Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad is my new obsession because it's easy, healthy, and delicious. My friend Lexi made it for me on one of our fun baby play dates, and I've made it twice the last few weeks. We both decided that the recipe needed to be on the blog because it's AMAZING and ready in 30 minutes. 

The sweet potatoes, black beans and quinoa are a great combination with the cilantro and lime juice. It tastes like summer, and I like to eat it hot or cold. I brought it for lunch at work today and snapped this picture before the contained disappeared. 

One of my favorite Gretchen quotes that is ringing true in my life every single day is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". This photo was snapped my iPhone in a Tupperware container that I packed the salad in. Maybe, hopefully, one day I will get back to snapping Saveur worthy pictures of my recipes, but for now I am just cooking, figuring out how to make the perfect pizza dough in my mixer, and muddling mint for mojitos. Let me just tell you - add a little cucumber to a mojito and muddle it with the limes and mint - so fresh and delicious! Right now, I am embracing the good, the wabi sabi. If you haven't heard of WABI SABI, look it up, right now! 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth (I love Better than Bouillon paste)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes (use 1 lime for more subtle flavor)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado - for topping

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Toss sweet potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. 
- Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups chicken broth.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rotel tomatoes, black beans, lime juice, coriander, cumin, and cilantro. Add quinoa and stir well.

To serve, top quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and avocado.

Friday, May 1, 2015

+ a gratitude journal +

I believe in the power of little choices. I believe that the little choices we make matter the most.  The choice to spend time outside every day, to look for the silver lining when a wrench is thrown in your plan, to light a candle and sit at the table for dinner. I recently made the choice to keep a journal, and it's the best decision I've made in a very long time. 

On January the 20th I made my first entry in a 5-year journal that I call my Gratitude Journal. Earlier that day I was meandering around Barnes and Noble, found myself in the cookbook section, and turned around to see the journal section. I picked up a blue striped 5-year journal and purchased it then and there, even though it was a few bucks cheaper on Amazon. I believe in serendipity, that people and things come into our lives when we need them most. 

It started out as a gratitude journal, documenting a little thing I am thankful for at the end of a day. Recently, I've started to include Charlie's milestones and major events in the journal, as I was grateful for my girlfriends and wine more often than I will confess! Oh, and my husbands perfect vodka martinis. 

If you're looking for a daily boost, a reminder to keep an open and grateful heart, I highly recommend buying yourself one of these. They are on my personal list of all time favorite things! Here is the link to the one I love on Amazon. (gratitude journal)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

As new moms, my friend Lexi and I often laugh about our pre-baby lives. We are just in awe of what we did with our tremendous amount of free time! I was recently reading my blog looking for a recipe, and realized that I used to make new recipes every week, take pretty foodie photos, and watch Ina Garten's cooking show. Now, I change diapers, make baby food, snap photos with my iPhone, drink way too much coffee, and fall more in love with Charlie every day. Can you believe he's almost 6 months old! 
Every life has different chapters, and I'm soaking up the baby chapter. Soaking it up like pancakes drowning in maple syrup. Babies are just the most fascinating little creatures. Last weekend my mom came to visit, and we sat on the floor and watched Charlie for hours. I think our guys thought we were a little bonkers, but they knew better than to say anything. Women love babies. 

This weekend I did pull out my slow cooker and made a new recipe, this really easy and DELICIOUS thai coconut chicken soup that I had to share. It's on my top five list of slow cooker favorites. I also love that my crock pot has a keep warm setting, so dinner can be at 630, or 7, or 730, which allows us a little spontaneity for an evening walk or happy hour. Also, can I tell you how much I love blue japanese bowls? I found these on sale at TJ's and snatched them up! 

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
from Foodie Crush (one of my favorite bloggers)

2 Tablespoons red curry paste
2 (12 ounce) cans coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1-1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tablespoons lime juice
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked white rice (I used thai noodles)

Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in a slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion, and ginger in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours.

Add in the peas and cook for 1/2 hour longer. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice. Top with peanuts and lime wedges before serving. 

*If you are planning to freeze this recipe, I would not add the peas to the frozen batch. They get soft and taste better if you add them when reheating the soup. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Curried Chicken Salad

I could eat chicken salad every single day, and most of my girlfriends feel the same way.  My go to easy appetizer when I am in a hurry is Fresh Market rotisserie chicken salad on miniature croissants. YUM. But, as always, if you have the time it's often cheaper, healthier, and more fun to make it yourself. Here is my favorite variation on chicken salad, a curried version that's sure to please! 

As always, take this recipe and make it your own. Add celery, substitute a crunchy apple for the grapes and mango, or use almond slivers instead of cashews. Add green onions or diced red pepper, whatever suits your fancy. 

I like mine on a bed of greens or wrapped up in a lettuce wrap, and I like to add celery and a fuji apple for extra crunch. 

Curried Chicken Salad
adapted from Epicurious

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice 
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 firm mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Bring 4 cups water to a simmer with chicken broth in a 3 quart saucepan. Add chicken and simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cover, then let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate to cook 10 minutes, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces. 

While chicken is cooling, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, curry powder, lime juice, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken, onion, mango, grapes, and cashews and stir gently to combine. 

* if making in advance, add the nuts just before serving to keep the salad crunchy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

White Turkey Chili

This has been a tough week in our house, as we said goodbye to our oldest boxer Heidi after almost 11 years of life. She was the sweetest, most endearing old soul and we all loved her dearly. To us she represented love. She loved strongly and completely, and asked for just a little in return. She saw us through our best and worst times, and always looked at us with kind eyes.
So what do you do when you lose someone you love? I have realized that you have two choices: you can sit and cry, or you can stay busy and try to remember the good times. You still cry, but you also continue to live. Life is full of joy and pain. You can't have one without the other.  I realized that #2 was the better option, so I washed the dog beds, the sheets, the floors, and I made big pots of comfort food. I chopped and filled the house with the smell of onions cooking in olive oil. I made my first Marcella Hazan recipe and we filled our empty hearts with pasta and red wine. I also made this chili. 
I am remembering all my memories with Heidi, and one of my favorites was sitting in our yard in Catawba on a towel with my camera and photographing the two of them sprinting, rolling in the grass, and lounging. They loved that great big yard, and they taught me how to use shutter speed priority to get shots like this one. 
This recipe is from my mom's friend Pat, and we are all crazy for it. She always makes a double batch because it freezes so well. She filled our freezer with this chili when I was home on maternity leave so we could have a real meal at night with no effort. This has become my favorite chili, and so I've decided to share the recipe today. We all need comfort food sometimes, to celebrate the joy and survive the pain of life. Please remember Heidi today, and remember that to love is to live. 

White Turkey Chili
from my mom's friend Pat Burton

1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 pound boneless turkey or chicken breast, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 pound ground turkey
6 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup pearl barley
1 Tbsp chopped jalapeno peppers
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried summer savory
2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in half cup of water
Chopped green onions
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cubed turkey breast and ground turkey. Saute until no longer pink, 4 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, pearl barley, chickpeas, jalapeno, marjoram, and summer savory to turkey mixture Cover and simmer until barley is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cheese and scallions. 

*this is the original recipe from my mom's friend. I used olive oil, increased the barley to 1 cup and skipped adding the cornstarch to thicken. I also used pepper jack cheese and added several dashes of Tabasco to the pot for a little heat. 

*when my mom makes this recipe to freeze, she adds the cheese at the final step so it melts into the chili. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chinese Night!

Who doesn't love a fun theme night? We've always been fans of Mexican night (with katie-ritas), breakfast for dinner, and homemade pizza night. I decided to start a new theme night, and I wish you could have see Josh's smile when I told him my plan! 

Who doesn't love Chinese take out? My only complaint - the grease, the sodium, and the swollen fingers - YUCK! I feel terrible the day after, what I've dubbed the "chinese hangover". Why not make good Chinese food at home? I started out by making Alton Browns baked brown rice (here is the link) - it's easy and the rice is perfect every time. 
Here are a few other tips I found to make great fried rice:
  1. A hot wok - flick drops of water on your wok, beads of water should evaporate in 1 to 2 seconds when the wok is heated. Add the peanut oil to the wok initially OFF the heat and swirl the oil around on the wok. If the wok smokes like crazy then it's too hot - start over. Otherwise, add aromatics first (ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, red chiles) off the heat so the aromatics do not burn. Return the wok to heat and add veggies. 
  2. Leftover cold rice - at least a day old
  3. Preparation/Organization - cut all your ingredients to a uniform size before your wok is hot and have them organized around your wok. 
  4. Ground white pepper 
  5. In China fried rice is peasant food and a way to use up leftovers, so there are no rules. Have fun, be adventurous, and use what's in your fridge or garden. 
  6. HOT wok! 

Chinese Chicken Fried Rice
3 large eggs
peanut oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips
2 tsp sesame oil
kosher salt 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup peas and carrots, thawed (I used a frozen bag)
4 cups cold, cooked rice (I use brown rice and followed this cooking method)
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce

Beat 3 eggs with a whisk and add salt and pepper. Heat a splash of peanut oil in hot wok and make an omelette using half the beaten eggs. Turn onto a plate and repeat with remaining eggs. Place one omelette on top of the other and coarsely chop. Set aside. 

Toss chicken strips with 1 teaspoon sesame oil and season with salt. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in hot wok and stir-fry the chicken strips until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, peas and carrots and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until onion has softened. Pull mixture into bowl with chopped egg and keep beside wok. Add 2 more tablespoons of peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to hot wok, and then add the cooked rice and green onions, tossing and mixing until very hot. Sprinkle with soy sauce and mix together. Return chicken, vegetable and egg mixture and mix well. 

Garnish with scallions and serve with Sriracha. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup

I was bent on getting in my kitchen over the weekend and chopping. Discovering the action of cooking again - with a sharp knife and cutting board, my favorite pandora station, and a glass of cab, all the while shimmying around the kitchen in my Ugg slippers. I'd been looking forward to an afternoon off, a little "me time" in the sanctuary that is my kitchen. 

I've been on a Shauna Niequist kick lately, and just ordered two more of her other books from Amazon Prime (cold tangerines and bittersweet). My very favorite is Bread & Wine, and it holds a special place in my heart. When I'm in a funk, a couple of chapters will get me back on track, and remind me that we are all human and we all struggle. She tells us to open the front door, bring in friends, drink bubbly champagne, laugh, cry, and be our real selves. Be present over perfect. Such solid advice. 
one of my favorite quotes on canvas - for sale on Lindsay Letters

I decided that I wanted to chop mirepoix - a fancy word for a mixture of chopped onions, carrots, and celery, which is the base of every hearty lentil soup. Shauna just so happens to have a recipe for lentil soup in Bread & Wine, so I called it serendipity and made a loaf of homemade rye bread on the side. Remember to add the splash of balsamic at the end! 
Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup
from Bread & Wine (p. 137)

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; saute until vegetables begin to turn brown, about 15 minutes.

Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.