Tuesday, February 24, 2015

dinner roulette

I typically don't shop with a specific recipe in mind. Sometimes I will have a certain food I want to make, like steak, and shop/build around it. Other times I am looking at whats fresh and different.

There are rare occasions I go in craving something, like bbq chicken pizza, or with a mission to make one of Mikes faves like meatloaf (which..I have not made in ages. ::mental note::.)

But my normal routine is to pick up a few basics and then peruse, letting my mind wander and linger over ingredients. This usually causes me to spend three times as long in the store and make multiple trips to the produce section, always so far from the butcher.

However this method produces some great meals on the fly and allows me to cook to my mood and not get my heart set on a dish if the specific ingredients aren't available or fresh. Sometimes it also causes me to come up with multiple ideas and become completely indecisive on that nights meal.

One night I came home with ingredients for two dinners and just laid them out for Mike.

"You pick."

His eyes lit up and he played his first game of dinner roulette.

It was a win-win because he just ate the second option a few nights later but it made dinner fun again.

I had another such trip to the grocery store again yesterday. With my new funemployment (more on that in a later post) I have promised more blogging and lots of home cooked meals on the table when Mike gets home from work, so I texted him some clues and let him pick what to come home to.

Option one: a twist on a childhood favorite with a bit of a healthier spin.

Option two: an italian classic remade into individual portions.

He chose option one, which turned out to be baked chicken fingers, zucchini chips and creamy, gooey mac and cheese. (Use the comments section for any guesses on what option two was!)

Is this always a practical option? Nope! But it sure is fun.

baked chicken fingers
1 pound of chicken tenders or breasts, sliced and portioned out
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
1 cup of flour, season as you like (I used some cayenne, salt and pepper)
1 and a half cups of breadcrumbs, season as you liked (I used the same as the above)
1 tbsp of olive oil for drizzling
  • pre-heat oven to 425
  • setup your breading station: flour in a bowl, then egg/milk mixture, then breadcrumbs. 
  • dredge each chicken finger in flour, shake off, then egg wash, then bread crumbs
  • place on a baking sheet with a wire rack (if you don't have the wire rack you can skip, or line with parchment paper)
  • drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for 12-18 minutes (depending on thickness), turning once--the outside should get crisped and cooked up
  • serve immediately or leave in a 200 oven to keep warm; serve with your favorite dipping sauce
zucchini chips
3 zucchini, washed well and sliced thinly (I used a mandolin, you can also use a food processor attachment or slice by hand, but that will give you a less even slice)
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil for drizzling
any other seasoning you wish!
a few spritz's for cooking spray
  • line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray
  • toss zucchini chips on and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and any seasoning you like
  • cook in oven (can be cooked at 425 at the same time as the chicken) until crisp and slightly browned--about 10 minutes
  • do these in small batches and keep warm wrapped in foil
  • serve immediately
tip: go easy on the olive oil--just a small drizzle is fine because mine took forever to crisp up since  I soaked them too much.

You can find my mac and cheese recipe here.

Let me know if any of you try out dinner roulette to switch things up!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

coffee rubbed pork loin

It was a long weekend-I am still shopping for the perfect pieces for our apartment (even more pics to come soon, I promise!) and Mike and I made a trip to Target on a Sunday.

That’s enough to exhaust anyone. I wasn’t making yet another stop at the grocery store so decided to use Targets fairly limited selection of fresh groceries to whip something up. Did I mention someone I was shopping with (I won’t name any names) was getting a bit cranky and had to go sit down in the outdoor furniture section to relax…? So yeah…

I grabbed a pork loin, a sweet potato, one red and one green apple. No clue what I would make, but arrived home with these ingredients and a hungry and cranky boyfriend.

I have always wanted to test out a coffee rub and had some coffee in the pantry we hadn’t opened. Fully invested in this idea now, I opened the bag and the beans weren’t ground.

We don’t have a grinder—we use a Keurig and I usually drink iced coffee anyway. Not willing to give this up for the zero other ideas I had, or completely throw my hands up and order takeout, I ground those beans, smashing them with my old-fashioned Italian rolling pin.

Let me tell you—I do not recommend this tactic. And luckily there are no pics of the aftermath. coffee. all. over. my. counter. Had I not been in a food-inspired frenzy, I would have thought this through. Maybe a ziploc bag, rolled over with the pin? But I went through with it, and got my grinds.

And let me tell you—the flavor was worth it. Try it out. But buy your beans pre-ground for your own sanity.

coffee rubbed pork loin
2 lbs pork loin
3 tbsp butter

coffee and chili spice rub
3 tbsp of coffee grinds
2 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp salt
  • preheat an oven safe pan with butter
  • preheat oven to 350
  • combine rub mixture and spread all over pork loin, pressing in and distributing evenly
  • cook on all sides in pan, turning every 3-5 minutes to sear in spices
  • place in oven for 30-45 mins—use a meat thermometer and pull when it reads 155-165 (depending on your preference)
  • let meat rest for 5-10 mins covered in tin foil to seal in the juices and then slice in medallions
apple compote
1 red and 1 green apple, peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
  • combine all ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat, let it come to a boil
  • stir every few minutes, allowing ingredients in incorporate and reduce down
  • simmer on low heat until pork is ready; spoon on pork medallions

Monday, July 7, 2014

apt decorating in progress!

Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!! Mike and I spent it in Santa Cruz and stayed at a resort in the mountains. This is our second 4th of July-together, and in Santa Cruz-we went on our first date 3 days after the 4th 2 years ago—aka today!

I love celebrating our first date and its nice to have a 4th of July getaway excuse—or any getaway excuse for that matter—so we use it as a way to celebrate.

We spent the remaining part of the weekend doing apt stuff-it really is all coming together and is such a fun process.

A little sneak peak into the apt work so far:

We came home I finished up spray painting some frames for the walls yesterday. I hope to have those hung up this week and then the living room will just need a few more small touches, but we can find those as we go.

I am looking for a big statement piece of artwork to hang over the fireplace. We are going to hang various photographs from artists I have collected through the years on the opposite wall, so I would like a painting or maybe even a quote. I also want to add an armchair in the corner and then we should be set.

From there, it’s on to the dining room table, and then bedroom. I can not believe we have been in this apt for over 4 months and how long it takes to bring things together.

More pics to come of the finished* living room!

couch/rug/curtain combo

bar area accent

frame painting in progress

*we all know this will never be finished and I will continue to add pieces and change my mind on every.little.detail.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

brussel sprout chips

To say Mike isn’t a fan of vegetables would be a huge understatement. He isn’t a fan of being woken up before noon. Or watching HGTV. But incorporating vegetables into his diet was a battle.

Some things were easier than others. He took to arugula quite well which made salads an obvious choice. He likes roasted carrots and even got hooked on some roasted broccolini, which is a commonly used side in our house. His fave veggie? Potatoes. Believe me, I have mentioned a time or two it’s a starch…

Then I just decided to go for it and started making kale chips. Olive oil, salt, pepper and a hot oven and he went crazy for them. I was feeling bold. He despised brussel sprouts when we first started dating. I got him to eat them once, on a pizza covered with bacon and cheese but that was too easy. So one night, I subbed our usual crunchy kale chips for brussel sprout chips—and now? He likes them more than the kale chips. I would call this a win.

Another heavily requested recipe below and it could not be easier.

brussel sprout chips

1-2 dozen brussel sprouts rinsed with the stems cut off and leaves peeled. toss the core out (tip: you can also just buy the shaved brussel sprouts bag at trader joes)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning
any other seasoning you like—I have used mesquite bbq seasoning which makes them taste like bbq chips, garlic powder would be delicious too. Anything to add some extra flavor, but s&p is perfect too
  • pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  • line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray
  • spread the brussel sprouts out and drizzle the olive oil (you may need more depending on how many you have—you want them nicely coated)
  • season to taste with salt, pepper and any other seasoning you add—don’t be shy!
  • toss together to coat and spread in one layer
  • cook in 400 degree oven, tossing frequently (about every 3-4 minutes) until cooked fully (no more than 15 minutes)
  • taste one after its come out of the oven and cooled slightly, and add additional salt if needed
tip: if you do 2 dozen, split between 2 baking sheets—you want them to have enough room to cook
Munch happily :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Baked eggplant

It's no secret 2014 has not been my year for blogging. 

I know I have fallen behind and the only thing keeping me going is the constant encouragement harassment of my friends and co-workers for recipes.  I guess it’s unfair to instagram these things and bring leftovers to work and not tell everyone how to make it….so I am getting back to it.

And first up from my hiatus is an easy, versatile and somewhat healthy weeknight fix. You can lighten this up by baking the eggplant instead of frying and using part (or full) skim mozzarella. Fresh tomatoes are a great addition in the summer and it reheats perfectly—great for leftovers!

Baked eggplant or eggplant stacks

3-4 japanese eggplants, rinsed and dried (you could also use 1 regular eggplant) slice into rounds about ¼ inch thick

3 cups plain breadcrumbs seasoned –see recipe below

2 eggs beaten in a shallow bowl with ½ cup milk

1 cup ricotta—I use full fat here, you can really taste the difference

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parley—use about a 1/2 tablespoon if using dried

1 cup freshly grated part-skim mozzarella—this is where I cut the calories, but freshly grate your own if you have the time—it makes a difference!

3 medium sized tomatoes, sliced or about a cup of tomato sauce

3 tbsp of olive oil for frying, halve it if baking the eggplant

1 egg

salt and pepper for seasoning

seasoning mix for breadcrumbs (you can buy it pre-seasoned but I prefer to make my own)

1 tbsp dried parsley

1 tbsp dried basil

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

mix together in a shallow bowl with the bread crumbs—you can omit any of the spices you don’t like/have. They just add a bit more flavor to the mixture

if pan frying eggplant:

  • set up your breading station, and a plate lined with paper towels for draining your eggplant
  • pre-heat pan on stove top with 1 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. once the oil starts to bubble a bit, lower to medium-low heat
  • preheat oven to 350
  • dredge the eggplant slices in the egg mixture until fully covered and then dip in the breadcrumbs. add more of either if needed
  • place the breaded eggplant slices in your frying pan or baking sheet
  • cook about 4-5 in a pan at a time, depending on size, so they cook evenly. flip once you see the edges start to brown and cook on second side for about 3-5 minutes. transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain

if baking eggplant:
  • preheat oven to 350
  • line your baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray lightly with cooking spray
  • dredge the eggplant slices in the egg mixture until fully covered and then dip in the breadcrumbs. add more of either if needed
  • place the breaded eggplant slices on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. cook in the oven for about 10 minutes and check the bottoms for light browning—flip and brown on the other side, about 10 more minutes. timing may vary depending on oven

follow all remaining steps after eggplant is baked or fried
  • while eggplant is cooking, mix ¾ of your cheese with half the parsley, ricotta, the egg and salt and pepper to taste. stir until the mixture is well incorporated
  • spray a baking dish with cooking spray on all edges and line the bottom with eggplant slices, starting with your larger pieces. if you are doing an eggplant casserole, place them close together and cut pieces to fit/cover as much as possible. if making stacks, place them with some space between them
  • cover with a layer of the cheese mixture and then either tomato slices or sauce
  • repeat with eggplant, cheese mixture and tomato sauce about 2 more times. cover with the remaining mozzarella and parsley and let bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the cheese melts and is bubbling

Friday, April 4, 2014


Just try and tell me this song isn't infectious. At least on a Friday when the weekend is oh-so-close and you wake up excited, bouncing out of bed because its. finally. friday.
Mike and I leave for Hawaii on Tuesday, so we are doing our last minute planning for the trip. I have planned nothing outside of booking the flight and hotel. No rental car booked. No massage appointments made. No kayaks rented. No luau tickets purchased (Mikes request/requirement.)

I also have not packed a thing,  or made any list about what needs to be packed. Who am I?

This is so unlike me and just goes to show you how badly I need this vacation. I have a feeling a week in beautiful Kauai with very little planned is just the cure :)

PS: any Kauai suggestions or recommendations are welcome!

Happy weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

personal chicken pot pies

I woke up a few weekends ago  with a scratchy throat and feeling rundown. This entire year has felt like a rollercoaster of emotions and never ending to do lists, so I took the day to rest and give myself a break.

I also took it as an opportunity to make my first ever chicken pot pie and put it in personal ramekins which made them even more fun. Portion control + clearly defined "this is my crust not yours" = success in my book.

I bought the dough because dough generally isn't my thing and this was my first try anyway, so lets start with baby steps ya know? I stayed farrrr away from canned cream of chicken soup and made my own roux; far better option and I was able to control the sodium levels too.

personal chicken pot pies
1 package of frozen pie dough--most packs come with 2 and I used one and froze the second (or make your own and be an overachiever.) make sure it is room temperature
1 chicken breast, seasoned with rub listed below
3 carrots, peels and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 potato (I didn't peel it but you can) diced and boiled in salted water until par-cooked (about 5 minutes past the water boiling.) drain but save the potato water on the side
3-4 stalks of broccolini, diced into bite sized pieces
1/4 head of cauliflower, diced into bite sized pieces
1 stick of butter (2 tablespoons melted)
2-3 tablespoons of flour
1-1.5 cups of milk, heavy cream or half and half
salt and pepper for seasoning

rub for chicken
1/4 tsp ancho chilli powder (you can also use regular chilli powder)
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
mix together and rub on both sides of the chicken and let it set for about 15-20 minutes

  • pre-heat oven to 350
  • pre-heat two pans on stovetop with a tablespoon of butter
  • once melted, put chicken breast in one pan; and cook until both sides are browned and place in the oven for an additional 6-8 minutes 
  • in the other pan, dump onions carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper. cook until veggies are soft, remove from heat.
  • on a foil lined pan, place broccolini and cauliflower with 2 tablespoons butter broken up into little pieces, salt and pepper; place in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, tossing once
  • melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan with about 3 tablespoons of butter; whisk together and add a few dashes of nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • whisk together until a thin paste has formed, remove from heat and whisk in about 1-1 and a half cups of cream, half and half or milk--whatever you have
  • place back on low heat and whisk together, adding the reserved potato water if its too thick--you want it to be a sauce like consistency. If too thin, raise the heat slightly and the sauce should naturally thicken. taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
  • flour your counter and rolling pin and roll out your pastry dough. cut it into 4 rounds that are about 1 inch wider than your ramekins; set aside.
  • once all veggies are cooked, dump them into the cream sauce, along with the potatoes; dice your chicken up into bite sized pieces and all to the mixture. taste for seasonings, stir together.
  • raise your oven temp to 375
  • line your ramekins with the bottom layer of dough, carefully pressing them in as not to tear the dough. a bit should hang over the sides
  • add your mixture, split evenly among both, and top with the remaining dough rounds. press the edges together and brush with melted butter
  • slice one or 2 cuts in the top of the dough to allow the heat to escape
  • place on cookie sheet (in case they bubble over) and into the oven until the tops are browned, about 15 minutes
tip: you can double the recipe for more people, and also sub in any veggies you like. I had most of these on hand which made it easier. You can also use frozen veggies.

Happy comfort food eating!