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.