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Do you remember your first fajita experience? I do. I was in Arizona for a training camp with my gymnastics team. Our beloved coach, Jodi, spent the weeks leading up to it raving about Chili’s and our plans to eat there while in Scottsdale. Being from small town Wisconsin and growing up on standard comfort food, the idea of a restaurant that served Mexican like Chili’s seemed so exotic and exciting to me. And sure enough, it was. The fajitas came out on a sizzling skillet. They had flavored lemonade. Chips and salsa. Queso. Brownie sundae (again served on a skillet). Honestly it is one of the most vivid memories burned into my brain and was truly the start of a long and intense love affair with Mexican food. PS- it’s worth noting that our gymnastics team did not follow the rigid diet guidelines of those you hear about in the Olympics. I could also tell you about the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet we had at the hotel, but I’ll save it for another time.


So now that my husband and I are home bound more often now, we’ve gotten in a pretty consistent habit of carrying out fajitas on Friday night. We love them. Actually last week we discussed if we should consider doing some sort of fajita crawl to figure out our favorite. But until we get around to doing that, we also decided it would be a lot easier to make our own fajitas than to pick them up every weekend in Friday traffic.

You guys, I didn’t take this task lightly and we take fajitas very seriously. My husband has a very discerning/picky/annoying palate. We loved them so much I honestly have to say we will be opting for these going forward. Plus – EASY. Plus- HEALTHY (except when you wash them down with a DQ Dilly Bar after).

Recipe

Marinade

  • 1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher/coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon jarred minced)

 Fixins’

  • 3 bell peppers (I used one red, yellow, and green)
  • 1 large sweet/yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • Thin flour or corn tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese (Cheddar or Monterey Jack are good)

Start by marinating the chicken – at least 2 hours but hopefully 4-8. Whisk together lime juice, oil, Worcestershire, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, salt, and garlic. Pour into a large Ziploc bag and add chicken. Refrigerate. 


When ready to cook, heat the grill to medium-high.  Slice the peppers and onions into thin strips.  Toss with olive oil and salt. I cooked ours in a cast iron skillet on the grill, but feel free to use a grill pan or aluminum foil.  Grill until veggies are very tender and cooked down, about 30 minutes. Our chicken breasts were on the thick side, so they required about 5-6 minutes per side. Typically chicken is about 3-5 per side. Slice the chicken breasts, and build fajitas with peppers, sour cream, and cheese of course.

BBQ Chicken Flatbread

bbq-chicken-flatbread

I’ll tell you what’s not advised when you have two 10 month olds: taking them to a fancy ladies’ lunch. Like the kind of place where you drink wine, eat tea sandwiches, and women talk in sort of a hushed whisper. I love the place so much (for their tuna melt mainly), and it honestly never occurred to me that it definitely wasn’t baby friendly. And my husband wasn’t with me to share the burden of two busy bees. Without going into all the specifics, I’ll just give you a few highlights:

1. Bax crawling out of the high chair onto the table

2. Price screeching at the top of his lungs (in delight, but still)

3. Both babies playing with the sugar packets (which I allowed at first because it kept them quiet), only to have them each swallow at least 3-4, one getting stuck in a throat, and at least 77 ending up on the floor

4. Me letting Bax on the ground for a second so he could stand/walk around the table, getting distracted by my conversation with my friend for 30 seconds (silly me), and then getting notified by the ladies two tables over that he was in fact under their table

5. Price grabbing and spilling some of my Rose (every sip counts, buddy)

6. Me sweating through my white dress (90% physical wrangling, 10% stress)


All in all, not relaxing. But, my tuna melt was great. And the sly little smile Price gave me when I loaded him into the car made my heart melt and the memory fade away (sort of…though we will not be going back).


So, because some things in life are a little harder lately, my recipes have gotten easier. We went to a pool party the other day and the ‘bring a side’ request that would normally exhilarate me and result in at least 5 hours of alone time in the kitchen, has become a problem solving situation. What delicious thing can I make that’s fast, easy, and a crowd pleaser?


THIS.


Recipe

  • 4 pieces Naan flatbread
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded 
  • ~1/2 cup sweet barbecue sauce
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spread BBQ sauce over the Naan (please use naan here as opposed to some other flatbread…it’s soooo good).  Top with chicken and mozzarella. Bake in oven about 9-11 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are crisp and slightly browned. 

PS – I planned to buy rotisserie chicken here to cut down my prep time even more, but it turns out the rotisserie chickens aren’t out at 8AM (thanks Whole Foods, I didn’t need another reminder that my days start too early). So if you can’t find rotisserie chicken or prepped chicken from the salad bar, just boil the chicken breasts in seasoned water for about 10-20 minutes, depending on thickness.

2038

I need some new TV show recommendations. Anyone? All of ours (and there are A LOT), are either off season or we flew through them on amazon/netflix/HBO. Some of my recommendations: Bloodline, Stranger Things, Nashville, Homeland (duh), Big Little Lies (double duh), and the MISSING – creepiest most addicting show I’ve seen in a long time. Typing all those shows out, you’re probably thinking that I’m a couch potato and maybe I should pick up a book. And quite frankly, it turns out I do have some couch potato in me and I love TV. Plus we’ve been subbing pasta for zoodles so I can lay around all I want.

I’m going to spare you the zoodle talk, because everyone who’s had them knows how amazing they are. Amazing and sneaky. There aren’t many substitutions in this world that are truly maybe for the better. But this one is. They really soak up the sauce so much more than regular pasta, and you can pair them with a semi-indulgent cream sauce like this one because you’re saving yourself 400 calories. Sorry, guess I’m not sparing you the zoodle talk. I can’t help myself! Love these things.


Recipe (for 4-5)

  • ~1.5 lb zoodles (I used two of the 10.7oz noodle co. containers)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 container sliced mushrooms (the normal size..think it’s 8 oz?)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour or corn starch
  • 1 clove garlic (I used 1/2 teaspoon of the jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1.5 cups half & half
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • 3-4 cooked/grilled steaks, chicken breasts, or salmon fillets

I started by getting the veggies ready first; I simply cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, then steamed them in a bit of water in the microwave for 4 minutes. I put them in an ice bath immediately after to conserve the bright green color. I dry-sauteed the mushrooms in a sauce pan for about 8 minutes to cook through and remove excess moisture.


Next, I made the sauce. Create a roux by melting the butter over low heat; add the garlic to cook. Stir in the flour with a fork, then add in the white wine. Cook for a minute or two over low heat, careful not to burn.  Slowly add in the half & half and milk, and whisk to combine (it can be lumpy at first – keep whisking). Add salt. Stir and cook over low heat to thicken; add in the parmesan cheese. Stir in the zoodles and veggies (about 2-3 cups) and cook for 2-3 minutes until the zoodles are cooked but crisp.


We grilled steaks seasoned with plenty of salt (About a teaspoon per steak) and pepper.  Grills vary but our New York Strips cook in about 8 minutes,  flipping halfway through. Would be great with chicken or salmon on top!

best-banana-cake-caramel-frosting

If you’re noticing an uptick in banana recipes lately, you’re not alone. I have too. I like to buy lots of bananas. Always have. And now that I have two babies and babies love bananas, the problem is spiraling out of control. And when those bananas turn brown, my mind just goes into overdrive brainstorming what I can bake with them. 8 times out of 10, I go with my trusty banana bread with chocolate chips.  I looooove waking up to fresh baked banana bread on Saturday mornings. This past weekend though I decided to pave a new path and try banana cake with a caramel frosting. So good. So banana-y. So caramel-y. 


Cake Recipe

  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9×11 in baking dish.  Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a standing mixer; add the sugars, vanilla, and bananas. Add in the baking powder, soda, salt and flour, stirring until combined.  Mix in the buttermilk and vegetable oil.  Pour into baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the caramel frosting (PS – easiest caramel frosting in the world)


Frosting Recipe

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • ~1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar, and cook on low for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, bring to a low boil and then turn off the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the powdered sugar (needs to be sifted if you don’t want it lumpy!).  When cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the frosting over the cake.

Corn with Basil & Feta

2032

We’re getting a babysitter in 2 hours and 56 minutes. 55 minutes. Not like I’m dying to leave our baby boys, but I kind of am. They are so fun and cute and busy but the day is just about 6.5 hours too long. And also, does anyone have any tips for re-implementing a 3rd nap into the day? Besides ambien?


Actually, I think I don’t feel quite as trapped as a lot of new moms do. I have lots of places to walk to for lunch or other things, and I think my threshold for being home/not in a social setting is higher than most. That is probably the engineer in me coming out…someone that could sit in their cubicle and write code all day and be perfectly content. Or maybe that’s why I chose engineering.  It actually makes me think about an interview I had when I was trying to get out of engineering and into sales..when they asked me why I wanted to leave Lockheed Martin I said that I needed much more social interaction. What? No I don’t. I’m a terrible fit for sales.


All of that being said, I do in fact truly enjoy social events on a sporadic and reasonable basis, and tonight I am thrilled to be getting out. I also love to have people over for dinner, and that was the inspiration for this side dish. Picking the main part is easy…what to go with it is really the age old question.  This is perfect because it is fast, easy, and pretty. All the things you need when entertaining.


Recipe

  • 4 ears corn
  • ~2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • S&P

Start by cutting the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan, then add the corn.  Cook through, stirring frequently, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with S&P, and throw in the feta and basil. That’s it! 

chicken-veggies-peanut-sauce

I can’t tell you how many times I ordered #49 in college. I don’t remember the name of the Thai restaurant, the name of the street it was on, or even the name of the dish I ordered every single time. I only remember that it was #49.  It was grilled chicken with steamed veggies topped with the most delicious tasting peanut sauce I have ever laid my tongue on. It was perfect to me because peanut sauce is pretty rich, so I liked the healthy balance of the grilled chicken/steamed veggies versus an oily stir fry. Looking back, the healthy balance went out the window when I asked for extra peanut sauce and crushed peanuts, and then doused everything in it including the fried rice. I tricked myself, similar to when I used to order the broccoli cheese soup in the bread bowl at Panera (back then I didn’t realize that the 600 bread calories counted).


So I tried to recreate 49 here, and while the flavor is damn close, it was missing the cozy Thai restaurant and my dinner date, best buddy, and little sister Bente.  We shared so many fun nights there in Madison and both always ordered the same thing.  Maybe if I …

Oh! There she is. #49 is complete.


Recipe (for 4)

  • 1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 heads broccoli, chopped
  • 2 cups large/rough chopped carrots (I used the pre-bagged carrot chips)
  • 1 can water chestnuts, drained
  • 1/2 cup 2 tablespoons ‘simply’ or natural peanut butter (less sugar than regular ol’ Jif)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Coconut milk (the Thai stuff in the can- make sure to stir first!)
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup – 2/3 cup hot water (depending on how thick you want it)
  • Rice or Zoodles
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts, for topping

The sauce is easy! Simply add the PB, coconut milk, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sriracha,  curry powder, and ginger to a food processor and blend until smooth.  Slowly add the hot water, 1/3 cup for a thick sauce, up to 2/3 cup for a very thin sauce.  I used 1/3 cup in the photo above so it was pretty thick.  A couple notes about ingredients: try to use ‘simply skippy’ or ‘simply Jif’ or one of the natural peanut butters from whole foods. The regular ones will be a little too sweet. Also, make sure to use the Thai coconut milk in the Asian food aisle, not the coconut milk by the almond milk.  Stir it all together before you measure the 1/3 cup, as coconut milk separates in the can.  And finally, I think you could also make this with red curry paste instead of yellow curry powder. After you add the desired amount of hot water, set the sauce aside. 


The rest is easy. I grilled my chicken breasts in a grill pan; pounded them thin and then about 3-4 minutes per side. I steamed the broccoli, carrots and water chestnuts in a little water over the stove for about 10 minutes until tender but slightly crisp.  I served ours on Zoodles to be a little healthy, but rice is soooooo good with this peanut sauce. Drizzle the sauce on top along with some crushed peanuts and voila! #49.

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