Stuck in a Dinner Rut

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been sick, or just stuck in a dinner rut, but lately our dinners have been pretty boring.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been delicious, but nothing special.   As much as I would love to make something new every day of week, I have realized that it’s not going to happen.  I’m pretty sure I can commit to at least three new recipes a week, I have enough cookbooks and recipes saved online to be able to do that.  Technically I could do a new recipe a day for about a year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Whenever I get a free moment at work I look up recipes and send Eric the links to see if it’s a yay or nay.  Yesterday I sent him a bunch of chicken recipes, all of which he said looked good but considering I didn’t feel like going to the store after work, I narrowed it down to Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken.  I chose this recipe because it called for ingredients that I knew I already had.  Now, this might not be the healthiest recipe, but it was pretty tasty.  I also have to give Pinterest some props for helping me find this…Pinterest strikes again!

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken (from Life as a Lofthouse blog)

Ingredients
The chicken coating:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten (I used EggBeaters)
1/4 cup canola oil (I used olive oil)
The sweet and sour sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp ketchup
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (I used rice vinegar, I like the flavor better than white vinegar)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp garlic salt
Directions

Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. Rinse your chicken breasts in water and then cut into cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into the eggs. Heat your 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a 9×13 greased baking dish. Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk and then pour evenly over the chicken. Bake for one hour and during the baking process you will need to turn the chicken every 15 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Chicken, Brown Rice and Broccoli

Sweet and Sour Chicken, Brown Rice and Broccoli

Verdict:  Easy, fast-ish (I mean does take an hour and you have to stir it every 15 mins) and delish.  There weren’t any leftovers, so we all know that means Eric loved it.  I’d definitely make this again.  I served it with brown rice and broccoli, you know trying to get some healthy stuff in there.    I have to say I’d rather eat this version than the take out version, its way less greasy and I didn’t feel gross after I ate.

Tonight we just had pasta, it wasn’t anything exciting.  I didn’t even make the sauce 😦   Tomorrow I think I’ll try another new recipe, well it all depends if we’re snowed in or not.  I’m hoping for a snow day.

Oh, that reminds me, has anyone heard of snowcream?  I grew up in Upstate NY where they measure snow by feet, not inches, and today was the first time I’ve heard of this stuff.  Apparently its ice cream made from snow.  I’m not sure how I feel about eating snow, I guess if it’s not yellow or full of dirt it would be ok to eat, but I think I’ll pass.

 

 

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Feeding a Cold

I thought I had dodged all the colds going around the office, I was wrong.  I don’t get sick often, but when I do I have to admit I’m kind of a baby about it.  This cold could not have come at a better time.  This last weekend we had friends over for dinner (the beginning signs of the cold were busting through the surface at this point), we had tickets to see White Christmas at the Kennedy Center on Sunday (full-blown cold, I’m sure the woman sitting next me loved that experience, maybe that’s why she left at intermission…), and deadlines at work Monday morning. Through all this I powered through, that is until 12 pm yesterday when I finally crashed and decided to take the rest of day and today off.

What’s that old saying, feed a cold, starve a fever?  I read all these Facebook posts about friends who are sick and lose like 10 lbs because they’re not hungry.  Maybe they have the flu, but when I’m sick, I think I get more hungry.   Last night Eric and I were deciding what was for dinner, I wanted everything under sun, but ended up having leftovers from our party.  All day today I was starving, but of course I didn’t feel like making anything other than a gross can of soup, is that really chicken chunks in there? I tell myself yes, but honestly I’m skeptical.

Enough about my cold, what I really want to share is some of the recipes from this weekend’s dinner party.  I didn’t do anything fancy, just something easy, quick and delicious. We had fried currant jelly glazed mini smokies and fried mac and cheese.  I love mini smokies especially in this glaze.  My aunt Denise used make these for all the parties we had growing up.  Here’s what you do:

Currant Jelly Mini Smokies (or Weenies)

Ingredients

1-2 pkgs. of mini weenies

1 jar of Currant Jelly

1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine jelly and mustard. Stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens.  Add mini smokies and cook until heated through and glaze is slightly sticky.  Enjoy!

For our main dinner I made chicken parm, garlic bread, and antipasti salad.  I figured this menu was super easy and fast, I was right.   I’m not going to post the chicken parm recipe, it’s really simple and basic, any cookbook or online site will have the recipe.   The garlic bread was really garlicky, even the leftovers were good. The only thing is that I tasted garlic for two days, even with brushing and flossing, which is pretty gross.  Antipasti salad is my new favorite salad, you can add whatever you want to it and it will be delicious, plus it allows you to raid the olive bar at the grocery store which is always fun.

The garlic bread is from Guy Fieri’s cookbook Guy Fieri Food.  At first I was a little hesitant to make this recipe because it listed mayonnaise as one of the ingredients.  In the end it wasn’t bad, but I’d probably 1/2 the recipe so its not so soggy.

Jimmy’s Favorite Garlic Bread (Guy Fieri Food cookbook)

Ingredients

Garlic butter:

2 heads garlic

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Pinch paprika

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the tops off the garlic heads, place in a piece of foil, drizzle olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour, or until soft.

Squeeze roasted garlic out into medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and thoroughly mix together, divide in half, and refrigerate
sourdough bread, cut in 1/2

Basil leaves
8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Directions

Liberally apply garlic butter to bread halves. Bake in oven until light golden brown. Remove and top with basil,sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan.

Cut into 2-inch slices.

Over Christmas my mom made antipasti salad for dinner. It was so good I was sad I didn’t think of it first.  Now for this salad you can add whatever you want to make it your own.  I used romaine lettuce, roasted garlic pieces (from the olive/mediterranean bar at the grocery store), roasted red peppers, provolone cheese sliced into strips, salami strips, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, and olives.  This salad could be a meal in itself, its pretty filling and has tons of yummy ingredients. Most importantly, Eric liked it, which is huge because I really would have thought he wouldn’t have.

ChickenParmDinner

Chicken Parm, Garlic Bread, Antipasti salad

Antipasti Salad

Antipasti Salad

Oh before I sign off, I can’t forget about dessert!  This one is for my friend Krista, I promised I’d send along ice cream recipes 🙂   I love my ice cream maker, I’ve used it a few times and it has always come out great.  I actually lost the little recipe booklet that came with it (I’m bummed because there are some great ones in there.) This weekend I made Butter Pecan Ice Cream. When I make ice cream I usually use lactaid milk but this time I knew I was going to serve it to friends so I went all out with real milk products….you’re welcome 🙂

Butter Pecan Ice Cream (Country Living Magazine)

Ingredients

Ice Cream

2 cup(s) Whole Milk
1 1/2 cup(s) Brown Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
Pinch Of Salt
2 tablespoon(s) Unsalted Butter
2 cup(s) Half-And-Half
2 cup(s) Whipping Cream
2 teaspoon(s) Vanilla Extract

Candied Butter Pecans
1 cup(s) Pecans, chopped
1/3 cup(s) Sugar
2 tablespoon(s) Unsalted Butter

Directions

Prepare Ice Cream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Place pan over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a simmer. Lower heat to medium and whisk mixture for 5 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Strain mixture into a large bowl and whisk in butter until combined; then incorporate half-and-half, cream, and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Prepare Candied Butter Pecans: In a heavy skillet over medium heat, combine pecans, sugar, and butter, stirring constantly for about 6 minutes or until sugar has melted and browned. Remove from heat; spread nuts on foil. Once nuts have cooled, break into bite-size pieces and reserve.
Pour ice cream mixture into ice-cream maker; process according to manufacturer instructions (30 mins for a KitchenAid attachment). Once ice cream’s made, stir in reserved pecans.

I wish I took a picture of this, it was creamy, buttery, and full of pecans, way better than anything you buy in the store. It makes a lot too, so be sure you have a large enough container.

Tonight’s dinner was lame, we didn’t feel like cooking. Tomorrow I think it will be breakfast for dinner, which is my favorite!

Eat well, stay well!

Eating Our Way Into 2013

Happy New Year! I’m hoping that 2013 is full of fun adventures, new experiences and staying healthy mind, body and soul.  I have a few resolutions and as always, I’m going to try my hardest to keep with them.

This year the husband and I stayed in to celebrate bringing in the new year.  We actually did this last year and came up with some food traditions that we plan to carry over each year.  Growing up I remember that NYE was full of lots of food, mostly fun appetizers that started early and ended well into the night.  Now since its only Eric and myself, we don’t go all out with the appetizers, but we did eat some pretty fantastic food (just in time to work it all off in 2013!)

Now, if you know me, you know how much I love Wegmans.  I grew up in western NY, basically the birthplace of Wegmans.  When I moved to Virginia, I was so excited to hear that there was a Wegmans pretty close to my home.  Now, 7 years later, I have my choice of two Wegmans! So exciting! It’s hard to put into words how awesome this store is, it’s better than any grocery store I’ve ever been to.  I do have a point, I promise.  For every party, special occasion and holiday I do my grocery shopping at Wegmans, NYE is no exception.   I bought Eric his steak from the meat department and my scallops from the seafood counter.  While trying to make my way through the crowd of 100 of my closet friends, I saw they had a display of seafood appetizers.  I’m always up for trying something new, so when my eyes spotted a huge soft pretzel stuffed with crab I knew I had to get it.  I’m so glad I did because it was so good.  I don’t have a recipe for this, well, I do actually,  go to Wegmans, buy the crab stuffed pretzel, bake for 19 minutes at 375 and prepare to have your mind blown.  I should have bought two or three, but I didn’t want to get carried away.

Crab stuffed pretzel

Crab stuffed pretzel

Since the pretzel was pretty big, I was glad my dinner was pretty light.  For Christmas I received Ina Garten’s new cookbook,  Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.  I’d love to go through this book and make every single recipe in it, they look that good and this book passes my five recipe rule hands down.  Eric’s been bugging me about finding a recipe with fennel for weeks now, fortunately this book contained a few, Ina loves her fennel as much as we do.  As a side dish I made her recipe for Fennel & Garlic Shrimp.  This was the perfect accompaniment for Eric’s steak and my scallops.  If you like shrimp, garlic and fennel and want a quick dish, this is perfect.

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp (from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons good olive oil

1 cup chopped fennel bulb, fronds reserved

3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red

pepper flakes

1 pound (16-20 count)

shrimp, peeled with tails on

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon Pernod (optional)-I didn’t use this and it came out awesome

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground

black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute for 5 minutes, until tender but not browned. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook at a very low sizzle for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic just begins to color.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, add them to the pan, and toss together with the fennel and olive oil. Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on the other side, until they’re pink and just cooked through.

Off the heat, sprinkle with parsley, 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds, the Pernod (if using), the fleur de sel, and black pepper, and serve with bread to soak up the pan juices.

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Asparagus

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Asparagus

Verdict:  Ina has done it again, we were not disappointed with this at all.  Eric said he could eat the whole pan (he practically did) and wants to add it to our rotation.  I agree that this was a wonderful shrimp dish and the best part was how fast and easy it was to make, which always gains an A+ in my book.

Last NYE Eric and I decided to start a tradition of making Zeppole.  For those who don’t know what Zeppole are, they’re basically fried doughnut balls.  I finally found a recipe that is not only super easy but probably makes the best Zeppole I’ve had in a long time.  I found this recipe in Anne Burrell’s cookbook Cook Like a Rock Star .  I could go on about how yummy these were, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce (from Anne Burrell)

Ingredients
For Zeppole

1 cup of sugar

8 Tbsp unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 cup of flour

3 large eggs

zest of 1 orange (I didn’t have an orange so I used a splash of vanilla)

3 cups of oil (Anne uses peanut oil, I used canola, works the same)

2 tsp. of cinnamon

For the Chocolate Sauce

6 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chopped (again, I took the shortcut and used chocolate chips)

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Tbsp light corn syrup

Directions for Zeppole

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, 1 cup water, butter and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the mixture forms a ball, has a slightly sweaty sheen to it, and pulls away from the pan, 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool for 3-4 minutes (the mixture does not have to be cold, just cool enough so it doesn’t cook the eggs when added)  Using an electric mixture or lots of good old-fashioned elbow grease, beat in the eggs one at a time; be sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next egg.  Add the orange zest (or vanilla) and beat for another few seconds to combine.

Pour oil into a large saucepan over medium heat (I used an electric fryer); the oil should come up 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the sides of the pan.  Test a bit of dough to see if it the oil is hot enough.  If it sizzles and floats quickly, you’re good to go.  If the batter burns, turn down the heat.

While the oil heats up, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl.

When the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan without overcrowding.  Cook the zeppole until they rise and get brown and fluffy, 6-7 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the zeppole, shake off excess oil and toss them into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Transfer to a serving dish and continue with the rest of the zeppole working in batches.

Directions for Chocolate Sauce

Melt chocolate in heat proof bowl (either microwave or double boiler method).  Add heavy cream, butter and corn syrup and stir until combined.   Transfer to a serving dish and serve with zeppole.

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce

Verdict:  Best Zeppole recipe ever!  The recipe kind of reminded me of how my mom makes cream puffs.  When you fry this batter it creates a custard like inside that is amazing.  I suggest you don’t skip the chocolate sauce, even though they’re good on their own, the sauce takes them over the edge.  I wish I could say we didn’t eat them all, but as with most fried dough, it doesn’t taste good the next day, so we ate them all.    It’s probably a good thing we only make these once a year, though I could be persuaded to make them before the end of the year.

Since I’m posting all the recipes from last night, I can’t just leave out tonight’s dinner.   I think in 2013 I should try to use my slow cooker more, so I started the year off with a slow cooker recipe.  I found this recipe in Prevention magazine.  I’m still not sure how I got on a magazine list for people over 50, but I guess its better than being surprised with a subscription to Hustler.

The recipe was super fast and easy, duh, it’s for the slow cooker, you can’t get any easier than that.   I know it seems like we just had tacos, but these were way different than the tacos from this weekend.  The pork in this dish could easily become a pulled pork sandwich, it actually might become that as a redo leftover meal later this week.

BBQ Pork Tacos (Prevention Magazine)

Ingredients

2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 lb pork loin roast, trimmed
4 tsp canola oil
2 med yellow onions, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2″ thick
2 fresh poblano chiles, cut into 1/2″-thick strips>
1 C orange juice
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp hot-pepper sauce
12 corn tortillas, warmed

Directions

Coat slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine first 4 ingredients and 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper. Halve pork crosswise and rub with spice mix.
Heat 2 tsp of the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to slow cooker. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in same skillet. Add onions and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Place on top of pork with poblanos.

Whisk together next 6 ingredients and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Pour over pork and vegetables. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 4 to 5 hours on low.

Transfer pork to cutting board and shred. Add onions and peppers. Add sauce, 2 or 3 Tbsp at a time, until pork is just moistened. Serve with tortillas, optional toppings, and additional sauce, if desired.

BBQ Pork Taco

BBQ Pork Taco

Verdict:  Super easy, super fast, super delicious.  It’s also healthy.  We used whole wheat tortillas and topped ours with avocado and cheese, but you can do whatever you want.  Eric loved this, again another recipe added to the rotation.

There you have it, all our recipes from NYE and today, we literally ate our way into 2013.  It’s a good thing one of my resolutions is get in better shape, I’m glad I worked out this morning.  I have to say I’m still thinking about those zeppole and really wish there was a low-fat version because I’d eat those every day.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2013 filled with great food, fantastic friends and family and fun adventures.  I have a feeling this year will be a great one!

Happy New Year!