Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snickerdoodle Bread

I'm back! I took a little blog vacation while we worked on some wedding details. We've been busy the past couple months meeting with photographers, DJ's, florists, etc. Now that all of the big stuff is out of the way, I hope to be better about blogging, and cooking (dinners have been pretty boring lately).

Each year I look forward to holiday baking. This year, I made Christmas cookies with a few of my students who won a holiday baking date with me at a school auction. We made sugar cookies, spritz cookies, and dipped pretzels. After 2 hours of baking with three 7 year olds I decided that was enough holiday baking for me. Then I came across a recipe on Pinterest for Snickerdoodle Bread. How could bread that tastes like a Snickerdoodle not be amazing??? Turns out it is just as amazing as it sounds plus it makes the kitchen smell awesome!

The bread isn't moldy I promise, it's just lots of cinnamon sugar goodness!
Snickerdoodle Bread
* Makes two loaves

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
1 pkg Hershey's Cinnamon Chips
3 T. sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla and yogurt and mix well. Add the flour and baking powder slowly and mix well. Stir in the cinnamon chips. Set aside.

Spoon batter into 2  loaf pans until about 2/3 full. Mix 3 T. sugar and 3 t. cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the batter in each loaf pan (I only used about half of this mixture). Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

It's official, we have a wedding date! Last week we secured our reception venue and a church. We were able to put two huge check marks on the wedding to-do list which was such a great feeling. In celebration, I decided to make Italian Wedding Soup, it just seemed fitting. I love this recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. This soup is full of vegetables and the meatballs add so much flavor. The recipe makes a big pot of soup so it will cover a couple of dinners and lunches.

** A word to the wise, the meatballs are delicious so I recommend throwing a handful of the them in the freezer to use for a last minute spaghetti dinner.

Italian Wedding Soup
Makes 8-10 servings

1 rotisserie chicken, chicken removed and shredded
6 cups chicken broth
15-20 medium sized meatballs (recipe listed below)
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag of spinach or escarole
fresh Paremsan or Romano cheese, grated

In a large soup pot, combine the broth, carrots, celery, and onion.Bring to a boil. Add the shredded chicken and whole wheat orzo pasta. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley to taste. Add the meatballs and the spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese.

Easy Italian Meatballs
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
3 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 T. chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fennel seed

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the beef in a large bowl and add the bread crumbs. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, but lightly, with your hands. Form the mixture into 15-20 medium sized meatballs. Put on a shallow baking sheet covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the meatballs are browned and cooked through.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Panko Parmesan Tilapia

I came up with the below recipe for panko parmesan tilapia earlier this week and I have honestly had it for dinner 3 of the 4 nights this week. I'm always a little unsure about frozen fish but I tried the frozen tilapia from Trader Joe's for the first time and thought it tasted great, plus it's cheap and easy to defrost at the last minute for a quick weeknight meal. I served the tilapia with asparagus that I roasted on the same pan as the fish. I just tossed the asparagus in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasted it for 10 minutes. I pulled out the pan, added the fish and then cooked an addition 10-12 minutes. Dinner in 20 minutes and one pan, can't get much easier than that!

Panko Parmesan Tilapia

2 tilapia fillets
1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
dash of salt and pepper
dash of oregano
dash of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 375.

In a small bowl, combine the panko, Parmesan, and seasonings.

Cover a baking sheet with foil sprayed with cooking spray. Place the tilapia fillets on the baking sheet and then cover with the panko mixture. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until flaky.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pecan Crusted Salmon

I'm keeping it brief with this blog post. We are watching the Emmy's, our at least half watching since apparently CBS is having sound issues. Or maybe it's just our tv, or the CBS broadcast here in Chicago, not sure...

We made pecan crusted salmon last week and I thought it turned out great. This is the good weeknight recipe because its quick and requires mostly pantry ingredients. We roasted some Brussels sprouts and tossed them with some chopped apple and a little turkey bacon- perfect healthy fall dinner in my opinion.

Pecan Crusted Salmon   

2 wild salmon fillets
1/4 cup toasted and very finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup panko (or regular breadcrumbs, in a pinch)
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon butter
1 large pinch of salt
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Add pecans, panko, parsley and salt and stir to combine. Set aside.

Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Working with the salmon skin side down, mound the pecan mixture evenly across each piece. Drizzle olive oil over the pecan mixture on the salmon and press firmly on the mixture.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon, pecan crust side down. Cook for 2 minutes or until the pecan crust has browned, flip the salmon and then put the skillet in the oven. Bake for an additional 6-8 minutes.

** Be careful not to overcook the salmon or it will become tough and chewy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa

I certainly can't trump my last post but I do have a really good soup recipe to share! While it was fun to live the life of luxury at the Waldorf, it's nice to be back home and spending time in the kitchen. I had been wanting to try this chicken stew for a while now and it seemed like the perfect recipe to help us detox after a weekend of champagne, wine, more wine, and chocolate covered strawberries. This recipe is full of flavor and not your typical chicken soup recipe. I am definitely going to be adding it to the soup rotation.

Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa
** Adapted from Cookin' Canuck

 Serves 6

1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Steam the butternut squash until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Remove half of the squash pieces and set aside. Steam the remaining squash until very tender, an additional 4 to 6 minutes. Mash the very tender squash with the back of a fork. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Add the chicken thighs to the saucepan, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and allow to cool. Keep the saucepan with the broth in it on low.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and coat with olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to turn brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring, for 1 additional minute.

To the saucepan, add tomatoes, butternut squash pieces, mashed butternut squash. Stir to combine. Stir in reserved chicken broth and quinoa. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.

Shred the chicken with your fingers or a fork. Stir the chicken, olives and pepper into the stew and simmer, uncovered, to heat, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Chopped Proposal

We are getting married! Brady proposed on Friday night and we have had the most romantic and fun-filled weekend that I could ever have imagined. Brady completely spoiled me and went all out planning what will be a weekend that we will always remember. I honestly can't stop smiling!

It all started last Sunday when Brady suggested that we have a Chopped date night on Friday. Brady and I love Chopped on the Food Network. For those that haven't seen the show, contestants are given a basket with four ingredients. They are then able to use the stocked fridge and pantry to create a new dish in the allotted time. We have been talking about having a Chopped date night for the longest time so it something that I was incredibly excited about.

After work on Friday, I purchased my basket ingredients and met Brady at home. I showed Brady the ingredients that I had bought for him and then he started pulling items out of his basket. His basket had a theme. His items were the following:

1. Pork chops- Brady had a pork chop on our first date and thought it was so funny when I asked right away if I could try it. (A good sign that the date is going well in both of our opinions!)

2. Pasta sauce- The first time I cooked for Brady I made him homemade bolognese.

3. Macaroni-  Brady and I were sharing macaroni and cheese when he asked me to be his girlfriend.

4. Sprouts- We ate at Sprout on our first anniversary.

5. Skirt steak- We made this the night before our engagement. There was more said about our relationship but I don't want to overshare :)

6. Champagne and strawberries- For us to celebrate with!

7. and.... the most beautiful diamond ring!!!

We then packed up our overnight bags and headed to the Waldorf Astoria for a weekend staycation. The hotel was beyond amazing. Our room, which was actually a room and then a separate living room, was honestly double the size of my apartment. We had a working fireplace, balcony overlooking the city, and they had set up a vase of red long stem roses and champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.

For dinner on Friday we went to Tarantino's, our first date restaurant. It was so much fun to sit and recount our first meeting, our first date just a week later, and the past two and half years that we have spent together. On Saturday, I got a manicure at the hotel spa and then we went out on a sailboat on Lake Michigan. We have wanted to do that for awhile now so it was so nice to be out on the water, sit in the sun, and relax. We then went to Avec for a drink and then next door to Blackbird. Blackbird was amazing and definitely lived up to the hype!

Olaf, our captain, made us take off our sunglasses. He didn't seem to understand that it's impossible to smile and keep your eyes open when you are looking into the sun.

As you can see, it was a pretty special weekend for so many reasons. I am so thankful and blessed to have met Brady. He makes me feel special and loved everyday. The time and thought that he put into this weekend means so much to be and I can't wait to be his wife!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

I have finally been able to spend multiple nights in a row in the kitchen. It's been so nice. Making dinner is my ultimate way of relaxing after a long, busy day at school (especially with a glass of wine in hand). I have been craving soup and corn chowder seemed like the perfect way to make the most of the end of summer while still enjoying a warm and hearty bowl of soup. You could certainly use fresh corn from the farmers market while it's in season but I really loved the frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe's, it had great flavor and meant that I didn't have to shuck corn!

 Summer Squash and Corn Chowder
** Adapted from Cooking Light

2 slices turkey bacon
3/4 cup green onions, sliced and divided
1 pound yellow squash, cubed
1 pound frozen corn (I used frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe's)
2 1/2 c. skim milk, divided
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and set aside. Add a little olive oil to the pan and then saute 1/2 cup green onions, and the squash for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Reserve 1 cup corn; set aside. Place remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to blender; process just until combined. Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to pan. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Ladle the soup into bowls; top each serving with a little crumbled bacon, green onions, and cheese.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rye-Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Thyme Pan Sauce

Brady made the best dinner last week. It had been a busy day and it was so nice to have a hot meal and glass of wine waiting for me when I got home. The best part was, the recipe Brady made was one that I have been wanting to make for him for the longest time. I loved the flavor of the apple and the thyme and the dish seemed perfect for our fall like weather. Plus, you really can't go wrong with stuffing!

Rye-Stuffed Pork Chops with Apple Thyme Pan Sauce

*** adapted from A Sweet Pea Chef

Serves 2

For the stuffing:
2 T. butter, seperated
2 slices Rye bread, diced
1/4 c. onion, diced
1/4 c. celery, diced
1/4 c. dried apples, diced
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1/4 c. chicken broth
1 T. apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

For the chops:
2 boneless pork chops, butterflied
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper

For the pan sauce:
1 T. butter
2 T. shallots, minced
1 tsp. flour
1/4 c. apple juice
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 T. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.

Toast the bread in 1 T. butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Once the bread is crispy transfer it to a bowl and then return the pan to the stove. Saute the onion, celery, and apples in the remaining 1 T. butter until soft. Stir in the thyme. Add the vegetables to the bread cubes. Stir in the broth, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Fill the pocked of the butterflied pork chop with the bread mixture. You may have some leftover stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold the chops together if needed. Saute the chops in olive oil over medium-high heat until brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn the chops over and add any extra stuffing to the pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake about 8 minutes, When the chops are done, remove them and the remaining stuffing from the pan and set aside.

While the pork chops are resting, saute the shallots and 1 T. butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the apple juice, wine and vinegar. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the thyme, salt and pepper and then drizzle the sauce over the pork chops.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pasta and Spinach Salad

My to-do list has felt never ending these past couple of weeks. Between working at summer camp (thankfully now over) and preparing my new 2nd grade classroom I feel like I may as well have moved into my school building! I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of my classroom to show what I've been up to. I decided on an owl theme this year and let me just say my new found obsession with owls has gotten out of control. They are EVERYWHERE in my room- bulletin boards, book labels, pillows, supply labels, personalized note cards, my desk, etc. 

My classroom library. How cute are the pillows that my mom made?!
 It's hard to read but the lettering says "Look Whoo's in 2nd Grade"and the plaque on the tree says "Ms. Bower's Wise Owls" 

Yes, my mom and I made each and everyone one of these owls!
As a result of the classroom craziness, posting my recipes has ranked pretty low on the list. I have been cooking though and wanted to share the below pasta salad recipe. My mom came across this recipe years ago and we've been making it ever since. It's perfect to serve for dinner or to pack for weekday lunches.

Pasta and Spinach Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6

12 oz. bow tie pasta
1/2 c. red pepper, chopped
1/2 c. red onion, chopped
1 (10 oz) package spinach leaves
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
2 c. diced cooked chicken
1/2 c. almonds

1 tsp. ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. olive or vegetable oil (I use a little bit less)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 envelope onion soup mix
2 tsp. sugar

Cook pasta, drain and run cold water over the pasta noodles to cool them down. Mix dressing in a small bowl. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill and serve.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pork Chops with Balsamic-Honey Glaze

The past few weeks have been busy and our dinners have therefore ended up being pretty simple. Sundays dinner of pork chops with a balsamic-honey glaze was no exception. I came across the recipe awhile back in one of those "Eat This, Not That" cookbooks. I love browsing through those cookbooks at the bookstore! They are full of simple and healthy versions of restaurant food. This recipe is low in fat and calories but you'd never know it!

Pork Chops with Balsamic-Honey Glaze
from "Eat This, Not That" Cookbook

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T. butter
2 T. honey
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 thick-cut pork chops
salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, cook the balsamic vinegar, butter, honey, rosemary, and pepper flakes over medium heat. When the butter has melted and the mixture starts to bubble remove the the sauce from the heat.

Prepare a grill or grill pan. Transfer a little of the balsamic glaze to a small bowl and set aside. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brush with the remaining glaze. Place the pork on a medium-hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. Remove the chops and drizzle with the remaining sauce prior to serving.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shrimp Kabobs

Brady and I went to Kansas City a couple of weeks ago to visit my family and friends and go to the Royals vs. Twins game. On Sunday before we headed back to Chicago my mom and dad made us a great lunch. My dad grilled pork steaks (a family favorite) and my brother and I made shrimp kabobs. My brother came up with these kabobs and they are awesome. I love the combo of sweet and spicy and they are incredibly easy to make.
Shrimp Kabobs

Serves 4
1 pound uncooked shrimp, shellled and deveined
1 package of andouille sausage
2-3 large jalapeno peppers
2 cups cubed fresh pineapple

Heat a grill over medium high heat. Once the grill is hot, put the andouille sausage on the grill for about 5 minutes then set aside to cool slightly. Once cooled enough to touch, slice into 1 inch thick pieces.

Next, cut the top off the jalapeno peppers and use a small paring knife to cut out the seeds inside. Then slice the pepper into 1 inch thick rings.

To assemble the kababs, thread a piece of shrimp, a piece of sausage, a pepper ring, and then a piece of pineapple through the skewer. Repeat two or three times for each kabob.

Grill the kabobs for about 4 minutes on each side.

** If using wooden skewers, soak the skewers in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes prior to assembling the kabobs. This will keep them from burning on the grill.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Zucchini Mint Salad

While Brady and I were in Minneapolis a few weeks back, his parents had the whole family over for dinner. His mom made a great salad and I had to make it again this week. It was that good. The mint adds such great flavor to this easy summer salad and I love how bright and colorful it is.

Zucchini Mint Salad

Serves 2-4

4 cups fresh spinach
1 green medium sliced zucchini
1 yellow medium sliced zucchini
l/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar

In a large bowl, combine spinach, zucchini, onion, mint, olives, and feta cheese. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well and refrigerate. Just before serving, toss salad and dressing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peach, Basil and Raspberry White Sangria

Brady and I co-hosted a Stock the Bar couples shower with his brother and sister-in-law a few weeks ago in Minneapolis. Brady's sister is getting married next month and she and her fiance are in the process of remodeling their basement and adding a bar. We thought that a Stock the Bar couples shower would be a fun way to get everyone together before the wedding and a good excuse to load them up with fun bar accessories and alcohol.

I recently came across the below sangria recipe and thought it would be perfect for the party. Our peach, basil, and raspberry white sangria ended up being a huge hit. It's pretty and refreshing and a nice change from beer and wine. We served the sangria in a pretty glass beverage dispenser and had frozen cubed peaches and raspberries on the side so that guests could drop in some fruit and keep their drink cool.

Peach, Basil, and Raspberry White Sangria

Serves 12

1 Bottle of white Zinfandel wine
1/2 cup Amaretto
1 cup peach nectar
1qt ginger ale
2 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Mix everything well in a large punch bowl or large pitcher. Chill and serve cold.

 ** If using a drink dispenser with a spout, I suggest freezing a handful of raspberries and cut up peaches that you can then add into individual glasses when serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sweet Tea Braised Pork Shoulder with Cornbread Stuffing

I don't think I can say enough about how great this recipe is. Instead of telling you the details about why I made it, how I made it, etc, I think it's better to just answer a few possible questions. Yes, this recipe is as good as the title sounds. No, it's not nearly as hard or labor intensive as one might think. Yes, it requires a little time but it's so worth it. Yes, you need to make this dish!!

Sweet Tea Braised Pork Shoulder with Cornbread Stuffing

Serves 4-6
Prep/Cook Time: 4 hours

Sweet Tea Braised Pork Shoulder
2.5 pound boneless pork shoulder
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 large pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 3 large pieces
1 onion, cut into large pieces
64 ounces sweet tea

Cornbread Stuffing
1 package of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 spicy chicken sausage links, chopped
2 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 egg
salt and pepoer

For the braised pork:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pork shoulder in a dutch oven and arrange the carrots, celery, and onion around it. Pour the sweet tea over it. I only used about 3/4 of the bottle. Braise the pork in the oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the the meat falls apart easily.

When the meat is done, strain out the vegetables and discard. Set the meat aside and heat the braising liquid over medium-high heat until slightly thickened. Serve the sauce on the side or drizzle over the pork.

For the cornbread stuffing:
In a small bowl, combine the Jiffy mix, egg, and milk. Stir until combined and then pour into a well greased baking dish or cake pan. Cook according to the package directions. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil and then saute the onions and celery until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped chicken sausage and saute an additional 3 minutes or until the chicken sausage starts to brown.

Cut up the cornbread into small pieces and then crumble up the cornbread in a large mixing bowl. Add in the onion mixture, chicken broth, and an egg. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper. Spray the dish that the cornbread was cooked in with a little more cooking spray and then pour in the cornbread mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (this can be done the last 30 minutes when the pork is cooking).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quinoa with Peaches and Pistachios

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I love to cook with quinoa. I'm still living down my comment that it was "my new favorite grain." Someone, who will remain nameless, thought that was a pretty funny statement. The thing is, it still is my favorite grain and I'm pretty sure that I have converted this certain someone into a quinoa fan as well. Quinoa is healthy, filling and you can literally mix it with anything. It has become my go-to for a quick and easy weekday lunch. I loved the below combo and thought it was perfect for this time of year when peaches are at their best.
Quinoa with Peaches and Pistachios

Serves 6
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 cup quinoa
2-3 peaches, pitted and diced
1/2 bag arugula or spinach
1/4 c. pistachios, chopped
1/4 c. shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 c. dried cranberries

1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the dressing ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the peaches, arugula, pistachios, shallot and dried cranberries. Add in the cooked quinoa once it has cooled slightly and toss with the prepared dressing. Serve warm or cold.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scampi-Style Steak and Scallops

Over the past couple of years, Brady and I have had some great birthday dinners at fun Chicago restaurants. This year Brady opted to have me cook instead of take him to dinner. Even though we were staying in I wanted to make something special. The below recipe ended up being the perfect restaurant quality birthday dinner.  I loved the seared scallops in the scampi sauce and while I usually like a steak just plain with a little salt and pepper, I thought the herbs in the scampi sauce really added to the flavor of the beef. I served the dish with a side of roasted asparagus seasoned with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Super simple and yet still worthy of a celebration!

Scampi-Style Steak and Scallops

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 25 minutes

2 medium beef tenderloin steaks
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 large sea scallops
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
dash hot pepper sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Season steaks with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until hot and bubbly. Add steaks to skillet and cook 5-7 minutes per side for medium-rare. A couple of minutes before the steaks are done, add the scallops to the skillet to sear, 1-2 minutes on each side, right beside the steaks, but not touching.

After starting steaks in the skillet, begin to make the sauce. In a medium skillet or sauce pan, sauté onion and garlic over medium heat in olive oil until fragrant. Add wine and lemon juice, simmer to reduce slightly, 1-2 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted into the sauce. Stir the parsley, lemon zest, basil and hot pepper sauce into the scampi sauce. Add the sauce to the skillet with the steaks and scallops and serve.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Berry-Orange Tart with Pistachio Crust

Two years ago, my family went to Sonoma over Thanksgiving.  While on vacation, we took a cooking class at Relish Culinary Adventures. One of the recipes we made was a Fig-Orange Tart. My mom changed the recipe up a bit while I was home over Father's Day weekend and it turned out AMAZING. I loved the combination of the berries and nectarines and the pistachio crust has a ton of flavor. This looks incredibly fancy but isn't difficult and it's sure to impress family and friends at your next summer barbeque!

Tart crust before putting into the tart pan.
Tart crust before baking.

Our finished tart. How good does this look???
Berry-Orange Tart with Pistachio Crust

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tsp. freshly grated orange rind
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 c. blood orange olive oil (this can be found at any olive oil store or upscale market)
1/2 c. finely ground pistachios
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

zest of one orange
1/2 fresh orange, juiced
2 T. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
6 oz. orange marmalade
1 pint blackberries
1 pint rasperries
2 thinly sliced nectarines
2/3 c. blanched almond slices

Preheat oven to 350.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Add 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in 1 tsp. orange rind, the ground ginger, and a pinch of salt. Slowly mix in the blood orange olive oil and the chopped pistachios. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour in small batches, beating after each addition. Beat the mixture until well combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan. Prick the tart crust a few times with a fork and bake in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until slightly browned around the edges.

While the crust is baking, warm the orange marmalade over low heat. When the crust has been removed from the oven, spread 1/3 of the marmalade over the crust. Cover with the blueberries, raspberries, and sliced nectarines, fanning the fruit over the tart crust. Sprinkle the top of the tart with the blanched almonds and then drizzle with the remaining orange marmalade.

Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes; remove from the tart pan, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Vegetable Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

While in San Diego a few months ago, Brady and I ate at Burger Lounge, a new burger chain in Southern California. Instead of a burger (which Brady had and loved), I had their vegetable salad which was awesome. I recreated the salad for my parents this past weekend and they loved it. It's simple, adaptable, and perfect for summer.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

lettuce mix- romaine, spinach and arugula
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sugar snap peas, halved on a diagonal
2 ears of corn, shucked and corn kernels removed with a knife
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
grated ricotta salata cheese

lemon basil vinaigrette
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 2 lemons
1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and drizzle with lemon basil vinaigrette.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grilled Molasses Flank Steak with Fiery Grilled Peach Salsa

I love grilling during the summer but unfortunately neither Brady or I have a grill at our apartments. I came home to Kansas City this weekend for Father's Day and was able to take advantage of having a grill (and a kitchen bigger than a shoebox). I have to fess up to the fact that I wasn't the one actually doing the grilling though, I left that part up to my dad, but the rest of the meal was a group effort!

Grilled Molasses Flank Steak with Fiery Grilled Peach Salsa

Serves: 6-8
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes plus 4-12 hours to marinate

Molasses Flank Steak
3/4 c. molasses
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 (2-Ib) flank steak

Fiery Grilled Peach Salsa
4 large peeled peaches, havlved and pitted
2 slices red onion (1/4 inch thick)
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 T. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated orange rind
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt

Place the first 8 ingredients for the flank steak in a large ziplock bag. Add steak; seal bag, and chill for 4-12 hours (I would suggest marinating the steak for more than 4 hours; the longer it marinates the more tender it's going to be). Remove steak from marinade, discarding marinade.

Preheat grill to 400 to 450 degrees (high heat). Grill steak, covered with grill lid, 9 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from the grill, and let stand 10 minutes. Cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Top with peach salsa.

You can prepare the peach salsa while the steak is grilling. Coat the peaches and onion with cooking spray. Place peaches and onion on a seperate area of the grill. Grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side and then remove to a cutting board to cool. Chop the peaches and onion and combine the chopped peaches and onion with the cilantro, and remaning ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. The salsa will keep for up to three days and would be great paired with chicken or fish.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paula Deen's Pulled Pork

Last weekend I made pulled pork for Brady as he geared up for his big test. I wanted to make something that would last all week and be easy for him to reheat when he got home from studying. I have a go-to recipe for pulled pork but I felt like trying something new. I came across the following pulled pork recipe and loved how it turned out. It's nice to have an alternative to my normal barbeque sauce based pulled pork and it's a recipe that is super simple. Put everything in the slow cooker, set it for 8 hours, and you are good to go. This recipe also get's a huge plus because it has to be the only Paula Deen recipe that doesn't involve butter or oil!

Paula Deen's Pulled Pork

Serves 8-10
Prep/Cook Time: 8 1/2 hours

1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
4 pound shoulder pork roast (aka Boston Butt roast)
2 cups apple juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
1/2 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
8 hamburger buns or large rolls
1 1/4 cups bbq sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, pepper, brown sugar, paprika, and cayenne pepper.  Place pork in a slow cooker and rub entire roast with dry rub mixture, pressing mixture into the roast. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine apple juice, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, liquid smoke and garlic powder. Pour several tablespoons of the apple juice mixture over the top of the roast, then pour remaining mixture on the side of the roast.  Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low heat 8 - 10 hours.  Remove roast from slow cooker and shred.  Return shredded pork to slow cooker (in broth) and allow to cook 30 more minutes.  Ladle out majority of the broth (leave about 1/2 - 3/4 cup) and pour in barbecue sauce and stir.  Serve warm, on toasted hamburger buns or rolls.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken

As much as I cook, I have never roasted a chicken. All of the recipes I have for roast chicken talk about how easy it is but it always sound even easier to just buy the rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. A couple weeks ago, I decided to give it a try. And yes, my recipes are correct, roasting a chicken is super easy and it turns out even cheaper then buying a rotisserie chicken. I loved the flavor of this Chinese-inspired roast chicken. I served mine with a simple Asian slaw and it made for a perfect Sunday dinner.

Chinese Five-Spice Roast Chicken
*** Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 1 1/2 hour

1 3-4 pound chicken, giblets removed
3 scallions, cut into 4 pieces
6 coin-sized slices of fresh ginger
a few strips of orange zest (I used my potato peeler for this)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

Sauce (optional)
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425. Make sure the giblets are removed from the chicken and give it a good rinse in the sink. Dry off well and then stuff the chicken cavity with the scallions, ginger, and orange zest. Set the chicken in a large oven-safe pot (I used my fake Le Creuset) or in a roasting pan coated with a little olive oil. Brush the chicken with 1 tsp of olive oil . Whisk the sesame oil through the soy sauce in a small bowl. Brush the mixture all over the chicken and then sprinkle with the Chinese five-spice powder.

Tuck the wings under the back, cross the legs, and tie them with a little kitchen twine. Place the chicken breast side down and roast until the back of the chicken is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove chicken from the oven and turn it breast side up. Cut off the twine and baste the chicken with the pan drippings. Toast the chicken again until the breast is golden brown and a meat thermometers registers 170 degrees, about 25-30 minutes more. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. The sauce can be drizzled over the chicken once it has been sliced.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Apple Pie with Crumb Topping

I went home a couple of weeks ago for Mother's Day. It was so nice to spend the weekend with my parents and have the chance to visit with Kansas City friends.  Before heading back to Chicago, my mom and I made an apple pie. I had been craving pie and it sounded nice to spend Mother's Day baking with my mom. We used a couple of different recipes for our apple pie and it turned out fantastic.  As soon as I boarded the plane I was kicking myself for not finding room in my carry-on for a piece of leftover pie!
This picture was taken before baking the pie.
Apple Pie with Crumb Topping

Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour

1 pie crust- I use Pillsbury but you could certainly make a homemade crust

Pie Filling:
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
dash nutmeg
6 -8 tart apples, pared, cored, and sliced (6 cups) - I used half Gala and half Granny Smith

Crumb Topping: 
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450.

Press pie crust into a pie dish. Flute the edges. Put the sliced apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the first 4 filling ingredients; stir into apples. Turn the apple mixture into the pie shell.

In a small bowl, combine the dry topping ingredients. Pour the cooled melted butter into the dry ingredients and stir until small to medium sized crumbs form. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the apples and bake at 400 for 45 to 50 minutes.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Maple Sesame Salmon

I have been holding off on posting this recipe since Monday because I honestly couldn't think of anything to write. I'll blame my writers block on all of the end of the school year craziness! What I can say, is that this is an incredibly simple way to prepare salmon. I've made Asian glazed salmon recipes in the past but I loved the addition of the maple syrup in this marinade, it adds a little sweetness and browns nicely under the broiler. I served the salmon with a little sauteed boy choy and black rice and it was the perfect healthy weeknight meal.

Maple Sesame Salmon

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 25 minutes

2 salmon fillets
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
sesame seeds

Preheat the broiler. 

In a small bowl, combine the garlic through Sriracha sauce. Place the salmon in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade over the salmon. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Line the inside of a small baking dish with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place the salmon in the pan and pour half of the marinade over the fish. Broil for 5 minutes and then baste with more of the marinade. Broil another 5 minutes or until cooked. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Personal Pan Pizzas with My Favorite Salad

I love to make pizzas for dinner because they are so versatile. You can use any combination of ingredients and it's a great way to use leftovers in the fridge. Brady made the below personal pan pizzas for us a couple of weeks ago. The below recipe is so simple, I shouldn't even call it a recipe, more a suggestion for a great pizza combo!

I have also included a recipe for my absolute favorite salad. Every once in a while, on a crazy busy night, Brady or I will pick up a pizza from Homemade Pizza Company. Their pizza is good but I LOVE their Cabo Salad. I recreated The Cabo salad awhile back and it has become my go-to salad because it goes great with any meal.

Personal Pan Pizzas

2 individual pre-made pizza crusts or homemade
1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small pieces
pesto, homemade or store bought
feta cheese
cherry tomatoes, chopped
kalamata olives, chopped
red onion, thinly sliced
fresh basil, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread a little pesto on the pizza crust and top with a handful of chicken, some tomatoes, olives, and sliced red onion. Top with a sprinkle of feta cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes (or according to the directions on the pizza dough). Remove from the oven and top with chopped basil.

My Favorite Salad (aka, Cabo Salad from Homemade Pizza Company)

For the Salad: 
1 bag spring mix lettuce
1 avocado, sliced
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 corn tortillas, thinly sliced
sprinkle of cumin

Honey-Lime Salad Dressing:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegetable Enchiladas

Over Christmas, Brady and I ate at Good Earth, a restaurant in Minneapolis. I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant. It's located inside the mall and the decor needs some updating but the food was great. The menu is full of healthy food that you aren't going to feel guilty about eating. I had vegetable enchiladas that were fabulous and I've been wanting to recreate them ever since. I used bits and pieces of different recipes to come up with the below recipe and honestly, these turned out just the way I remembered them. These enchiladas are so full of flavor and hearty even though they are meatless. I had never made my own enchilada sauce before and honestly I will never go back to canned- talk about easy to make and much more tasty!

** Sorry no picture, both of the pictures that I took turned out blurry. I'll spare the blurry photos and say the enchiladas looked even better than the ones you'd get at a restaurant. Luckily there is no photo to prove me wrong!

Vegetable Enchiladas

Serves: 4
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
cooking spray
sour cream (oprional)

Enchilada Sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1  T. cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sugar
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil. Saute the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes for about 5 minutes or until softened. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture, black beans, and corn.

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and then cook the onions for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the garlic, cayenne, cumin, and sugar. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the can of tomato sauce and a 1/2 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Spray a large 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Generously spoon enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish to thoroughly coat. Take a tortilla and fill it with a large spoonful of the vegetable mixture and place in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Spoon on more of the enchilada sauce, I would recommend using a lot so that the enchiladas don't dry out. Sprinkle the enchiladas with cheese and then bake for 20 minutes. To serve, garnish the enchiladas with chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rosemary Garlic Pork Chops

The past couple of weeks have seemed busier than normal. I haven't spent as much time in the kitchen as I normally do and I feel like most of meals have been quick one's on the go. I can only do quickie meals for so long though. I miss cooking and I miss actually sitting down and enjoying my dinner. Last week, I made rosemary and garlic coated pork chops for Brady and I. Minimal ingredients and quick preparation sold me on the recipe. These were super simple and full of flavor.While the pork chops are in the oven saute some fresh green beans or asparagus and you've got yourself a perfect healthy weeknight meal in under 20 minutes!

Rosemary Garlic Pork Chops
** adapted from Cooking on the Weekends

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

2 bone-in pork chops
2 T. minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Combine the minced garlic, grated Parmesan, and rosemary in a small bowl.

Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Use a spoon to press some of the garlic coating on to each of the pork chops. When the pan is hot, add the pork chops. Cook for 2 minutes, drizzle a little olive oil on the pork chops, and then flip them over. Press on the remaining garlic coating to the other side of the pork chops and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the stove and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temp of 145 degrees. Remove the pork chops from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

My mom used to make stuffed peppers when I was a kid. To be honest I don't remember what she put in them but I remember liking them. Recently, I came across a few stuffed pepper recipes and thought I would keep them on hand for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner. After further review, I wasn't completely sold on the recipes so I came up with the below recipe to incorporate things I already had at home. Brady and I loved how these turned out. They were light and healthy but full of flavor.

 Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Prep/Cook Time: 35 minutes

4 large red, yellow, or green bell peppers, top cut off and seeded
1 pound ground turkey
2 tsp oil, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinse
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice

Preheat the oven to 375. Place the peppers sliced side down in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes and then remove from the oven.

Meanwhile, saute the ground turkey in a skillet coated with 1 tsp oil. Add the cumin, oregano, and chili powder and a little salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned and no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Remove meat from the skillet and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the other teaspoon of oil and saute the onion and zucchini for about 4-5 minutes.Add the onion and zucchini mixture to the turkey. Stir in the black beans and the salsa.

Once the peppers have been removed from the oven, stuff each pepper with the turkey mixture and sit them upright. Top each pepper with a little shredded cheese and bake for another 12-15 minutes.

** Depending on the size of the peppers, you will probably have extra turkey mixture. I used the leftovers for an easy taco dinner a couple days later.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Adult Spring Break Part III- San Diego

At the wedding on Coronado
After a few days in San Francisco and then LA, Brady and I enjoyed a quick 2 hour drive down to San Diego. After the 8 (or 9) hours of driving down the coast I think anything would have felt short in comparison! We spent one evening in the Gaslamp District in San Diego and then headed over the bridge to Coronado where we attended the wedding of two of our Chicago friends. A few highlights...

Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill: Brady and I went for their famous fish tacos after seeing a segment on the Food Network. They offer about 10 different varieties of fresh fish and the fish is then grilled and served as either tacos, a sandwich or on a salad. The people that worked here honestly couldn't have been nicer and the tacos were terrific.

Filippi's: Brady and I went to Filippi's with friends who were also in town for the wedding. It's in San Diego's Little Italy area which I had no idea existed. This was such a cute neighborhood, full of restaurants and bars. We settled on Filippi's after reading rave yelp reviews and weren't disappointed. This is a family owned pizza joint serving up great pizza, pasta, and cheap wine. When we left there was a massive line down the street so were definitely on to a good thing and got there at the perfect time!

Burger Lounge: This was another great find. Super simple menu, a few burgers and salads, but Brady and both loved our food. Brady went with the turkey burger and I had a veggie salad. I recreated the veggie salad last week and ate it for about 4 nights straight.

Hotel del Coronado: We stayed across the street at the Glorietta Bay Inn which was cute and a fraction of the price but if you are on the island, touring the Hotel del Coronado is a must. This place was absolutely beautiful. Brady and I walked around the grounds, along the beach and I fell in love with the coolest garden. Maybe someday :)

View of the Hotel del Corando from the beach.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Adult Spring Break Part II- Los Angeles

After enjoying the weekend in San Francisco, Brady and I picked up our rental car and headed down the Pacific Coast Hwy 1. It was an absolutely breath-taking drive, a little scary at times and definitely not the quickest route to Los Angeles, but it was well worth it. Along the way we checked out Monterrey, Pebble Beach, and then stopped in Carmel to check out the town and to walk along the beach. Carmel was darling, very quaint and full of charm. About 8 (Brady says 9) hours and one stop at In-and-Out Burger later and we arrived in LA.

We stayed at the Beverly Hills Hilton which is such a cool hotel. It's recently been renovated but still maintains it's old-Hollywood feel. While in LA, we checked out the Santa Monica area which was full of cute shops and restaurants, went to a live taping of Jimmy Kimmel where we sat front row and talked with Jimmy Kimmel, drove down Rodeo Drive, and tried our best to spot a celebrity (no luck).

Before we left LA, Brady and I ate at Ink, Michael Voltaggio's (a former Top Chef winner) amazing new restaurant. Our meal was hands down one of the best I've had. I loved the creativity and thought that went into each of the dishes and it was fun to see Voltaggio working in the kitchen. Ink is a small plate restaurant so it's great for people who like to try new things. We had 6 small plates and a dessert which was the perfect amount for two people. We went with the following dishes:

carrots, coconut ice, cardamom soil, carrot juice curry
crab, charred avocado, whipped fish sauce, mushroom chicharron - One of my favorites
beef tartare, hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish, rye - My least favorite but I tried it :) 
brussels sprouts, pig ears, lardo, apple - Another favorite, can't go wrong with brussels sprouts & pig!
halibut, asparagus green tea, egg yolk gnocchi - This was the perfect spring dish.
lamb shoulder, lamb’s quarters, tongue, vadouvan, yogurt
apple, caramel, burnt wood ice cream - LOVE IT!!! 

Brady and I also tracked down the Kogi BBQ Food Truck via Twitter and enjoyed some awesome Korean bbq tacos. I am not positive where we heard about Kogi BBQ, perhaps Bourdain??? Not sure, but whoever it was I owe them a big thank you. These tacos were so good that I dug right in and then realized that I should take a picture, oops!

Kogi BBQ Truck

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Adult Spring Break Park I- San Francisco

The sign of a great vacation is not wanting to leave, already looking forward to the next time you go back, (and still being in a relationship!). Brady and I just returned from a 10 day vacation in California and we had the best time. It was just what we both needed to recharge the batteries. We visited multiple cities throughout California, drove down the beautiful Pacific Coast Hwy 1 most of the way, met up with all of our Chicago friends for a fun wedding, and ate and drank very well! I have a lot of restaurant reviews so I decided to break this post into a few.

Brady and I flew into San Francisco. We stayed at the Hilton Financial District which I thought was in a great location. It's right in the heart of Chinatown which is a lot of fun and must see in San Francisco. Just a few blocks away you'll find the Italian area and Union Square which is great for shopping. As for restaurant recommendations, I have a few...

Ferry Building Marketplace- I loved this place!  The Ferry Building is located along the water and is full of cute food related boutiques (olive oils, cookware, etc), bakeries, cafes, and flower shops. This is the perfect place to grab lunch to-go and head out to the pier and enjoy the view. I highly recommend the Cow Girl Creamery shop, it was still Lent so I had a sandwich with fresh goat cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and fig jam. I will be recreating this sandwich soon, it was so simple yet absolutely delicious.

Caffe DeLucchi- Terrific Italian food in the Italian neighborhood. The food was authentic, fresh and very reasonably priced.

Tonga Room- Brady and I saw this place on Anthony Bourdain's show The Layover and knew that it was a must see. We went for happy hour and had a great time. The restaurant has a Polynesian theme and looks like something that belongs in Disney World, not inside the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel. The decor is kind of cheesy but there is something about drinking a tropical drink with an umbrella in it that just screams vacation!

Mission Chinese Food- I have read about Mission Chinese Food in numerous food magazines and was so excited for the opportunity to give it a try. I will spare the long story about how this place got started but it's a really cool concept. Basically, a couple started serving Chinese food out of an already established Chinese restaurant's kitchen. The food is Americanized Chinese food or "Chinese-nouveau" as they call it, and honestly the best Chinese food I've had. This is an absolute must for anyone visiting San Francisco in my opinion.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Retro Sunday Dinner: Beef Stroganoff

Last Sunday, Brady and I enjoyed a 1960's style dinner in honor of the return of Mad Men. I had fun researching retro dishes but to be honest, a number of them didn't sound very appealing (Chicken Kiev, chicken filled with clarified butter, no thank you!). I don't recall having traditional Beef Stroganoff but Brady was super excited about it and when I found a "healthier" recipe on Cooking Light I figured that it would be our best option. I thought it turned out pretty well. I overcooked our beef slightly but I thought the mushroom sauce turned out great. This is a hearty dish but it's under 350 calories and only has 11 grams of fat, not bad for a pasta dish with beef and sour cream!

I made a classic wedge salad to go with our Beef Stroganoff and in Mad Men fashion we planned on making martini's. Key word planned. We had a situation with the ice and apparently you can't make a martini without ice. A little sad but it was probably a good thing come Monday morning when I was getting up at 5:30am!

Beef Stoganoff
 ** adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 pound boneless sirloin steak
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c. fat free, low sodium broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 cup light sour cream
8 ounces egg noodles (I used egg pappardelle from Trader Joe's)
3 T. minced parsley

Cut beef diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch-wide strips; cut the strips into 2-inch pieces.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add beef to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove beef from pan and keep warm. Add mushrooms and onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add mushroom mixture to beef and keep warm.

Heat a large pot filled with water. Cook the egg noodles according to directions. Drain and set aside. 

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until thickened and bubbly. Add beef mixture, sherry, salt, and pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 30 seconds. Stir in sour cream.

Combine noodles and minced parsley. Serve beef mixture over noodles. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

Brady and I as Don and Betty Draper last Halloween.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cilantro-Pesto Salmon with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Poblano Peppers

It's great when you come across a new recipe that you like, but it's even better when it bakes all in one dish! The below salmon recipe is the perfect one dish meal. I loved the combination of sweet potatoes and poblano peppers and the cilantro-pesto coating on the salmon was full of flavor. This recipe is incredibly simple and very adaptable. If you don't like salmon you could easily use a different kind of fish or even chicken in it's place.

 Cilantro-Pesto Salmon with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Poblano Peppers
** adapted from Cara's Cravings

Serves 2
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium poblano pepper, sliced thinly
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 salmon filets
1 cup cilantro
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
juice from1 lime
1 clove of garlic, peeled
handful of cashews
dash of chili powder 

Preheat oven to 375. Arrange sliced sweet potatoes, poblano peppers, and onions in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle with the honey and olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and toss the vegetables around, then return and roast for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season the salmon filets with salt and pepper.

In a food processor or blender, combine the cilantro, tomato, lime juice, garlic, and cashews. Pulse until smooth. Arrange the salmon filets on top of the roasted vegetables. Spread a layer of pesto on top of each piece of salmon. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until fish is opaque.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Dates, Olives and Rosemary

If you aren't normally a fan of cauliflower or you only like cauliflower when it's covered in cheese, this is a recipe that I guarantee will convert you into a cauliflower lover. This recipe is awesome.  It's so simple yet different from any other cauliflower dish that I've had. I would have never thought to combine dates and olives with cauliflower but it's genius in my opinion. The salty and sweet combo plus the savory rosemary equals pure cauliflower perfection!

** For a picture, see my recipe for Parmesan-sage pork chops.

Roasted Cauliflower with Dates, Olives and Rosemary
** from Running with Tweezers

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 medium head cauliflower, tough stems and leaves removed and cut into florets
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
2 T. butter
10 dates, pits removed and roughly chopped
15 green olives, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large roasting pan, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and ground black pepper. Roast the cauliflower for 20-25 minutes or until tender and slightly caramelized. 
About 2 minutes before you’re going to pull the cauliflower from the oven, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow to start to bubble and brown slightly. Toss in the chopped rosemary, dates and olives and saute until heated through. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle with the butter/date/olive. Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops

The following recipe is going to be my new go-to pork chop recipe. Brady absolutely loved these pork chops and I couldn't agree more. Not only do they taste great, but this recipe is healthy and takes almost no time to prepare. Searing the pork chops on both sides and then finishing them in the oven is definitely the secret. A few minutes in the oven really seals in the flavor and keeps the pork from getting chewy. I served the pork chops with polenta and roasted cauliflower with rosemary and olives, two more great recipes that I will be sharing shortly.

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops
** adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 4 but can easily be halved
Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes

1/2 cup Panko
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 T. fresh sage, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 c. flour
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 egg whites
4 boneless thin-cut pork chops (you could also use regular boneless pork chops and just pound them out thin)
1 T. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Combine Panko, Parmesan, sage, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Place flour in another shallow bowl. Combine mustard and egg whites in another shallow bowl.

Working with one pork chop at a time, dredge pork in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip pork into egg white mixture and then coat pork completely with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining pork chops.

 Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add pork; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Put the skillet in the oven for 6-8 minutes or until pork chops are done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto

Last week Brady made sweet potato and sage risotto as a side dish and in my opinion it ended up being the star of the meal. The halibut that Brady made was great, but the risotto was so different than any I'd had before. I would have never thought of adding a dash of cayenne but it added so much flavor and strangely paired perfectly with the sweet potatoes and sage. I loved that the risotto tasted creamy and rich despite the fact that there isn't any butter or cheese in it. While the risotto has restaurant quality written all over it, the dish required minimal ingredients (and cheap one's at that) and was super simple to make. You really can't beat that! 

Sweet Potato and Sage Risotto

Serves 4
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
5 green onions, chopped
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 bunch fresh sage
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. olive oil
2 1/2 c. water
2 c. skim milk
1 red onion, chopped
2 tsp. garlic salt
2-3 dashes cayenne

Microwave sweet potatoes for about 2 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl. They should be slightly firm, not mushy. Meanwhile, roughly chop about 6 sage leaves and set aside.

Heat olive oil and 3 T. water in a large saucepan or saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic salt, the chopped red onion, most of the green onions, a little bit of chopped sage, and the sweet potatoes. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

Add rice, cayenne, and a bit more sage. Cook for one minute, or until rice is slightly transparent. Add 1/2 cup milk and cook until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup water and stir until absorbed. Repeat this process (alternate milk and water). Do not add the next portion of liquid until the previous liquid is absorbed. It is very important to stir and fold the rice mixture constantly. 

When all of the liquid has been added and absorbed your consistency should be similar to thick oatmeal. To serve garnish with remaining sage and chopped green onions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Classroom Treats

I thought I would share pictures of a couple of my latest treats for my students. I recently read Charlotte's Web to the class. After we finished the book, we had a little party to watch the movie. I made Wilbur cookies that turned out pretty stinkin' cute in my opinion! I just made basic sugar cookies, frosted them and then used marshmallows as the nose, chocolate chips for the eyes, and strawberry wafer cookies for the ears. Super easy and 100% approved by 16 1st and 2nd graders!

Last week, we celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday. We had a fun-filled day of Dr. Seuss inspired activities. At the end of the day I gave the students Thing 1 and Thing 2 cupcakes. I just made strawberry cupcakes with vanilla frosting. I really wanted to use blue cotton candy as the blue hair but I couldn't find it anywhere so blue icing worked in a pinch. The cupcakes were a huge hit as is but I'm totally keeping my eye out for blue cotton candy for next year!

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Pears, and Bleu Cheese

Last Friday, Brady and I made the below vegetarian pasta recipe. This was such an unusual combination for a pasta but we both absolutely loved how the recipe turned out. The original recipe calls for fresh or dried figs instead of the pear but I couldn't find either. I tried pears and I thought the pears worked great. The original recipe also suggests using some crumbled bacon on top as an alternative to the almonds and I'm sure that would be amazing too.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Pears, and Bleu Cheese
*** adapted from a recipe on Twenty by Sixty

Serves 4 
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

2 T. olive oil
8 ounces whole wheat pasta, any shape
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and roughly chopped 
4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
1 ripe pear, cored and chopped
handful of dried cranberries
salt and pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds, for garnish

Heat the oven to 400°.  Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it halfway through (about 6 minutes; it should still be quite firm). Add the Brussels sprouts to the pot and cook, until the pasta and vegetables are just barely tender, another 3 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta and Brussels sprouts to the pot.        

Stir in the bleu cheese, pears, dried cranberries, 2 Tbs. oil, and a splash of the cooking water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss. Add more cooking water if needed. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan. Bake, checking once or twice and adding a bit more of the cooking water if the pasta looks too dry, until the mixture is bubbling, about 10-15 minutes. Garnish with slivered almonds and a sprinkle of bleu cheese and serve.

** You could definitely skip baking the pasta and just serve as is. I'm not really sure how much of a difference baking the pasta made since it's not a particularly cheesy dish.