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Baked Chicken Tenders
adapted from Chicken Recipe Box

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breast tenders
1 cup bread crumbs (I use 3 slices of whole grain bread which I pulse into bread crumbs in the mini food processor.)
3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut chicken thighs into thin strips. The thinner they are, the quicker they will cook in the oven. Make sure to keep cuts about the same size for even cooking. If you use chicken breast tenders, you can use them as they come if all the tenders are approximately the same size (this choice is healthier since it’s white meat and, therefore, leaner and it’s a time saver=double bonus!).
In one small bowl, combine flour, salt and black pepper. In a second small bowl, beat 2 eggs. In a third small bowl, add bread crumbs.

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Dredge each strip of chicken in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Repeat for all chicken strips. If you have children, let them help with this step- they love to get their hands messy and participate in meal prep, just make sure you are able to get them to a sink with soap and warm water quickly after finishing.
Lay coated chicken strips on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for less sticking and easier clean-up).
Bake chicken strips in oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked and crisp. Turn the chicken strips about 1/2 way through cooking.

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Serve with ketchup, mustard, or your favorite dip. I prefer a Siracha ketchup or Ranch.

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Happy Spring to everyone! Yesterday, on the official first day of spring, our weather started out with heavy rain and gray skies. Then, the wind kicked up and blew the clouds and rain away to reveal beautiful blue skies and sunshine! The pops of color from the spring flowers, amidst the lush green landscape we are so accustomed to in Seattle, is so much more astounding when the sunlight hits it just right.

Oh, spring! We are ready for you…flowers, longer days, warmer weather cocktails (I’m craving a Dark and Stormy badly these days!), grilling, Easter egg hunts, and basketball!!! Who else is excited for the official start of March Madness today??! My loyalty lies with two teams. First and foremost, my alma mater, the Davidson Wildcats who play Marquette this afternoon (Go Cats!!!) and despite being such a small school nearly always score a spot in the Big Dance! And, the Florida Gators who play their first game on Friday evening…Go Gators!!!

Today is quite the perfect day for the slow cooker to cook your meal and to have it ready to be eaten right when you get home from work, when you’re ready to sit for several hours on the sofa watching all the madness of the games and updating your brackets! This chicken is really good! I prepped it the night before, cutting the onions and peppers and rubbing on the spices, then placed all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and popped it right into the refrigerator until the next morning. I started the slow cooker right before I left for work and when I got home the chicken was fragrant and very tender- I shredded it with a fork. And, it makes enough to have this same meal twice or to use the leftover chicken in a salad or on nachos! If you double the batch,you could even freeze half, which I love to do. A freezer full of stacked ziplocs filled with sauces or shredded meats makes my heart happy!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas Tacos
adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

for spice rub—

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

for serving—

corn tortillas

avocado slices

shredded sharp cheddar cheese

your favorite salsa

limes

Directions:

Mix together all spices in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over the chicken. Then, place the chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker.

Cover the chicken with the chopped onions, pepper, jalapeño pepper, and garlic. If you are prepping ahead, place in the refrigerator until the next morning. When you are ready to start cooking, turn heat on LOW and cook for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove meat from crock pot and shred with a fork. It should be incredibly easy to shred.

To serve, heat your corn tortillas in a skillet on the stove or in a toaster oven on 200 degrees. Spoon some carnitas on a tortilla then top with salsa, avocado, cheese, and a squeeze of lime.

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I’ve always loved the idea of gardening, tinkering around in the dirt with a few plants never really understanding the right thing to do, always having a low yield. But, this year, my parents sent us a garden box (a raised bed) and I researched and planned, determined to really test my green thumb.

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And, I have to say that if you’ve never tried it you are missing out on an amazing opportunity. There is no gratification greater for me than serving a meal with vegetables that I grew with my own two hands. I love kneeling down with my knees in the cool grass, plucking lettuce leaves, arugula leaves, and kale from the garden box for lunch and dinner…there is something so therapeutic about it, something so naturally fundamental to my being. And, I love how much Jack is interested in the growing, caring for, and harvesting.

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This is the time of year when the garden is abundant with its harvest. I love serving fresh, simple salads with every summer dinner, so when we had friend’s over for dinner this past weekend, I knew one of my shared dishes was going to be a mixed greens salad. I chose to keep it simple so as to highlight the freshness of the lettuce and arugula leaves without losing all those delicate flavors. I paired the greens with goat cheese, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries and then lightly tossed it in olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and kosher salt. It was the perfect taste of homegrown summer time!

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I’m just getting around to sharing the recipe from our St. Patrick’s day dinner…it’s only been 2 months, no big deal! I sautéed cabbage with sage and bread crumbs to make it perfectly caramelized before tossing it with pasta to create a dish full of flavor…one that became the perfect accompaniment to grilled sausage.

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In the past, I’ve always boiled cabbage, but I’ve been experimenting more and finding that this vegetable is so versatile and full of flavor.
A member of the brassica family (along with kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and broccoli), cabbage is extremely healthful and very low in calories (only 25 calories/100 grams). Cabbage contains more vitamin C than an orange! and many phyto-chemicals that have been linked to lowering risks of cancer as well as lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

So, first is my Caramelized Cabbage with Pasta recipe,
adapted from the New York Times:

5 cloves peeled and crushed garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 pound dry penne pasta
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

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Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in one clove of the crushed garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the bread crumbs and sage and cook until bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook about 10 minutes, until barely al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the cayenne pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the cabbage and cook, stirring only occasionally, until it begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. You are looking for the edges of the cabbage to brown. Toss in the pasta and bread-crumb mixture and heat through, then quickly toss in the cheese and remove from heat. Season with salt and more pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.

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And, next is my recipe for Roasted Cabbage Wedges Topped with Goat Cheese. Roasted cabbage seems to be circulating through blogs lately, so I had to give it a try. It was yummy!

1 small to medium head of cabbage
Olive oil
Goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Core your head of cabbage and then slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices and brush both sides with olive oil.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, until edges start to brown.

Top with a few small spoonfuls of goat cheese and roast for about 5 more minutes, until cheese starts to brown and bubble.

Top with cracked pepper.

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I hope you had a fun weekend. Ours was festive…filled with candy eating, egg hunting, good food, and friends.

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We started our weekend with the Bunny Bounce at Woodland Park Zoo where Jack had as much fun visiting all of the animals as he did “hunting” for Easter eggs (as you can see in the photos the eggs for the toddler hunt were not exactly hidden!) and meeting the Easter bunny. Then, on Saturday afternoon, we planted a magic jelly bean in the yard in anticipation of waking up on Easter morning to a surprise where the jelly bean was planted…

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As you can see, on Easter morning, Jack found a fun surprise of a chocolate M&M bunny, jelly beans, and Toy Story stickers where we planted the magic jelly bean! He was an excited little boy! We spent the record-breaking warm afternoon (it reached 70 degrees in Seattle!) with friends in the sunshine. The kids hunted Easter eggs while salmon cooked on the grill. It felt like summer…it was lovely.

I will leave you with the recipe for a Spring Panzanella Salad that I made for dinner. It looked pretty on our Easter table and tasted like Spring. The asparagus replaced the typical tomatoes found in a Panzanella salad, and lemon and feta added the perfect brightness.
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4 large eggs
4 thin slices of rustic white bread, lightly brushed with olive oil then torn into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pounds asparagus, peeled
A handful of baby carrots
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt + Pepper
6 cups arugula and spinach, mixed
1/4 pound feta, crumbled
4 large red radishes, very thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Hard boil the eggs- fill a medium saucepan about 2/3 full of water and add your eggs (preferably at room temperature). Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pan with the lid. Let side in hot water for about 12 minutes, then immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and to prevent the putrid greenish color from forming on the yolk. Peel and thickly slice the eggs.

Spread the bread pieces on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until crisp.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the asparagus and carrots until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, cool and cut the asparagus in half lengthwise, julienned the carrots.

In a small bowl, whisk the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the carrots, toasted bread, greens, and cheese. Drizzle with the dressing and toss. Garnish with the asparagus, eggs, and radish.

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We had a good time this weekend.
We ate some incredibly good pizza with friends at our favorite neighborhood spot, Jack had his first sleep-over and, as evidenced, by the photos, he had an amazingly fun time, we went to a birthday party, played at the playground, made chocolate chip cookies, and ended the weekend with family gathered around our table eating savory kale and cheese custards.

Suffice it to say, it was a fun one.
I hope you all had a good time too.

I will leave you with my recipe for the savory custard, made two ways. I added artichoke to one custard and sausage to the other; both were quite tasty. They reminded me of a lighter quiche. Perfect, I would imagine, at any time of the day, something a bit reminiscent of a light French meal when served with a green salad and a pinch of baguette. They pair nicely with a crisp beer or a glass of rose.
Happy April!

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Kale and Cheese Custard
adapted from The Kitchn

olive oil
4 eggs
8 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1 can artichokes, drained OR 6 ounces chicken and sweet basil sausage
1 bunch kale (about 1/3 of a pound)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan lightly with olive oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheeses. Roughly chop the kale and artichokes or sausage, then add to the cheese/egg mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon contents into the greased cake pan and cook until custard is set, about 35-40 minutes. Cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

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We made this pasta dish after we all arrived home from long days at work and school stumbling into our dark house, shedding our scarves, hats, and coats, throwing our empty lunch bags onto the counter, and gathering in the kitchen for dinner prep. I began chopping as the ravioli boiled in a large pot. Jack got in a few dances to “Farmer in the Dell” and “Oh, Susanna” playing from his farm magnet on the refrigerator, we poured 2 glasses of red wine, and all three of us were happily sitting around the table by 6 o’clock enjoying a delicious plate of pasta.

The arugula brings the perfect addition of green and the olives and feta provide just enough salt and tang to brighten the dish. This is really yummy…a perfect weeknight meal.

Ravioli with Arugula and Olives

1 pound mini cheese ravioli
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped green and black olives
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
2 cups chopped arugula
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and stir well. Let the pasta cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until tender. When the ravioli is cooked, drain completely and transfer to a large bowl.

Stir the olive oil into the pasta, then add the olives, basil, arugula, and feta cheese and toss gently to mix. Enjoy with red wine and milk ;)

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I posted this recipe years ago, back when I was doing my weekly menus with recipes all in one post. And, coincidentally, the first recipe was also posted during this time of year. The dish would actually be good in any season- a particularly yummy way to enjoy summer’s fresh basil and pepper bounty- but the roasting process and the high temperature of the oven seems to make the most sense to me in the winter.

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A friend actually reminded me about this dish (Thank you, Sarah!) claiming that it makes her husband’s night when it appears on their dinner menu. It’s so simple, yet so delicious, I think it might make most people excited to see it on their table.

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The way the goat cheese browns and the edges of the peppers become charred adds to its winter appeal. The olive oil and pesto give the dish some substance, yet it remains light, calling you to eat the whole pan at one sitting. We had them with chicken sausages last week, but I also think they’d be good as a side to a hearty grain like quinoa or with other roasted vegetables as I suggested in the original post. Another idea that just popped into my head is how fabulous they’d taste over orzo pasta as a sort of deconstructed pasta sauce…..mmm!

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I’ve made a few changes to the recipe over the years, realizing it didn’t quite need so much olive oil, but for the most part it’s the same. I hope you enjoy these.

Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese and Pesto

3 peppers of differing colors
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Basil leaves
Pesto
Goat Cheese

Half and seed the red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray roasting pan with olive oil and place peppers in pan, cut side up. Drizzle peppers lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put a basil leaf, a generous spoonful of pesto, and a chunk of goat cheese in each pepper half. Add the pan to the oven for about 30 minutes- you are looking for the peppers to get crispy brown at the edges. Serve with extra freshly torn basil leaves.

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Eager to incorporate fish into our weekly dinner menu has led me to finding quick, tasty ways to prepare it without leaving our house smelling of a fishy pier.

Simply, this recipe is a keeper. One I’m sure to use monthly as it is easy enough for a week night meal, very tasty and fresh, looks elegant on a table, and provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fats.
Plus, the clean up is minimal since the fish bakes in a sheet of aluminum foil!

Baked Salmon with Lemon Slices

One pound salmon filet, with skin on
1 lemon, sliced very thin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Instructions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place salmon filet on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Season the topside only with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place thin slices of lemon on top of filet.

Gather the foil into a loose “pocket” shape being careful not to create a package that is tight. The loose shape will allow steam to form inside the foil, which helps to cook the fish.

Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees, then place salmon in the oven. Cook for about 10- 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet.

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As you know, I’m always on the hunt for easy and quick recipes for weeknight meals. The recipe has to be really good to land a spot in our rotation since I love trying new dishes. This pasta dish is definitely a staple in my kitchen. What I love about it is its versatility. There are so many options for ingredients in this dish that we always have enough on hand to make a pleasing pasta dinner. It usually goes something like this:

1. Pour a glass of wine- usually red, but sometimes white

2. Prepare the following:

3/4 lb of whatever pasta you have on hand
Some protein- we often use chick peas, white beans, prosciutto, or salami
A large bag or bunch of greens- I wish I could say I get mine from the farmer’s market, but what I typically have is the bag of mixed Southern Greens from Trader Joe’s
A 1/2 cup of cheese- ricotta seems to be the go-to around here since I love having it around to spread on warm toast, but we also use mozzarella quite often
1 lemon
Lots of olive oil
3 or 4 garlic cloves
Salt & ground pepper
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Boil a big pot of salted water. Cook pasta about 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about a cup of the hot pasta water to use if your pasta dish is too dry once combined- I ALWAYS forget to do this, even if I remember to set aside the water, but I do think it would be a good addition.

While the pasta is cooking, chop the meat, if using, into small pieces, or rinse and drain your beans. Sauté the meat in a large pot over medium heat with some olive oil until crispy. Add the minced cloves of garlic to the pot and sauté until fragrant (if you are not using meat, add olive oil with your garlic). Next, add your mix of greens, sautéing until wilted. Add more olive oil here if the greens are not covered nicely. If using beans, add them after you have wilted the greens. Squeeze half a lemon on top of the mixture.

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Stir the cooked pasta, and pasta water, if you remember, into the greens mixture. Toss with cheese and perhaps another squeeze of lemon. Salt to taste…Savor.
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