tell you when they’re ready to be flipped when small bubbles appear through the batter.) Let the banana slices sit for about 10 seconds and flip over. Let finish cooking for less than a minute.

If you want larger pancakes, pour more batter on the skillet and add more bananas.

Whole Wheat Garlic Na’an

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Every pantry has a few household staples that are always available.  Na’an is one of ours, which is saying a lot as we hardly ever eat bread or starch anymore. Substituting flour for flax meal, pasta for spaghetti and zucchini, rice with cauliflower…somehow, na’an’s warm, charred, blistered, soft texture seemed to make enough of an impression to make sure it was always around in its most pure and natural form – flour.

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Even though it’s infinitely more effective to buy na’an as it’s relatively cheap, we decided to take it on for a Saturday date-night in with tzatziki, keftedes and vegetable wraps. We were always able to find garlic or whole wheat na’an when shopping, but never the two combined.

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I have to imagine that a good na’an recipe is something that grandmothers must hold secretly and share only with family members similar to a good phyllo, pizza or pie crust. That being said, I can assure you that none of my grandmothers have ever made na’an, and probably never tried it. But you will not get their phyllo, pizza or pie dough recipes out of me. Ever. : )

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NA’AN-

  • 1 TSP Active dry yeast
  • 2 TSP Sugar, divided
  • 2C Whole wheat flour
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 3 TBSP Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 TBSP Olive oil
  • 2 TBSP Garlic, minced
  • Melted Butter (About 2-3 TBSP.)
  • 3/4C Warm Water

 

Activate the yeast by lightly mixing the warm water, 1 TSP sugar and yeast in a bowl. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

In the meantime, sift the flour, salt and remaining teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl. Lightly mix the dry ingredients with your hands to evenly distribute throughout.

When the yeast is frothy on the top, cut in the garlic, olive oil and greek yogurt being careful not to completely destroy the active yeast bubbles. Mix the wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients with a fork. When the mixture starts coming together, use your hands to mix the dough together. Cover with saran wrap and let rise for three hours. The dough will just about double.

Set aside some extra whole wheat flour and start rolling the dough into small teardrop shapes with a rolling pin. You should get about 6 small pieces of na’an (4″ wide) or about 4 large pieces of na’an that are 5-6″ wide. Use flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter surface, rolling pin and other loaves while rolling the remaining dough.

When you’re ready to cook the dough, get a cast iron skillet and melted butter ready. Heat up the skillet over medium-high heat. Place the first piece of na’an dough down on the heated dry skillet and let cook for about 2-3 minutes until blistery. Brush the bread side that is uncooked and face up lightly with butter and flip. Cook for about one minute (until somewhat charred) and remove from heat with tongs onto a plate. Cook the remaining rolled dough pieces in the same manner.

Huevos Rancheros

There are some breakfast dishes that are just too hearty to not be dinners. Huevos rancheros is one of those dishes, like somehow it got confused and ended up on a breakfast rather than a dinner table. However, because it is considered a breakfast, having it for dinner makes it that much more daring. Breakfast for dinner? – ¡Que loco!

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These other pictures are just for fun because dinner was just for fun…so we kind of forgot (or neglected) to take more than just one picture of the entire meal. So here are a few pictures of some favorite things, like breakfast for dinner. Huevos_Rancheros_2

If you’ve ever wondered what a meyer lemon looks like when it’s blossoming, here you go. If you’ve ever wondered if it would grow in a container on an apartment balcony – confirmed.

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If you wanted to see what makes my day everyday – it’s this face. All day, every day – no problem.

¡Buen provecho!

INGREDIENTS-

  • 4 Eggs
  • 4 Flour tortillas
  • 1/2 Avocado, sliced
  • 1/2C Black beans, cooked
  • 1/4C Cilantro, chopped
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 TSP Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/3C Chicken stock
  • 1/2C Pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2LB Ground turkey
  • 1/2 TBSP Fennel seed
  • 1/2 TBSP Red chili flakes
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic salt
  • 2 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1/2C Corn, shaved
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

If you’re making the turkey sausage, mix the fennel seed, garlic salt, chili flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper each thoroughly in a bowl. The fennel and chili flakes will make the turkey taste like spicy italian sausage, so reduce the spice proportions if you want a milder flavor.  Heat up a skillet over medium-heat and brown the sausage through until cooked. Place cooked sausage in a bowl lined with paper towels or parchment paper to drain. Set aside.

Consider the tomato sauce for this dish as a light, chunky, spicy type of marinara sauce (if that helps guide you). In a small sauce pan, heat up some olive oil and toss in the garlic until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the tomato paste and stir constantly until the color of the paste darkens slightly (this also helps infuse the paste with the garlic as well a touch). Add in the chopped roma tomatoes and increase heat to medium, add stock in tablespoon increments (as needed) and reduce down. Add salt, pepper and cayenne (if using) to taste. Set aside.

Heat up the flour or corn tortillas (I’d recommend corn even though we only had flour) in or on your stove top (you lucky gas-stove apartment dwellers) until charred and blistery. Heat up some oil (or butter?) in a small skillet and drop in two eggs. At this point, you have two options. Not flip your eggs, season now with salt and pepper and go for sunny side-up. Or, let your eggs cook on one side until the whites are firm and the gelatin around the yolks is firming up. Flip gently, cook for no more than 30 seconds and season with salt and pepper lightly.

To construct, lay down one tortilla down on a plate, put a spoonful of sauce, black beans, corn and sausage. Top with another toasted tortilla, cover with  more sauce and carefully place the eggs on top so you don’t break the yolks. Top with grated cheese, cilantro and avocado slices. Serve immediately.

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It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

So obviously the thing to do in the middle of a thunder storm is to test out our new mini charcoal grill from Weber.

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Growing up, the one thing that I remember fondly about my childhood is watching my dad grill out. He was a master when it came to that grill and something that in my life I have tried to emulate. It was about patience and learning to wait until just the right time. To have faith that while you may not actually see anything happening, something amazing is about to come from the time you have invested. To sit back and just relax and enjoy the time you have with the ones you care about in your life. Take from that what you will. Be thankful for all of the life lessons those who have come before you have imparted to without you ever really knowing it.

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Patience…

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Payoff!!!

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Cave Man Chicken

1 Whole Chicken (Cut in half down the center)

1 Tbsp Salt

1 Tbsp Pepper

1 Tbsp Fresh Cut Garlic

Mixture of Dried Oregano, Dill, Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Parsley, Red Pepper, Garlic and Cracked Peppercorns (I use a pre-mixed blend that I found at our local Farmers Market http://www.yahsbest.com/seasonings/)

 

BBQ Sauce

2 Cups Ketchup

½ Cup Water

½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

5 Tbsp Brown Sugar

5 Tbsp White Sugar

1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1 Tsp Onion Powder

1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes

¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce

In a medium Sauce pan, combine all ingredients over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir frequently.

 

For the chicken I used our new Mini Charcoal Grill from Weber.  I placed enough charcoal briquettes even in the bottom to cover the rack and then stacked them together in a pyramid. I doused the briquettes with lighter fluid and let it set for about five minutes. Now for the chicken, Em convinced me to do a dry rub which admittedly I had never done, but I am always up for something new. So, that morning I split the chicken in half completely on the breast bone, covered with the above seasoning combination and placed in the fridge for about 8 hours.  From my understanding, dry – brining a chicken allows the salt to pull the flavors of the spice rub into the chicken while keeping the moisture internal to the chicken.

After lighting the grill and allowing it to smolder until the coals were nice and hot, I distributed the briquettes into an even layer and placed the actual grilling grate into the grill and covered it (Thus allowing the grate to heat up to a nice optimal temperature). I let the grate heat up for about 5 minutes or so.

I then placed the chicken, bone side down and cooked for 25 minutes. After that time, I flipped them over, covered the bone side with the homemade BBQ sauce and then flipped them again to allow them to cook for another 5 minutes on the bone side (For a total of 30 minutes on the bone side).

I then proceeded to do the same thing on the meat side (25 minutes breast side down, flip over and slather with BBQ Sauce and then cook for an additional 5 minutes). Total cook time was one hour for the whole chicken.

Served with Grilled Corn on the Cob and grilled Greek Sweet Bread with Garlic.

 

 

Little Victories

Spending time with family and loved ones always seems to unintentionally ground me – which is always welcome considering the daily trivial chaos energy gets zapped into. Reconnecting with who people really are underscores why you call them your family, your brother, better half, sister, mother, father and friend.

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My little victories this weekend included seeing my mother and father fall in love with each other at the dinner table after 25 years.  Getting the entire family involved to make my dad a good, hearty meal he requested. Seeing myself and siblings laugh with each other and feeling open and confident enough to freely share our sentiments about our father with him. Seeing and sharing new areas with everyone around me in Atlanta. Squashing petty arguments and standing next to Eric when we needed each other the most. Rushing to a friend’s side when she was in need (and seeing her be one of the bravest people I know).

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And, on top of everything, the garden continued to bloom despite the torrential downpours, tornado watches and dry heat while we were gone. Pretty resilient – and symbolic.

Happy belated Father’s Day.

 

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Baked Eggrolls

Tuesdays are, without a doubt, infinitely worse than Mondays. At least on Mondays everyone is in the same “just-put-your-head-down-and-forget-yesterday-I-was-still-not-working” boat, but on Tuesdays…Tuesdays is when you have to make up for everything that could have, should have and would have been done on Mondays.

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We made this appetizer to go along with last night’s pad thai but the filling turned out so good, I just had to share.

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Pairs well with a relaxing breath, drink and toast to Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays…anything but a Tuesday.

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Serve 4, as an appetizer

Eggrolls-

  • 1 Package egg roll wrappers
  • 1C chicken, diced and chopped
  • 1 Carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 Red onion, diced
  • 1/2C Mung bean sprouts
  • 1C Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TBSP Peanut oil
  • 2 TBSP Fish Sauce
  • Pepper
  • Small ramekin of water

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat up peanut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add and cook the mushrooms and onions until slightly softened. Add the fish sauce, sprouts and carrots. Stir mixture thoroughly in the pan, remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Once the mixture is cooled, lay out an eggroll wrapper and have the water closeby. Turn the wrapper diagonally with an angle facing you. Spoon 2 TBSP+ of the mixture in the wrapper – don’t overstuff! Flip the angle closest to you over the mixture and about 1″ from the opposite angle. Flip the left and right side angles towards the center of the square. Start rolling the eggroll wrapper with the stuffing and tucked ends away from you. Before sealing. dip your fingers in the water and rub the top of the exposed, unrolled wrapper. Continue rolling and lay seam side down on a baking sheet either lightly sprayed with oil or covered with parchment paper.

Bake 15-17 minutes. Let cool, serve with duck sauce.

 

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Pad Thai + Sesame Tofu

The last few days it seems like the weather ate something bad and is deciding how to react. Sporadic, torrential downpours paired with hours of tornado watch have me worried about the garden. The most delicate eggplant flower that’s finally starting to show some progress..

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Luckily, there’s a remedy for these kinds of Monday nights – stay-in take-out. What? Yes, stay-in take-out. Tonight’s endeavor – pad thai. One of those dishes that people get so excited to order or make, and then always seem to be just ever so slightly disappointed.

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This recipe did not disappoint. Try  adding shaved carrot and some boiled edamame beans (which I had BOTH of and forgot – weak) to get some extra crunch and color.

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And you know what would go great with a good bowl of pad thai? Home-made egg rolls – which I just happened to have the will to make last night as well (recipe to come). Pairs well with a good tv show finale.

SERVES 4

TOFU-

  • 1/2C Cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 4Tbsp Sesame seeds
  • 3Tbsp+ Peanut oil
  • 1LB Extra firm tofu
  • 2 Eggs, scrambled

Drain and press as much moisture from your tofu as possible. (For me, that means paper towels wrapped around the tofu while being pressed in between two plates for at least 45 minutes). Heat the peanut oil up in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the tofu into 1″ thick rectangles. Dip the rectangles into the scrambled eggs, then lightly cover in sesame seeds and roll in cornstarch. Shake off excess cornstarch and sesame seed. Place the tofu pieces in the hot oil and fry on each side for about 1-2 minutes on each side, rotating throughout until a golden color appears on the outside of the tofu.

Set aside and top the pad thai with cooked tofu when ready to serve.

SAUCE-

  • 2Oz Tamarind Paste
  • 2Tbsp Rice wine Vinegar
  • 4Tbsp Turbinado sugar
  • 4Tbsp Fish sauce

Combine all the above ingredients and set aside until ready to cook the pad thai.

PAD THAI-

  • Large bowl warm water
  • 1/2 Package large sticky rice noodles
  • 2 Eggs scrambled, set aside uncooked
  • 1/4C Chopped scallions
  • 1C Mung bean sprouts
  • 1/2C Peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut oil

Place the dry noodles in the bowl of warm water and set aside while you assemble the sauce (above). Drain water when noodles are softened and pliable. Heat up the peanut oil in a large wok over medium-high heat until it’s about to quiver. Add the scrambled eggs and let sit for about 20 seconds and begin to scramble with a spatula. Quickly give the sauce mixture another whirl.

When the eggs are still fluffy but not yet completely cooked, add the drained noodles and sauce. Mix and toss the mixture in the wok for about 1-1.5 minutes. Add the chopped scallions, peanuts and sprouts, mix throughout. Top with sesame tofu and hot sauce (optional) and serve immediately.

Fully Loaded Frittata

Sunday mornings are meant for sleeping in, leisurely walks with dogs and light housework. How do you get through such an intense, arduous morning?

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How about a simple, no-mess frittata that also helps you with that pesky task of cleaning out the fridge of leftover tidbits from the week?

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And if you don’t think Sunday mornings are that tough – just ask this guy.

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Enjoy weekends.

SERVES 4

FRITTATA-

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1C Milk
  • 1/2C Spinach, chopped
  • 1 Bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 1/4C Parmiggiano reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 Roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 Chicken breast, chopped
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F.

Prep the vegetables, chicken, cheese and set aside. In a small bowl, scramble the eggs and add milk (you want 2C of the egg and milk mixture total). Heat some olive oil up in a non-stick skillet over medium heat on the stovetop. When the oil is about to start quivering, pour in the egg and milk mixture. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Gently scrape the edges and let the uncooked egg pour over with a spatula.

When the eggs are cooked around the edges and the bottom, layer the asparagus, chicken, onion, spinach and red pepper. Lightly season on top with salt and pepper and add grated cheese. LIGHTLY drizzle the top of the frittata with olive oil and place in the preheated oven for 13-15 minutes (or until desired doneness).

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. (Top with some extra grated parmiggiano if you like.) Transfer to a plate, cut into four equal sized wedges and serve immediately.

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Grilled Sweet Potato Quesadillas + Guacamole

Despite the weather forecast calling for bouts of thunder and rain, it turned out to be a beautiful day. Thankfully, our dinner menu for a calm Saturday night in ended up being something that we could modify to incorporate the grill. The grill seems to be the only appropriate cooking method after Labor Day weekend anyway.

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Creating a “make your own” assembly line stretched all the ingredients further and lets you get creative. The trickiest part of this meal is getting the prep work timing down. The amount of work seemed daunting, but once things got started, it was fun and worth the work.

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Let me help you out with ensuring a relaxing and enjoyable grilled quesadilla night – we tried to grill the sweet potatoes but they were impossible to skewer. They ended up being roasted in record time (20 minutes)! While your potatoes are roasting, make the guacamole and prep the corn, beans and meat (if cooking) for the grill.

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Serves 4-6

GUACAMOLE-

  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Avocados
  • 1/2 Red onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the avocado into chunks and mash slightly with a fork. Add the cilantro, onion and tomato and mix gently. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

QUESADILLAS-

  • 1 Large sweet potato
  • 1 Ear corn
  • 1 Can black beans
  • 10+ Flour tortillas (2 tortillas per quesadilla)
  • 1 Chicken breast (optional)
  • 1 LB Steak (optional)
  • 1 TSP Cumin
  • 8 Oz pepperjack, grated
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 TSP Dried cilantro

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel and cut sweet potato into 1″ pieces and toss with 1 TBSP olive oil, cumin and dried cilantro. Transfer to a roasting pan into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool.

While the sweet potato is cooking, husk the corn and drizzle then sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper respectively. Empty black beans into a pan and salt and pepper lightly. Heat the black beans (we did on the grill) on stove top. Grill the corn on a grill over medium-high heat until charred. Rotate throughout cooking process.

Season chicken and steak (if using) as you like and cook on the grill. I recommend a red chimichurri rub seasoning. Once your meat and corn is cooked, remove from the grill and chop separately. Brush the grill with some olive oil and lightly char every tortilla on each side.

When you’re ready to assemble the tortillas, place one tortilla down on the grill, place some sweet potatoes, corn, black beans and grated cheese. Top with another quesadilla and let melt for about 2 minutes. If you can, and I recommend a fish spatula, flip the quesadilla halfway through the 2 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, cut in half twice and serve with sour cream, hot sauce (sriracha or bust) and guacamole.

 

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Peanut Butter Protein Blast Cookies

This is a big day for me. First Guest Post and really MY first foray into having a web presence. So…YAY ME!

So, certain people in this house have cravings.  Cravings that when not satiated in a timely manner might cause…issues for certain other members of the household. But it’s a two way street. We all have our moments.

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This particular time someone was craving peanut butter and since the role of sweets fall on me, I took up the mantle and decided that there had to be a way to make a healthy Peanut Butter Cookie. Thus, I give you the Peanut Butter Protein Blast cookies.

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I built this idea off of a very simplistic cookie recipe (1 Cup PB, 1 Cup Sugar, 1 Large Egg)  and decided to make a few healthier choices with it. I used a reduced fat all-natural Peanut Butter and instead of a full cup of sugar, I did 1/2 Cup of sugar and substituted a 1/2 cup of Whey Protein (I might try doing all protein next time). Because the addition of protein bulked up and dried out the mixture, I added a second large egg. The 1/2 cup of oats provided a little more density and I added the flax seed for a more heart healthy cookie (Somewhere, a personal trainers head just exploded). The chocolate chips? Well…what can I say; who doesn’t love a little bit of chocolate…or a lot. Don’t judge me.

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MAKES ABOUT 1 DOZEN COOKIES

  • 1/2C Sugar
  • 1/2C Vanilla Whey Protein
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1C All-Natural Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
  • 1/2C Rolled Oats
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • Hand full of Chocolate Chips

Pre-heat your oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, whey protein and two eggs and mix. Once blended, add peanut butter, rolled oats and flax seeds.  Stir in chocolate chips. Once combined use a spoon and portion out 12 servings onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes and let cool for about 10 on a cooling rack. Serve with chilled glass of milk and enjoy! Skip gym because you are able to convince yourself that… “Hey, these are healthy cookies.”

 

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Yellow Curry Shrimp Skewers

Shrimp are tricky. Even in deciding how to write about shrimp, it’s hard to pick a place to start. You’ve had shrimp broiled, grilled, boiled, chopped, fried, raw and every other imaginable preparation method. You’ve also had it (or at least seen it be available) on Eggs Benedict at breakfast, fried for a lunch sandwich and put on ice for a shrimp cocktail.

Maybe shrimp are so versatile that we need to explore all the ways shrimp can be made delicious. Or, maybe shrimp have been the most easily farmed and caught sea critter ever, are relatively inexpensive to come by and they have been around for way too long and we’re running out of interesting ways to present shrimp – yet again.

Pick your own side. I’m not getting political yet as it’s still early on Saturday morning.

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This recipe brings shrimp back to basics. Yellow curry powder, kosher salt, shrimp and some sticks. That’s all this appetizer requires. Oh, and you’ll need heat. 

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Serve it by itself as an appetizer or as a side like we did.

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SERVES 4

If you’re using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak in water at least 1 hour before putting them to the grill.

SHRIMP-

  • 1LB Peeled and deveined 21/25 count shrimp
  • 1C Water
  • 2C Ice
  • 1/2C Sugar
  • 1/2C Salt
  • Curry Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Coconut Oil (for brushing)

Brining is optional, yet highly recommended by Alton Brown. You should always try and brine your shrimp at least 20-30 minutes before beginning to cook shrimp in a dry method (grilling in this case). Combine the shrimp, water, ice, sugar and 1/2C salt into an airtight container, cover, toss gently and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to cook, rinse shrimp thoroughly and gently pat dry. Lay out all shrimp on cutting board. Sprinkle (I’d say liberally) yellow curry powder and sprinkle salt on one side of the shrimp. Turn all shrimp over and repeat seasoning.

Skewer the shrimp onto the skewers. If you’re grilling outside, lightly drizzle coconut oil over the skewers to prevent the shrimp from welding themselves to the grate. If you’re grilling on the stove top, brush coconut oil over your indoor grilling grate as needed. Grill shrimp 3-4 minutes on one side and flip to cook other side for another 2-3 minutes. The shrimp meat should look pearly and opaque.

We served this as an appetizer with an adapted version of Grilled Eggplant with Preserved Lemon & Herbed Quinoa from the Sprouted Kitchen.

 

Shrimp, Corn, Asparagus, Brie and Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Well, if the the title didn’t scare you off, maybe this will – the crust is really made out of cauliflower. I admit, on first glance this is a hard sell to a true pizza lover. The kind of pizza lover who grew up making homemade pizza dough from scratch every Friday with their family. The kind of pizza lover whose entire family has a secret dough recipe that is written on old scratches of prized paper and is hidden in a cabinet somewhere even though we all know the recipe by heart. The kind of pizza lover whose godfather taught them that the best way to judge a pizza is to eat it cold the next morning.

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So, just how do you sell something like this? One – no flour. Win. Two – the other major component of the dough binder is grated cheese. Double win.

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The raw dough smells like cauliflower, and if you don’t like the smell of macerated cauliflower, I suggest you find some helping hands for the dough part. When it comes to the eating part – you will be fine and I doubt able to distinctly taste the cauliflower.

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The dough holds up well with a fork and all of the toppings we put on it. I would not recommend eating this with your hands. Plus your mother’s etiquette always taught you to eat your vegetables with a fork – which this is, technically.

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After trying this, I would definitely make it again. The texture from the crust, to the chunky marinara and toppings all contrasted and complemented each other well. So, at least for today, this avid true pizza lover can also be considered a converted veggie pizza lover of sorts as well. Or something like that.

Serves 4

CRUST-

  • 1 Medium cauliflower
  • 1 TSP Basil
  • 1 TSP Oregano
  • 1 TSP Parsley
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1/2C Finely grated mozzarella
  • 2 Eggs
  • Cornmeal, for dusting

Since this was my first bout with cauliflower crust, I followed this recipe exactly from the vintage mixer.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Remove the leaves and stems from the cauliflower and chop. Pulse in a food processor (or blender) until the mixture resembles couscous or white quinoa. Pour cauliflower into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients (except for cornmeal) and mix. (This is easy to mix with a spatula.)

Lightly dust a pizza pan or stone with cornmeal and scoop crust onto the dusted area. This will not be a ball of dough in any sense. The texture of the crust will be like a bean burger and you will need to pat down with your hands until about 1/8″ thick. My “dough” came out really wet so I dusted the top with cornmeal again to help dry it out some.

Bake the crust by itself at 350F for 20 minutes and then 10 additional minutes at 400F.

SAUCE-

  • 1 Can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 1 TSP Oregano
  • 1 TSP Basil
  • 1 TSP Parsley
  • 1/2 TSP Salt
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Salt
  • 2 TSP Minced onion

While the dough is baking, combine all ingredients into a small sauce pan. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and adjust seasoning to taste. If you want to thicken your sauce, add some more tomato paste or grated parmiggiano cheese. If you want to thin out your sauce, add a tablespoon of water at a time.

TOPPINGS-

  • 1/4LB Shrimp, peeled and deveined (brined)
  • 1C Ice
  • 1/8C Sugar
  • 1/8C Salt
  • 1/2C Water
  • 1/2 Ear raw corn shaved
  • 1 1/2C Chopped, raw asparagus
  • Red Chili Pepper Flakes
  • Brie cut into small squares

Brining is critical (to me) when it comes to preparing shrimp. It sounds a lot more involved than it actually is. Thankfully, the all-around hero, Alton Brown , has an easy recipe you will never forget. Combine the top four ingredients (shrimp, ice, sugar and salt) in a container, cover, toss gently and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When ready to top the pizza, rinse the shrimp thoroughly.

Once the crust has finished baking, ladle some of the pizza sauce on top of the crust and top the pizza with the remaining ingredients – or whatever ingredients you like.

Bake the pizza at 375F for 15-17 minutes. If you’re cooking raw shrimp on the pizza, wait until the shrimp has turned pearly and opaque. Let rest for a few minutes, slice and serve warm immediately.

Turkey Meatballs with Spinach Pesto Spaghetti…Squash

First off, spaghetti squash is not in season. However, this did not stop Eric on his epic quest to find what he was craving and led us to, hopefully, the very first spaghetti squash of the season – or, more realistically, the very last spaghetti squash of last season.

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So, what are you to do? How about – turn it green with spinach pesto and top it with some mildly spicy, sausage-like turkey meatballs. A comfort food meal.

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Regardless, the meal turned out fantastically and I can’t wait to make it again.

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Serves 2-3

Preheat oven to 375F.(*See cook’s note below.)

SPAGHETTI SQUASH-

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash

Slice your spaghetti squash lengthwise in half. Lay dome side up in the oven for 30-45 minutes.

Once it’s cooked, let cool for a few minutes and scrape out the spaghetti with fork tines and transfer to serving bowl. Pour in pesto and mix throughout the spaghetti squash. When plating, spoon pesto covered squash onto a plate with some meatballs and garnish with some freshly grated parmiggiano.

SPINACH PESTO-

  • 4C Spinach
  • 1/4C Pine nuts
  • 1/2C Olive oil
  • 2 Cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Pepper
  • 1/3C Grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
  • 1/4C Basil, chopped

In a food processor, blend all ingredients on high until the texture is smooth and creamy. Add more salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Leave out to keep warm temperature. When the spaghetti squash is pulled,

MEATBALLS-

  • 1LB Ground Turkey (93% Lean)
  • 1 Egg
  • 3/4C Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4C Grated Parmiggiano Reggiano
  • 1TBSP Fennel Seed
  • ½ TBSP Red Chili Pepper Flakes
  • ½ TSP Salt
  • ½ TSP Pepper
  • 1/8 TSP Dried Dill
  • 1 TSP Dried Oregano
  • Olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a bowl with your hands well. Form into 1” balls with your hands and place in an oven safe bake ware dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and cook in oven for 25-35 minutes.

*COOK’S NOTE-

If you’re baking the spaghetti squash and meatballs at the same time, your cook time will increase by about 25-30 minutes total. To check doneness of spaghetti squash, remove from oven periodically, flip over with tongs and scrape some spaghetti squash out with a fork and taste. If it’s not done, flip back over and place back into oven. Turkey meatballs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F according to the USDA – but, personally, they’re better at 140F.

The Wedding

The Wedding
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