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!

Sweet Potato Skins

sweet-potato-skins

Remember when potato skins were a real novelty? If you grew up in small town Wisconsin I bet you do. I feel like potato skins were reserved for restaurant chains like TGI Fridays and California Pizza Kitchen. God, when I was a kid I would have killed to have one of those restaurants near us. The only reason I knew they existed was because I got to travel to exotic far away places like Appleton for gymnastics sometimes. (if you’re not from Wisconsin, Appleton is about 90 miles away from where I grew up; they had a mall with a Disney store and a real food court).

Anyway, I loved potato skins but I could only get them when I got to travel outside the county. Oh my, how our perspectives change. How fantastic that back then life didn’t get any better than potato skins and the Disney store.

These are really a lot different than Friday’s potato skins, obviously. For one, I don’t like to fry things. So these are baked (at a high temperature to give them some crispiness).  I also used sweet potatoes, because honestly my babies love them and I was going for a two-for-one meal here. I decided to keep the toppings traditional – bacon and cheese – and let me tell you, the flavor combo of sweet and savory is a real winner.

Recipe

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • ~ 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar + jack)
  • ~1/4 cup cooked & crumbled bacon
  • Canola oil
  • S&P

Start by baking the potatoes. Ours were HUGE (come on, Central Market, what kind of steroids are these guys on??). So they took about an hour in a 350 degree oven. Let them cool, then cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out most of the middle, about 1/4-1/2 inch remaining around the skin. Reserve this for whatever your heart desires.

Increase oven temp to 425.  Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, place the potato skins on there skin side up, and brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.  Roast until slightly crisp, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, flip over, add cheese and bacon to each, and put them back in the oven for a few more minutes (about 5) until the cheese is melted.

Chocolate Muffins

chocolate-muffins

Ayayayay. Today has been a day. Any day where I have to unexpectedly take my twins to the doctor solo is an ‘ayayay’ day. There is just no graceful way to manage it. From bringing them into the building, to keeping them from falling off the exam table when they’re on their together (today I adopted a goalie stance), to holding one while helping the doctor pin down the other so she can look in his ears, to getting them dressed again, and finally to physically getting out the door on my way out. Yes generally people are helpful, but in the end I’m in it alone (when John is not with me). Also, my dad used to use the term ‘snot-nosed little kid.’ (in good fun, of course).  I didn’t really take that term seriously until I’ve had two with sinus infections for 4+ weeks. How does such a tiny baby make so much snot? The good news is my clothes do a really good job of wiping off their noses.

Onto more pleasant topics, my neighbor did the best thing in the world for me recently. She went to Wisconsin to visit friends, and she brought me back CHEESE CURDS. My most favorite thing in all the land. Honestly it was the best day.  So I finally got a chance to repay her, and I decided to make her these chocolate muffins. They’re no cheese curd, but they do give you a nice little kick start to your day.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular)
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg, vanilla, yogurt and milk. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix ONLY until combined (over mixing is a great way to make dry muffins). Stir in the coffee, then the chocolate chips.  Divide into 8 greased muffing tins for larger muffins, 12 for smaller. Bake for about 23 minutes.

sweet-strawberry-basil-toast

Sometimes I would like to go back to the Summer days of picking strawberries with my mom and sisters. Weren’t those the best? Fresh strawberries, a day outside, and nothing on your agenda but strawberry pickin’ and swim lessons. Maybe a grilled hot dog when you got home. Of course it all sounds so blissful to me now, but being a particularly finicky kid my mom also reminds me of all the complaints about the heat, the sun (you would think those were the same..they weren’t), the mosquitoes, and of course the kneeling. Luckily I toughed it out enough times that the strawberry picking trips are all rolled up into one amazing and comforting memory.

These strawberries, are not fresh (by the definition of me picking them straight off the plant or whatever it’s called). I got them at the store, because I don’t know where to strawberry pick in Dallas. Anyone know? I would like to start my baby boys young so they can withstand the harsh picking conditions.

But this toast will make your summer. Sweet, flavorful, and just a tad savory from the cream cheese. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or as an app!

Recipe (2)

  • 2 pieces good Sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese spread (lite or regular)
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons chopped basil
  • honey drizzle (optional)

Toast the slices of bread. Spread cream cheese evenly over the warm toast, top with strawberries, basil, and drizzle with honey.

 

1234563