Grilled Caprese Salad

grilled-caprese-salad

I’m feeling very uninspired in the world of fashion lately. Anyone else? Denim in particular. I mean WTF. Wide leg, cropped, high-waisted, frayed…basically all the styles that look good on no one all rolled into one jean. So apparently if you don’t know what type of new denim you should get for the summer/fall, just go to the store and find the pair that looks the absolute worst on you – and get those. I also heard that pinch rolling is coming back, and skinnies are out. It literally took me years to get into the skinny trend because it just didn’t suit my body type…now I’m firmly on board and have a closet full of skinnies and they’re out. Well forget it, Fashion 2017, I’m skipping you entirely this year and maybe I’ll check back in the spring. Of course, who am I kidding? When do I wear regular clothes anyway? I’m definitely pushing the boundaries of appropriate “athleisure” on a daily basis.

Onto food. I love the caprese combination. It’s perfect to me, and I like it in nearly every form: sandwich, pizza, flatbread, cold salad…and now, hot salad. I put it on the grill last weekend and I looooved the melty cheesy touch and the sweet, cooked down tomatoes.

Recipe

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • ~1/2 ball fresh mozzarella
  • olive oil & salt
  • ~2-3 tablespoons fresh basil
  • balsamic glaze (store bought)

Cut the tomato into thick slices, remove the seedy/watery part, place them on a paper towel and blot to remove excess moisture.  Season with salt.  Place the tomatoes on a thick piece of foil sprayed with nonstick spray and brush with just a touch of oil. Grill on medium for about 3-4 minutes (on the foil). Slice the mozzarella into thick pieces, and place a piece on half of the tomatoes. Cover each tomato with another tomato slice and cover grill just for a minute or two to melt. Remove from grill. Top with fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

maple-chocolate-chip-cookies-2

I really love pancakes. So much so that I would add “being able to order the kids’ pancakes at brunch” as one of the best things about having kids. And what’s the best thing about pancakes? The syrup, of course.  My best friend, who lives in Wisconsin, has started making her own maple syrup and oh man. There are no words to describe how good it is. She sent me a jar when I was pregnant, and to this day I can’t really tell you what happened to it. Pancakes? Ice Cream? Oatmeal? Spoon? I don’t know. I finished it in about a week and it’s all one big maply blur.  (hint hint, Christa, I’m accepting more maple syrup).

So anyway, these cookies are like pancakes in a cookie. Not made with homemade maple syrup because that would be a waste, but made with pure maple syrup to give it that really delicious sweet amber flavor. I know amber isn’t really a flavor.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • ~1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla, baking soda, corn starch, and salt. Slowly mix in the flour and then the maple syrup. Add the chocolate chips.  Cover cookie dough and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350.  Drop rounded balls onto baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Greek Fajitas

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I absolutely love eating my dinner in a tortilla. I’ll eat anything in there. Anything at all. A few examples:

  1. tacos (duh)
  2. quesadillas (duh)
  3. BBQ chicken quesadilla (ok)
  4. peanut butter quesadilla (woah)
  5. Egg burrito (yep)
  6. and the best….Pizzadilla (wow! idea courtesy of my BIL circa 2005)

So we’ve decided to move our Greek chicken pitas out of the pita and into the fajita. A Greek version of our favorite Mexican dinner. My only regret is that we didn’t think of this sooner, and the only thing I’m lying about is that dollop of Tzatziki shown in that photo. I use like 75 dollops.

Recipe

Chicken Marinade

  • ~2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Greek vinaigrette (your favorite store bought)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (optional)

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 container plain yogurt (about 5 oz)
  • 1 container 2% Greek yogurt (~7 oz)
  • 1/2 cup seeded & chopped cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • ~1 clove garlic (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Fajitas

  • 2 small yellow/white onions (to caramelize)
  • Feta cheese (for topping)
  • 1/2 chopped cucumber (for topping)
  • 4-8 of your favorite tortillas

Mix the marinade ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 8.  Mix all tzatziki ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.

To caramelize the onion, slice thin, combine into a pan with a drizzle of olive oil and touch of salt, and cook down for about 20 minutes.

Grill the chicken (about 5-6 min/side for thicker cuts, 3 min/side for cutlets); let stand for a few minutes and then slice pieces about 1/4 in thick.

Assemble fajitas on your tortillas with caramelized onion, chicken, and top with chopped cucumber and fresh feta. Serve with sauce.

 

 

 

my-favorite-healthy-egg-salad

I feel like one of the hardest parts of working full time is coming up with lunch solutions. Pack a lunch? Eat out every day? Skip it altogether? Tough answers to some tough questions. As a side note – I’ve always had a strange admiration for people who say ‘I forgot to eat lunch today.’  I mean. How? How did you forget? Weren’t you starving? Weren’t you counting down the hours/minutes/seconds until you got to eat something good? Isn’t lunch the highlight of an otherwise mundane day? I don’t get it, you guys, and I’m intrigued.

But the reason lunch is important during the week is two-fold: 1) obvious nutrition requirements and 2) it gives you something to look forward to. If I didn’t have lunch I might just simply quit my day after breakfast.

This egg salad is one of my ultimate go-to’s for lunch. It’s healthy, it’s easy to make, and you can make it in larger batches to have all week. You can put it on toast, you can put it on crackers, or you can just eat it with a fork like I do most days. It’s delicious.

Recipe (1)

  • 4 eggs (will be using 1 whole egg, and 3 egg whites)
  • 1 tablespoon light mayo
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ~1/8 teaspoon kosher/coarse salt, more to taste
  • pepper

Hard boil the eggs. I do mine by placing them in a pot and covering with water, bringing them to a boil, then turning off the heat and covering for 10 minutes. I then drain the water and replace with ice water. The ice bath for a minute or two ensures the yolks stay yellow.

Peel the eggs and slice one whole egg, and 3 egg whites into a bowl. Discard the remaining yolks. Mash the egg and egg whites with a fork. Mix in the mayo, pickle, pickle juice, mustard, S&P. Serve warm or refrigerate to cool down.

raspberry-almond-ricotta-toast

Is there anything better in life than Friday? And before you say Saturday, consider that when it’s Friday, TOMORROW is Saturday which gives you something to look forward to. It’s the best mental situation. And remember the good ol’ days of TGIF on TBS? Was it TBS? Can’t remember but man I loved Full House. Wanted to be Stephanie Tanner and wanted to date Uncle Jesse (still do). And PS – did you know the Olson twins are NOT identical? They look exactly the same.

And since it’s Friday, I decided to celebrate at lunch. A lunch for one with this absolutely delicious ricotta toast (every time I say ricotta in my head I roll by T’s like Giada), topped with slivered almonds and the quickest easiest raspberry jam.

Recipe (1)

  • 1 piece good sourdough or honey wheat toast
  • 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons Ricotta  (or cream cheese spread would be just as amazing)
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds

To make the quick jam, place the raspberries and sugar in a sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium high, and crush the raspberries with a rubber spatula. Mix together, and bring to a low boil for just a couple minutes.  Transfer to a fine mesh strainer to remove some of the liquid (or just tilt the pan over the sink and hold back the thick jam). Toast your bread to your heart’s content. Spread ricotta or cream cheese on it (or goat!), sprinkle with almonds, and top with jam. Babies love it too.

 

 

Dinner Party Menu: June

feast-together-june

Even for those that love to cook, putting together a full menu for a dinner party, barbecue, or any group gathering is daunting. More so today than ever probably, because there are literally 73 million recipes out there. Maybe more. Pairing the right flavors and themes is important, as is considering how much work and time everything is going to take. So, starting today, I will be doing a monthly dinner party series that will feature my recommendation for an entertaining menu that month. So you don’t have to!

In my early cooking/’entertaining’ days, I would just pick my favorite things to make with complete disregard for timing and execution feasibility. I would spend hours running around the kitchen getting everything ready, and more often than not miss the cocktail hour once our friends arrived (don’t worry I was drinking wine in the kitchen). I quickly learned that’s not the way to entertain and you have to think these things through when picking the menu. So, I’ve adopted a few rules to consider as I make recipe decisions:

  1. Make ahead is best. Recipes where you can do some part of it ahead of time, then just finish up the final steps once guests arrived is ideal.
  2. Ina Garten’s genius tip: don’t make any more than 2 (3 at most) items off your menu. So if you make the main dish and a side, buy the appetizer and dessert.
  3. Don’t go fancy with the appetizer. Something simple to nibble on while having a drink is all you need. 99.5% of the time I do a cheese plate.
  4. Consider the season. Don’t serve beef bourguignon in the summer, or grilled lemon chicken in the winter.
  5. Always serve dessert.

And that’s it! For June (and most Summer months), I opt for something on the grill to keep it light, fun, and to inject you with that unmistakable smell of summer on the grill.

Appetizer: Block of cream cheese topped with red pepper jelly, serve with crackers

Main:           Blackberry-Balsamic Pork Tenderloin or Grilled Herb Dijon Chicken

Side 1:         Grilled Vegetable Salad (sorry for the old terrible photos here)

Side 2:         Buy a twice-baked from the deli case or simple baked sweet potato

Dessert:      Bakery-bought cookie platter

To execute:

  1. Store-bought cream cheese and pepper jelly can be assembled a couple hours in advance and stored in the fridge
  2. Marinate the pork the day before, or the chicken the morning of; simply grill once ready to eat
  3. Have vegetables chopped and in grill pan when guests arrive. Start grilling them about 20-30 minutes before you put on the meat. Very little maintenance once they start cooking. Toss in the balsamic, cheese, and basil when ready to serve (PS this can be done early too – we’ve eaten this at room temperature plenty of times and it’s just as delicious)
  4. I would buy a twice baked or sweet potato from Whole Foods or Central Market, or simply pop some sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 for one hour. Serve with butter.
  5. A variety of cookies is NEVER a bad idea.

Happy feasting!

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