Healthy Pasta-Free Carbonara

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While on our honeymoon to Italy a few years ago my husband fell in love with spaghetti alla carbonara.  A delicious and surprisingly simple concoction of pancetta, eggs, black pepper, and parmesan cheese.  After making the champagne cupcakes the other day I had a lot of egg yolks sitting around and needed a plan to use them up.  I also had a half of a spaghetti squash that I couldn’t let go to waste.  To make it a little healthier and add some color, I threw in the spinach.  These proportions and directions are just what I came up with based on what I have after looking at a few basic recipes online.  It couldn’t have turned out better, truly amazing.  My only mistake was not making more than two servings.

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Ingredients:

1/2 large Spaghetti Squash, roasted
5 strips of thick cut Bacon, diced
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 handfuls of Baby Spinach
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp black pepper

Directions:

(I had a spaghetti squash that was already roasted, if you have to roast the squash still you need to do this first.  Half the squash and scrape out seeds.  Lightly spray with olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Roast at 400 for 45-60 minutes.)

1. In a heavy skillet on medium heat cook the diced bacon.  I used an apple-wood smoked bacon, so flavorful!  When fully cooked turn heat to low and add the minced garlic, stir to avoid burning about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and toss in spinach until wilted.  Set aside in a large mixing bowl.

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2. Whisk together egg yolks, egg, parmesan cheese, and black pepper in a small bowl.

3. Here is where it gets a little tricky.  I warmed up the spaghetti squash in the skillet for a few minutes to get it really hot.  The heat from the “pasta” is going to thicken and cook the eggs.  When the squash is hot put it in the large mixing bowl with the bacon and spinach mixture then quickly toss/whisk together with the eggs until creamy.

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4. In my case the spaghetti squash was apparently not quite as warm as a freshly cooked pasta would be, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t serving raw eggs.  I warmed up the skillet on low heat and browned 1/2 Tbsp of butter, then added everything back into the warm skillet for just a few tosses.  Cook the eggs until creamy then remove from heat into mixing bowl.  You want to avoid scrambling the eggs, which is why you typically mix the eggs with everything in a bowl instead of in the skillet over heat.

This extra toss in brown butter not only enhanced the flavor and consistency of the dish, it made it safer to consume ;).  Top with a little parmesan cheese and black pepper before serving.

Enjoy and Eat Well!

Champagne Cupcakes

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My very good friend asked me to make a mini-baked good for her bridal shower dessert table this past weekend.  Trying to think of what to make for a lunchtime bridal shower was a little tricky, since baking is not my strong suit.  My first thought was cake ball pops, they are so darned cute and always a hit at parties.  Upon further thought I decided they would be a bit too time consuming and probably wouldn’t look as I imagine them being.  Instead, I started looking for a cupcake recipe that involved champagne.  When I get together with this group of girlfriends we drink almost exclusively champagne, so why not eat it too?  I found a recipe on the food network website for champagne cupcakes and a separate recipe for champagne buttercream frosting…perfect!  When it comes to baking I know better than to make my own adjustments.  Especially when baking for a crowd, who cares about fat and calories.  For the frosting I did add some almond extract to give it a little extra pizzaz.  Be prepared, this recipe makes a LOT of cupcakes.  I ended up with 50 mini-cakes and 20 large cupcakes.  If you aren’t baking for a crowd you may want to half the recipe.

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I didn’t frost the extra cupcakes so they could sit out, I’m not comfortable letting the buttercream frosting sit out for too long.  To make them presentable for a fancy bridal shower I wanted to pipe the frosting.  I found a piping set at marshalls for $5 and got a mini-cupcake pan and liners to make these mini-sized.  They turned out great and so adorable with the Lego bride and groom topper (thank you to my brother and his beautiful wife in Denmark)!  Pop some bubbly and lets get baking!

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Cupcake Ingredients: 

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup of milk (I used almond milk since I forgot to pickup regular milk)
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup champagne
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 egg whites

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1 pound of unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups of powdered sugar
4 Tbsp of champagne
1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  I made these in my KitchenAid standing mixer with the whisk attachment, otherwise you can use hand beaters to blend.

2. Add together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add the milk, shortening, champagne, and vanilla extract, beat on medium speed for 30-60 seconds.  Add egg whites and continue to beat for 2 minutes.

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3. Line cupcake pan and fill half full with batter.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until center is springy when touched.  Let cool on cooling rack.

4. Make your frosting while cakes are cooling.  I made this in the KitchenAid standing mixer as well with the whisk attachment.

5. Whip butter in mixer on medium/high speed until creamy.  Start to add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix in champagne/almond extract until you have the flavor and consistency you are looking for.  It should be smooth and creamy.  I didn’t add all 6 cups of sugar, I stopped around 5 so it wasn’t so sweet.

6. When cupcakes are cooled pipe the frosting on with the tip shape of your choosing.  I used the smaller star looking tip and piped in a circle starting at the outside working toward the center.  They look pretty fancy to me!

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Enjoy!

Goat Cheese and Apricot Tarts

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So this recipe took a few tries to get the taste I was looking for.  The first round looked pretty but was a little too dry from a thick layer of phyllo dough and not enough flavor from the cheese.  The most recent round really came together nicely and has the flavor, moisture, and crunch I was dreaming about.  These are good for a small gathering or a quick dessert for a last minute occasion.  I used sage this time, but it would also be great with Thyme as I had used the first round.

Ingredients: 

1/2 roll of Phyllo Dough
1 cup of dried Apricots, cut in half lengthwise
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup of chopped Walnuts
3 Tbsp butter, separated.
1/2 cup Goat Cheese
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage
2 Tbsp Honey

Directions:
1. In a small sauce pan make your toppings by mixing apricots, brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 Tbsp of butter.  Warm over medium heat until butter and brown sugar is melted making a glaze coating the nuts and apricots.  Remove from heat and set aside in a small bowl.

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2. In second sauce pan heat goat cheese, 1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp sage, and honey over medium heat.  When cheese melts and consistency is of an alfredo sauce remove from heat, do not boil.

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3. Lay phyllo dough flat and cut into 3×3 inch squares or slightly larger, split into pieces that are 6-8 leafs thick.  The first time I made these I kept the original stack thickness and it was too much, half that is good.  Separate on a cookie sheet.

4. Spread the cheese mixture onto the squares then top with apricot and nut mixture.

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5. Brush edges with remaining 1 Tbsp of butter, melted.  Bake in oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.

6. Garnish with remaining sage and serve warm.

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Enjoy!

 

Easy Oven Ribs

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Making a full slab of ribs is a hearty and simple meal to make any night of the week, depending on how late you want to eat.  I usually make ribs on a weekend since they do take a long time to cook.  You can speed up the process and cook on a higher temperature or grill them, but if you want moist ribs that fall off the bone, slow and low is the way to go.  This is perfect for the winter time, the oven is on to add a little extra heat to the house and the smell is amazing.  I have been experimenting with making my own rubs and sauces, but they easiest way to go is obviously pre-made when you don’t have the time.  My go-to rubs and sauces are Famous Dave’s, I just find the flavor to be so rich and perfect for the taste I’m going for.

Ingredients:

1 –2 full slabs of Pork Ribs
Rib Rub of your choice (I used Famous Dave’s, Rib Rub)
1/2 Onion, sliced thin into rings
1 Bottle of Beer (I used 1/2 guiness and 1/2 harp, why not)
BBQ sauce (I used Famous Dave’s, Devil’s Spit)

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Directions:

1. Remove ribs from fridge about 20-30 minutes before cooking and rinse with water, pat dry.
2. Sprinkle heavily with rib rub of your choice on both sides, pat into meat.  Place on a cookie sheet bone side down so the ribs are flat and not crowded if you have more than 1 slab.
3. Let sit for the remainder of the 20-30 minutes since removing from the fridge while the oven preheats to 285° F.
4. Slice onion and lay on top of rubbed ribs.
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5. Add beer to pan, cover with foil, and cook for 3 hours.
6. After cooking time has elapsed and meat is fully cooked, remove foil and set onions to side.  Brush ribs with BBQ sauce and broil for 4-5 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned.

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You can serve with a simple side salad, or go all out with coleslaw and cornbread (check out previous posts).  I keep the onions to serve with the ribs, they make a nice little garnish.

Enjoy and Eat Well!

Fresh Almond Milk

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Project Adventures in Vitamix is well underway.  This morning I made fresh almond milk to use in coffee for the weekend, so easy and way better for you than the processed store bought stuff.  Usually I don’t go through the trouble of straining the almond milk after it’s out of the Vitamix, but today I decided to use my new fine mesh strainer to see what the big difference would be.  I have to say, there is a big difference between the strained and unstrained product.  The unstrained milk has a very nutty quality and naturally a thickness to it that stands out in coffee or when drank alone.  The strained product is a lot softer in flavor, mixes into coffee well and…for lack of a better descriptor…is milky tasting.  The vitamix really pulverizes the almonds, what you are straining out is the very fine shell and meat of the nut that has escaped the 2 horsepower blades.  This will make just over 3 cups of milk and about a half a cup of froth.  The best part is that the frothy goodness left over in the strainer is a perfect nutty base for a smoothie.  Talk about starting the weekend out strong!

Ingredients:

1 cup of raw almonds
3 cups of water
1 tsp of agave (or sweetener of choice)

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients to your Vitamix (or other high power blender) and increase speed to high, run for 2 minutes.

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2. Slowly pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, using a spoon to remove the froth as you strain.  Use the milk immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  I’m not sure about the storage life, but I try to use the milk up in about 2 days.

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I like to add a very small amount of sweetener to my almond milk since I’m using it in my coffee, but you do not have to.  If you are going to use the milk for baking or another cooking project, just skip the sweetener.  You may want to substitute for a little salt if you are planning to use it in a soup or savory meal.

I had a lot of frothy goodness left after straining the milk, and of course didn’t want to let it go to waste.  I put the froth right back into the Vitamix and added a frozen banana, 3/4 cup of frozen strawberries, large handful of kale, and 1 cup of water.  Blend on high for 45 seconds, makes 2 smoothies.  AMAZING!

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Enjoy and Stay Healthy!

Mini Nutty Brie Pockets

I’m sure I have said this before, but I’m not a sugar and sweets kind of girl.  That being said, every once in a while it just has to be done.  These little pockets are filled with fig and nutty sweetness and a hint of salt from brie melted in the middle.   I made these pockets with nuts, dried fruits, and minimal butter/sugar to add a little nutritional value.  You can swap out for different nuts, fruits, even spread to whatever you may have on hand.  I would love to make them again with apricot, honey, and walnuts!  The pockets can be made any size you would like; personally, I don’t like cutting into a big gooey wheel leaving the cheese to spill all over, so I made these mini (3 bites) size to avoid such troubles.

2014-01-19 14.16.37They turned out even better than I expected and were easy to prepare in the morning before guests arrived.  I made them up until the point of baking, then put them in the fridge until 30 minutes before I was ready to bake, serving immediately.  You could make them as far as a day in advance before baking, just be sure to keep in the fridge overnight.  This only makes 8 pockets, which was not enough for our group, you may want to double it!

Ingredients:

3 oz of double cream brie cheese
1 pre-made Pillsbury pie crust
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup of diced figs
1/4 cup of craisins
1/3 cup of chopped pecans
1 Tbsp butter
Fig spread/jam (I prefer with seeds)
1 egg
1 Tbsp large grain sugar

Directions:

1. In a small sauce pan add chopped nuts, brown sugar, figs, craisins, and butter.  Stir well and cook on medium heat until butter is melted and figs/craisins are soft, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

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2. Roll out the pie crusts to be slightly thinner than packaged and even, cut into 3×3 inch squares.

3. In the center of each square place a small piece of brie (rind intact), put a small spoon of fig spread on top of cheese, and a large spoon of the nut and fig mix on top.

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4. I didn’t take a picture of this, but bring the four corners up over the cheese pile and press together. Seal the folds by pinching as able and put on baking sheet seam side up.  They don’t have to look perfect, it’s almost better that way.

5. Scramble the egg and brush on top of all of the brie pies, sprinkle with large grain sugar lightly.

6. Bake at 350 until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

White Wine Braised Lamb Chops

 

2014-01-12 19.38.22Winter weather cooking is all about comfort foods that are full of flavor and warmth.  Lately I have been playing around with braising cheap cuts of meat.  The flavors are incredible, the meat is insanely tender, and braising is really very easy to do.  Technically braising is just searing then slow cooking a cut of meat that has a tough quality or connective tissue that needs broken down.  Adding wine, beer, or tomatoes with broth then covering to finish cooking for a long period of time completes the braising process.  Of course time is a factor and planning in advance will only help enhance the flavors, try this for a fancy weekend meal.  For tonights braising I got the lamb chops at Paulina Meat Market and decided to go with a white wine and beef broth cooking liquid, fresh herbs, and vegetables to enhance the lamb.

I chose lamb shoulder chops that are blade cut, the least expensive cut of lamb in stock at the market.  I decided to keep the flavors soft using leeks instead of onions with the white wine.  Starting on Saturday I rubbed the lamb down giving it a day to soak in, I definitely recommend this with this recipe.  Thyme goes so nicely with dry white wine and I happen to have a lot growing right now, so I used that primarily with a little fresh rosemary and parsley to round out the flavors.  You can use other herbs that you have fresh or dried (use a little less if using dried herbs as they are more potent) sage or oregano would be lovely as well.

Ingredients: 

Rub:
2 tsp of garlic powder
2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced and heaping
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced

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2 8oz cuts of lamb with bone in and marbled with fat/connective tissue
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 Leek, halved and sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of ground pepper
4 sprigs of thyme, center stem removed
2 bay leaves
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of beef broth

Directions:

1. At least one hour in advance (up to 12 hours in advance) mix together rub ingredients and pat onto lamb chops, refrigerate until 30 minutes before browning.
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2. Choose a large heavy pan with an oven-safe lid to make the meal in.  Heat on medium-high, coat with olive oil and brown lamb chops 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

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3. Lower heat to medium-low, add a pad of butter to pan and saute carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.  Saute for 8-10 minutes before adding white wine, beef broth, and chops to pan.  The liquid should come about 2/3 of the way up the side of the meat, I added a little more wine and broth after taking this picture below.  Bring to a boil.

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4. Once boiling, cover pan and place in oven at 285 degrees for 3 hours.

2014-01-12 19.27.46In the end the meat is literally falling off the bone and that tough connective tissue has melted into a soft smooth consistency.  The smell is incredible and the taste is so flavorful, words cannot do justice.

To serve this I boiled some cauliflower until very tender, mixed it in the kitchenaid standing mixer with butter, roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and a little milk.  It made a rice-like consistency that was a perfect bed for the lamb and vegetables.  You can also use rice or mashed potatoes, but I wanted to make this paleo friendly.  Fresh green beans for a side and you have yourself a restaurant quality meal at home.

Enjoy and Stay Healthy!

Simple Breakfast Salad

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On days that I want a substantial breakfast without the carbs, a breakfast salad is my go-to.  It’s easy, delicious, and filling without making you feel guilty.  For this breakfast salad there is of course a side of bacon to go with it.  I used romaine lettuce, but you can use any greens you may have available.  Add as many vegetables as you would like, this is a simple starter salad to get you going.  Instead of a fat filled dressing, the roasted red peppers, lemon juice, and egg yolks combine beautifully in the bowl to do the trick.  This makes 2 salads.

Ingredients:

8 slices of thick cut bacon
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup of red onions, diced
4 slices of roasted red peppers, diced
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 avocado, diced
4 eggs
fresh cilantro and lemon wedge for garnish

Directions: 

1. Cook bacon in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  It will take less time if sliced thin.
2. In a heavy skillet take a small amount of the bacon grease from the pan to saute onions and garlic for a few minutes.

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3. In your serving bowl combine lettuce, diced red peppers and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
4. When bacon is crispy cut 2-4 slices into small pieces and add to salad with cooked red onions.
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5. Cook eggs sunny-side up in skillet over medium-low heat with bacon grease to keep from sticking.
6. Top salad with avocado, eggs, cilantro, and a squirt of lemon.  Breaking yolks to mix with the salad is the best dressing!

Enjoy and Stay Healthy!

Coconut, Strawberry and Basil Smoothie

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Today I was looking for a creamy smoothie with a different flavor profile from the norm.  I have a basil plant that is holding on for dear life by the front window, begging for sunlight in the middle of winter and unfortunately too close to the window to stay warm on these sub-zero days.  With the 5-6 living leaves that remain I wanted to make something to recall the days of summer when fresh herbs are robust.

To add creamy smoothness the combination of banana and coconut milk (from a can) are pretty great.  The coconut milk gives more thickness to the smoothie than almond milk or regular milk, and the coconut flavor in the finished product is perfect.  Of course this was blended in the Vitamix for optimal consistency.

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Ingredients:

1 Ripe Banana
1 cup of Red or Green Kale
5-6 large frozen Strawberries
5 small Fresh Basil Leaves
1/3 cup of lite Coconut Milk, canned.

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Directions:

Add ingredients to Vitamix blender in order provided and blend on high for 45 seconds.  Add more or less coconut milk as needed for desired consistency.  I didn’t put any ice in this as the frozen berries give a cool icy quality, but you can add ice if you like.

Stay healthy and Enjoy!

Ginger Green Smoothie

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I have finally gotten my hands on a Vitamix and I’m never letting go.  In the two short weeks that I have had this little beauty in our house I have used it every day.  The best part about this blender, aside from the obvious amazing ability to liquefy everything it comes in contact with, is the fact that my husband loves it too.  Eating healthy has never been so easy and delicious.  I have had the Vitamix for about 2 weeks now and have used it at least once a day since then.  Every morning involves a smoothie, I make my own almond milk to put in my coffee, I make dessert, sauces, and of course a spectacular soup.  I am still getting used to the power and temperament of the blender, so my recipes will take a little time to perfect for public use.

I do have to say I was not a true believer in the Vitamix until I actually put it to use.  I thought our old blender was great, it blended things and if I left it running long enough the contents would be smooth.  Apparently I didn’t know what smooth was, because the vitamix makes everything so smooth it actually becomes creamy.  Okay, enough bragging about my new toy, lets get to the smoothie of the day.

Today I made a green smoothie with a small chunk of fresh ginger to give it a nice little spice/kick.  I am of course not reinventing the wheel here, a smoothie is a smoothie.  Green smoothies are all the rage as they are said to break up greens such as spinach and kale into small enough pieces to digest all the nutrients.  Something about breaking up your food into liquid form has made me really look more closely at what I am buying as well.  If I am releasing hidden nutrients, I am probably releasing hidden chemicals as well.  So not only have I jumped on the Vitamix wagon, I am looking around inside the organic wagon as well.  I have chosen for a long time to believe that if I wash my fruit/veggies well enough that it’s totally fine, but in reality those chemicals are likely penetrating into every bite.  So I have started to switch to organic greens and slowly switching out my fleshy fruits/veggies as well.

2013-12-30 09.06.56Ingredients:

1 Clementine, peeled
1/2 Red Delicious Apple (seeds and all)
1 handful of Kale
5-6 frozen Strawberries
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
1/2 inch piece of Fresh Ginger
1/2 cup of water

Directions:

1. Add all the ingredients to the blender in the order listed above and blend on high for 45 seconds.  Add more water or ice as needed for consistency desires.

Enjoy and stay healthy!

Glazed Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin

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This dish sounds only half as good as it actually tasted.  I really enjoy lean proteins for a main course with lots of fruits/veggies on the side, but sometimes the meat will quickly dry out no matter how much care you take to avoid overcooking.  Lately I have been on a serious bacon kick, even using the grease to cook vegetables…I know, perhaps I will cut back in the new year.  Using the bacon to keep lean meats from drying out is a great way assure a crowd pleasing moist cut of meat.  With the garlic and herb rub it’s unbeatable.  I combined recipes I found online from Fabio Viviani and Giada De Laurentiis to come up with this dish.

The glazed bacon was so fantastic and crispy with the flavorful layer of garlic herbs hiding underneath.  I served this with a simple salad of shaved brussel sprouts, kale, and fennel tossed with a dressing made with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, and shaved parmesan topped with salt and fresh cracked pepper.  So good with a nice flavor that didn’t get lost next to the bacon and pork.

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Ingredients:

1 2-4 pound boneless Pork Loin (not tenderloin)
5 large cloves of Roasted Garlic
1 Tbsp fresh minced Thyme (center stalk removed)
1 Tbsp fresh minced Rosemary
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 pound of thick cut Bacon
3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

1. Rinse and dry the pork loin, place fatty side up on a broiler pan.  I scored the shiny tendon/fat of the loin, careful not to cut into the meat.

2. Mash together the roasted garlic with the dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) to make a rub.

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3. Rub the garlic herb mixture over the exposed surface of the pork loin.

4. Lay the bacon slices over the loin, overlapping slightly.  Tuck the ends under the loin to hold in place.  If the bacon slices aren’t long enough they will curl up while cooking, so you may want to tie them down with kitchen twine.

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5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

6. Mix together the vinegar and brown sugar (adjust amounts as needed to make a thin glaze).

7. After the initial 1 hour of cooking, brush the glaze over the bacon.  Return to oven to finish cooking until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees (about 30 minutes depending on the size of your loin).  If you have to add a considerable amount of time to fully cook, you may want to lay foil over the bacon and/or re-glaze to avoid burning.

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8. Remove and let rest for about 20 minutes.  Internal temperature should rise another 15 degrees to reach 160 before serving.  You will need to check the internal temperature of the pork with a thermometer unless you are really confident in your ability to judge cooked pork.

This dish is truly amazing and very easy to make.

Enjoy!

Skillet Baked Chicken

This recipe is incredibly easy, uses only 1 dish, and a handful of ingredients.  I made this for a quick weeknight dinner but will definitely be making it again for a crowd.  The key to this is good quality bacon, shocking I know.  You want a thick cut applewood smoked bacon if you can find it.  I get our bacon at the Paulina Meat Market usually so the slices are fresh and as thick as I want, but I also like Wright brand from our local grocery store.  This is not for turkey bacon or a thin sliced lean bacon, the smokey fat makes all the difference in giving depth and keeping the chicken moist.

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Ingredients:

3 slices of bacon, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In an oven safe skillet cook the bacon stirring frequently.  When half-way cooked add the bell pepper and cook about 5 minutes on medium low heat.
3. Push the bacon and peppers to the edge of the skillet and turn heat up to medium.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, place in the center and brown about 5 minutes on each side.
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4. Place the skillet in the oven to finish cooking for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Holiday Champagne Cocktail

2013-11-28 12.08.48The beauty of Champagne is that you can have it at any time of day and it is socially acceptable (or at least it is in my house).  This holiday champagne cocktail is sure to start your Christmas morning off on the right foot.  It’s so good you may want to continue drinking it all day long.  Keep in mind that the sprig of fresh rosemary is a necessity to this beverage, not just for looks, so make sure you have a full sprig for each glass.  You can re-use the same sprig for multiple refills.

Ingredients:

3/4 of a glass of champagne of choice (I prefer a Cava or Brut)
1/4 of a glass of grapefruit juice
1 tsp of Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur), more to taste.
1 Sprig of rosemary
Cranberry for garnish

Directions: 

Pour the champagne, grapefruit juice and liqueur into a champagne flute, mix with the sprig of rosemary and garnish with 1-2 cranberries.

 

Snacking Nuts

The holiday season is full of gatherings with friends.  I made this snack mix to put out while having a drink before going out to dinner.  I didn’t want everyone to fill up, but there is something nice about having a small snack with your beverage.  This is easy and will last in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks, so you can cover Christmas and New Years with one baking.  This would also make for a nice host/hostess gift with a bottle of wine or box of chocolates.

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I found this recipe on the Food and Wine website, perfect amount of sweet and savory without overbearing the natural nut flavors.

Ingredients:

2 cups almonds
2 cups pecans
2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup (heaping)
2 Tbsp of fresh chopped rosemary and thyme
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (heaping)
salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Toss to combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a large bowl.

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3. Spread out mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
4. When you remove them from the oven sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and stir 1-2 more times while cooling.

2013-12-21 14.57.57Enjoy!

One Pot Curry Chicken and Rice

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This is an easy and very flavorful one pot wonder that is great for a last minute dinner party.  I have substituted various vegetables into the mix, so you can use whatever you on hand.  I used boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but you can use any cut of chicken you have on hand.  I imagine this being good and even cheaper using chicken thighs.

Ingredients: 

1 cup of Rice (not instant)
3 tsp oil (canola, olive, or coconut)
4-6 skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), trimmed
2 cups finely chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced (or 1/2 tsp ginger powder)
2 Tbsp curry powder (red or yellow)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 cups chicken broth
1-15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
1-14oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped zucchini (as shown) or frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Heat 1 tsp oil in dutch oven over medium heat, add chicken and cook until browned on all sides ~8 minutes.  Remove and put on plate.

2013-11-07 18.29.543. Reduce heat to low and add more oil, cook onions until golden brown ~15 minutes.  Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, coriander and ground red pepper.  Cood until fragrant ~2minutes.

4. Increase heat to medium high, stir in broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, zucchini and rice.  Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer.  Nestle chicken into the rice, cover, and cook in oven 20-25 minutes.

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5. Serve with a small wedge of lime if desired.

Enjoy!