Friday, February 28, 2014

Kale, White Beans & Pancetta

This is my happy food. For one, when I pull out my gorgeous Le Creuset dutch oven so that I can saute tons of kale, simply using that pot makes me smile. It was a wedding gift from my co-workers, and of course I chose the same color to match my idol Ina Garten. Truly, if my house caught fire and I could only pick two things to save, it would be that pot and my 50mm 1.4 lens. No brainer. (assuming that my dogs were safe!)
Often the simple recipes, the ones that have under five ingredients and take 30 minutes to prep, are my absolute favorite. I'm not a fancy person, really. I just like good simple real food. An added bonus is this recipe is inexpensive - kale is cheap, and the pancetta is around 4 or 5 dollars. I like to splurge on a good baguette, or make this French baguette recipe at home. 

Kale, White Beans & Pancetta

2 bunches of kale, rinsed and cut into medium pieces (I use kitchen shears)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 package pancetta (I buy the one that is already diced from the Fresh Market)
2 shallots, sliced (optional)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serve with a warm baguette and olive oil for dipping

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pancetta, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add white beans and cook for 5 minutes, until golden and warm. Add garlic, cook until fragrant. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. 

Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat, then add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Add kale, stirring occasionally, and cook until wilted and warm. Season with salt. Serve kale in a large bowl and top with white beans and pancetta, and freshly ground black pepper.

*this recipe tends to cool quickly, but 30-50 seconds in the microwave will warm the kale and beans perfectly - especially if you're going back for seconds like I always do! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

Today, I am disclosing one of my most valuable secrets. In the early morning hours when I'm working night shift I love to peruse Amazon and one-click order intriguing items. This is how I found Justin's nut butter and truffle salt to sprinkle on my gourmet popcorn. I've come to think of it as the one-click pick me up. My husband thinks of it as...well...that's beside the point.

Above you will see my #1 best EVER amazon discovery - this butter chicken curry paste you simply mix with hot water. It's SO easy and tastes like a restaurant-worthy authentic Indian dish. Seriously. If you love Indian food, you need to try this seasoning blend. I completely give this 5 stars. I'd serve this dish to my entire family and pretend I made it from scratch, and they would never know. In fact, I think I'll make this for my dad's birthday meal the next time I see him, since he loves spicy Indian curries.

There are endless variations, but I like to add chickpeas, use 1/2 milk and 1/2 water, chicken thighs, and add raw spinach at the very end. For a healthier option, you could serve the curry over cauliflower rice. For the full experience, stick with good jasmine rice and naan on the side. 

Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
1 packet of the above Butter Chicken Curry paste from Kitchens of India  
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 pound chicken (I like thighs) cut into 2 inch chunks
3 Tbsp unsalted butter 
1 cup hot water (use half milk/half water for a creamier curry)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 handfuls of raw spinach

Serve over jasmine rice with naan on the side. 

*Optional changes - add tomato paste (2 Tbsp), chickpeas, chunks of potato, plain yogurt, or raw spinach at the very end

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in dutch oven or heavy skillet. Add onion and garlic, and saute until fragrant. Add the chicken and cayenne pepper. (start cooking rice about this time) Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to burn garlic. 

Pre-mix the Kitchens of India Butter Chicken Paste in a small bowl using hot water until smooth, then add the mixture to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes. Add spinach at the very end, stirring briefly.

Perfect Jasmine Rice

1 cup jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt

Put rice in strainer with bowl underneath. Fill strainer/bowl with water and soak 10-15 min. Remove strainer and rinse rice well. Use your hands to turn it over. You are getting rid of excess starch that can make it sticky. Rinse till water runs clear. Let rice drain over empty bowl for 5 minutes or so. 

Add the rice to boiling salted water. Bring to boil and allow to boil uncovered without stirring until water level = rice level. Cover and simmer on low 10-15 minutes. Turn heat off and uncover. Let sit a few minutes without stirring.. Then fluff and enjoy!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

the perfect breakfast

Before we get into any deep discussions, here are a few of my very favorite egg toys. If you are an egg lover, may I suggest you add these to your kit? 

1 - RSVP egg spoons
2 - Knorr Aromat seasoning
3 - Egg cups
4 - Rosle manual egg topper (I bought this as a souvenir from Napa and it cracks the 
      perfect ring for dipping eggs.

I've been thinking about my favorite simple meals recently. Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, right? I immediately thought of my favorite breakfasts - avocado and egg on toast, eggs in a hole, and dipping eggs. If you feed me eggs for breakfast, I promise to skip around all day smiling. Especially if you have my favorite Knorr Aromat seasoning on the side. I love Knorr seasong so much I order it in bulk, keep one at work in my cubby, and have 2 on the table for breakfast (his and hers)!
In case you wonder what I mean by "dipping eggs", it's a comfort meal that my mom made for us growing up. To make dipping eggs, just slice 2 pieces of toast into thin strips, and dip the toast into soft boiled eggs. It's Aaaa-mazing. The Rosle egg cracker above really comes in handy for dipping eggs.
I believe in breakfast after coffee. 
In fact, my number one morning priority is a cup of coffee. Only then am I ready to seize the day, starting with a hearty breakfast.  This simple recipe is just perfect, especially with sprouted Ezekiel bread.
Avocado and Egg on Toast
1 ripe avocado
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of half a small lemon
2 large eggs, poached or over-medium
2 slices of bread, toasted (I love Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain)

Scoop out the avocado and mix in a bowl with the juice of half a lemon.  
Spread on toasted slices of bread.
Sprinkle with salt.
Top each piece of toast with an egg, add a little more salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Soft Boiled Eggs (for dipping eggs)
2 eggs (or more, depending on how many you are making)

Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. Fill the pan with cold water, covering eggs by an inch. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand for 2 minutes. Remove eggs from water. Serve immediately in egg cups. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Favorites

I've been snowed in for 48 hours, and entertaining myself with various cleaning projects, pantry meals, and a great book (The Aviator's Wife). My snowcation ends tonight, though I wanted to share a few of my highlights from the week! 

 1 - Downton Abbey - season 4 

I just finished episode 2 and am cheering on Lady Mary as she overcomes the grief of losing her husband and loving Lady Edith's fashionable new wardrobe and hairstyle! 

 2 - THIS pasta (Aglio Et Olio) 

This pasta is so simple yet took us right back to Italy! I had all the ingredients in the pantry so it made a perfect snowed in meal - olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and freshly grated parmesan cheese

 3 - SNOW - Roanoke officially got 19 inches since Wednesday afternoon! Check out the top right picture where Josh and I were married - it's so beautiful out here! Unfortunately, my boxers do not like the snow and would only venture into the tire tracks on the driveway. 
 4 - NO TV - call us crazy, but Josh and I have been inspired by my parents and a couple of friends who recently cancelled their accounts. We watch mostly netflix movies so we couldn't justify the expense - or spending the precious free time we have sitting in front of the telly. Here's to spending time outside doing rather than sitting on our butts watching! 

 5 - Frozen Pineapple Wedges 
I am in love with this simple treat! Just plain frozen pineapple satisfies my evening sweet tooth with zero guilt!

 6 - This SHARK VACUUM being shipped to my house after cashing in my 20% online coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond. My old Hoover Linx died, and my friends with dogs pointed me straight to Shark! Happy Valentines Day to me...

How did you spend your snowcation? 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad

This weekend has been all about slowing down and enjoying. Enjoying the people we love. Enjoying our sweet boxers and giving them lots of attention and spa bath that ended with my bathroom looking like a water park. Enjoying real food - like this incredible quinoa salad I made tonight. (AND enjoying season 4 of Downton Abbey - I'm completely hooked!)
Earlier today I picked up this little book by Anna Quindlin that lives on my bedside table and read it again. It's very short, may take about 10 minutes to read, and is a great reminder on living with joy and passion. A reminder to really live, to be present, and to realize that every day is a glorious gift. 
Just relaxing on the couch tonight watching drag racing with my husband (it's his favorite), eating a second helping of this quinoa salad, and watching Heidi and Ellie snuggle on their Orvis bed, I am feeling so incredibly lucky. 
BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad
From What's Gaby Cooking

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa 
1/2 cup corn 
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 cup shredded BBQ chicken 
1 avocado, chopped 
2 tablespoons White Cheddar cheese, shredded (I use Cabot)
2-4 tablespoons BBQ sauce 
2 scallions, chopped 
Cilantro for garnish
  1. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, corn, black beans, chicken and avocado. Season with salt and pepper
  2. Transfer mixture onto a bowl and top with shredded cheese, BBQ sauce, scallions and cilantro.
  3. Serve warm or at room temperature
Easy Crockpot BBQ chicken

6 chicken thighs
1 white onion, sliced
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce

Combine ingredients in Crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours, then shred. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

my favorite lunch wrap

I must thank Andie (of Can You Stay for Dinner) for introducing me to these wraps from Josesph's Bakery. I order them online, and they freeze beautifully. Each wrap is massive and has only 100 calories!

I love packing my lunch for work, because I can have small meals during the day without ever feeling sluggish, and save myself from spending (wasting) 8 dollars in our hospital cafeteria on an average meal. Along with a wrap, I love to pack an apple, almonds, string cheese, greek yogurt, and cottage cheese with fruit. I try to pack high protein snacks to keep me full for longer. 
The great thing about this wrap is that it doesn't taste like diet food. It's delicious and filling, and I look forward to eating my wrap every day. Here are two of my favorite combinations - just place the ingredients inside, wrap it up, and enjoy!
Turkey, Bacon and Avocado Wrap
 1 Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Lavash
3-4 thin slices (or 2 thick slices) turkey deli meat
2 slices bacon or turkey bacon, cooked
2 large leaves romaine lettuce
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 Fresh Onion Laughing Cow Cheese Wedge (these are Phenomenal!) 
Breakfast Wrap
1 Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Lavash
2 eggs, scrambled
Extra sharp cheddar cheese (I love Cabot), shredded
Sliced tomato (only if ripe and in season)
2 slices bacon (optional) - I like it both ways

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

be a fruit loop.

Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats

In the past couple of weeks, we have eaten more zucchini than in all of 2013! We used to just roast or saute is with squash, before I learned that it could be used as a substitute for noodles (try this no noodle lasagna) and in appetizers as a substitute for crackers (try these pizza bites). I'd like to try zucchini pancakes, does anyone have a good recipe to share?
In this recipe, the zucchini is gutted with a spoon and then stuffed with a meaty sauce and topped with cheese.  This made for the perfect healthy weeknight meal. 
Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats
from SkinnyTaste

4 medium zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup salsa (I used hot)
1 pound lean ground turkey or beef
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp green bell pepper, minced
4 ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup reduced fat Mexican blend shredded cheese
1/4 cup chopped scallions, for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 1/4 cup of salsa in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Using a small spoon or melon baller, hollow out the center of the zucchini halves, leaving 1/4-inch thick shell on each half. Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini in small pieces and set aside 3/4 of a cup to add to the taco filling (squeeze excess water with a paper towel), discarding the rest. Drop zucchini halves in boiling water and cook for 1 minute, then remove from water.

Brown turkey in a large skillet, breaking up while it cooks. When no longer pink, add the spices and mix well. Add the onion, bell pepper, reserved zucchini, tomato sauce and water. Stir and cover, then simmer on low for 20 minutes. 

Using a spoon, fill the hollowed zucchini boats dividing the taco meat equally, about 1/3 cup in each, pressing firmly. Top each with 1 Tbsp shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini cooked through. Top with scallions and serve with salsa on the side.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Paleo Chicken Fajitas

The saying "eat well, feel well" is coming true in our house with our focus on mostly low-carb dinners. It's amazing how energetic and young Josh and I feel! 

The paleo diet or any "diet" plan has never appealed to me, so please do not think I am turning this into a paleo blog. I try to eat real foods, limit portion sizes, eat slowly, and enjoy every bite. I love dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese, and I'm not going to stop or feel guilty about that by putting myself on a special diet. 

With that being said, I have found a few paleo recipes recently that have been delicious! Last week, I made my favorite low-carb recipe (Cauliflower Fried Rice), that I am putting on our weekly menu rotation as it takes a couple of seconds to make the "rice" in my food processor.
I have noticed that these meals are much for fun to photograph, as the vegetables create a rainbow of colors and look beautiful in my Sur La Table dinnerware. 
Paleo Chicken Fajitas

1 pound chicken breast or tenderloin, sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin (may add a little more if you love cumin)
2 avocados, smashed
2 limes (1 for guacamole and 1 for marinade)

Topping: guacamole (make with avocados and 1 lime), fresh salsa, cilantro, and hot sauce

Put the peppers, onion and chicken into a bowl and top with paprika and cumin. Squeeze the juice of one lime and mix together. Marinate for 5 minutes.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the peppers, onion, and chicken to the pan. Cook for around 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. 

Serve chicken in bowls and top with guacamole, fresh salsa, and cilantro. Serve hot sauce on the side.