Back on Track…Sort Of

Now, when I travel I have the mindset that calories don’t count.  Unfortunately this is not true, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was?  I also noticed that I used to buy magazines like Cosmopolitan to flip through while waiting for my flights, nowadays I gravitate towards magazines like Food Network, Southern Living and Food and Wine…oh how the times have changed.

On my most recent trip I picked up the new Food Network Magazine.  This months issue is probably one the best, full of delicious looking recipes, lots of pictures which will make you hungry and the main feature is cheese, you can never go wrong with cheese.

As soon as I got home from my trip I handed Eric the magazine and within 2 minutes he marked a bunch of recipes.  We narrowed it down to two for this week, as we are traveling to NY tomorrow.  Both recipes were so good and the best part, pretty healthy which is nice considering I’ve eaten out for the last week.

I don’t usually like to post more than one recipe, but today is your lucky day, you get two fantastic recipes.

Recipe #1

Greek Shrimp and Couscous (courtesy of Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

1 cup whole-wheat couscous (I used regular couscous but added onions for more flavor)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 medium plum tomatoes, diced
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, sliced (I forgot to add these..oops)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces) (I’m not a fan of Feta, but I found tomato and basil feta, OMG, I think it made the dish better)

Directions

Prepare the couscous as the label directs. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.

Preheat the broiler. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Add the tomatoes, fennel and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, then add the chickpeas and 1/3 cup water; cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Return the shrimp to the skillet and add the scallions and 1 tablespoon dill. Top with the feta, transfer to the broiler and broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill. Fluff the couscous with a fork and serve with the shrimp mixture.

ShrimpandFeta

Verdict:  We both loved this.  There weren’t any leftovers, which was pretty sad because I would have loved to have it for lunch.  Best part of the recipe is that you don’t even need to add the shrimp, I think it would be great as a vegetarian meal.  I would suggest using the tomato-basil feta, it really added more flavor.

Recipe #2

Chicken Fajitas (Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients

1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I used chicken tenders)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bell peppers (any color), sliced
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus wedges for serving
8 corn tortillas (I like to use whole wheat and corn blend tortillas….delish)
1/2 cup prepared pico de gallo or fresh salsa
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and rub on the chicken breasts.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet, reserving the skillet, and bake until just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board to rest, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the reserved skillet over medium heat. Add the bell peppers, onion, garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned, 8 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and 2 tablespoons water. Season with salt.

Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm in the oven, 5 minutes, then divide among plates. Slice the chicken. Top the tortillas with the chicken, bell pepper mixture, pico de gallo and cheese. Serve with lime wedges.

Fajitas

Verdict:  Probably going to add this to the list of recurring recipes.  I added avocado (big surprise, right?)  The cheese took it over the top and added an extra layer of texture and flavor.  Eric loved it.  I feel we have tacos a lot, but they’re easy, can be made healthy and are pretty quick for a weeknight meal.

Tonight we have a hockey game, so we’ll be eating out.  This week will be another culinary adventure, destination western NY.  I’ll keep you posted on the many delicious food finds.  I’m really looking forward to Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich and probably a cheeseburger from Bill Gray’s.  I’m pretty sure my diet re-starts next week.

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Glitter, Glitz and Lots of Food

I recently got back from a work trip in Los Angeles and though I didn’t get to really experience Hollywood at its finest, I did manage to eat my weight in food.  Now, whether I’m traveling or not, I’m not a huge fan of chain restaurants, there isn’t anything special about chain restaurants, they’re all the same…unoriginal and mass-produced, but that’s just my opinion.  Now, having said that, I’m not opposed to local chains, I support local businesses.   Unfortunately, I stayed in the L.A. Live area of Los Angeles, which is surrounded by chain restaurants, so there were numerous occasions that I had no other options.    The only bad meal I had was at Rosa Mexicana, but is that really surprising?  The only great thing about Rosa Mexicana is the guacamole and pomegranate margaritas, everyone knows that.

The two best meals were at Perch and Cucina Rustica .  Perch’s ambiance was amazing, we dined al fresco in 40 degree weather with a slight wind, but the view was amazing and heaters that were placed around the table helped a bit.  We found that the more wine you drank, the warmer you got, so we stuck to that plan.   I tried my co-workers buffalo frog legs, which were amazing, and I shared my mini baked brie with apple and fennel.  My main meal was seared scallops with saffron-artichoke risotto, I’m a sucker for risotto and this did not disappoint, I just wish I had more of it.   Our party ordered a lot of the very limited menu, most of which was good, however, if you’re a caesar salad lover, I would not recommend ordering it here unless you’re a fan of raw, shredded kale…not tasty.

Now, if you’re in the mood for Italian, Cucina Rustica can fulfill your craving.  We ordered a variety of appetizers, including calamari fritti (I loved this because they included the tentacles, which is hard to find sometimes and they’re my favorite), bruschetta, one with goat cheese (this was good, from what I hear but I don’t like goat cheese so I took their word for it), plus we all ordered salads.  I’ve been telling everyone about the Insalata Tricolore that I ordered, it was so good, I could eat it every day.  The salad consisted of a row of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and sliced avocado with a balsamic glaze.  I’m sure I could recreate this, I’ll try soon, but though it sounds simple enough I’m sure it won’t be as good as the one I had at the restaurant.    The entrees were also delicious, lots of food that I don’t think anyone at the table finished, which was sad because I would have loved to take home the leftovers of my roasted chicken risotto (I told you I love risotto).

So, if you’re in the downtown LA area and want to try out some new places, try Perch for sure, even if it’s just for a cocktail on the roof it’s totally worth it, and Cucina Rustica for Italian comfort food.  Before I forget, there is one other place I would recommend for a cocktail, the Hotel Figueroa.   It may look like a run down, sketchy hotel, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Once you enter the hotel and take in the architecture of the building, make your way down the long corridor towards the pool.  Here is where you will find a very cool, hip, moroccan inspired bar.  Even if you just stay for a drink or two, it’s worth it, trust me.

Next time I’m in LA I’m making it a priority to stop at an In & Out.  I feel like my trip wasn’t complete because I didn’t get a chance to eat at this iconic burger joint…next time, hopefully soon, for a real vacation, not a work related trip.

Happy Mardi Gras!

It’s Mardi Gras today or Fat Tuesday, which is what I call it since I want to indulge in all the yummy food I love before I give it up for Lent.  I haven’t figured out what to give up, but I still have a few more hours before I have to make that decision.   I would love to say it would be desserts, treats, chocolate and the like, but I’ve tried that for the last twelve years but haven’t been able to last the full 40 days.

This weekend when I was planning the weekly menu I forgot that Mardi Gras was this week so I didn’t really plan on anything special, in fact tonight was going to be some sort of leftover pasta recipe, which would have been a sad way to celebrate Mardi Gras.  So, on the way home we picked up some sausage and a box of Zatarain’s…don’t judge, I was limited on time.   Now I try not to buy boxed foods, especially if I know I can make a homemade version better, but Zatarain’s has a new lower sodium mix that is pretty good, especially  when I add a few extra ingredients to make it more delicious.

Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 chicken breast, cubed
1 package of Turkey Kielbasa, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, diced
1 garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups of beef broth
1 pkg. Jambalaya Mix (I used Zatarain’s)

Directions

Heat a 3 quart sauce pan over medium-high with 1 tbsp of olive oil.  Add onions, garlic, chicken and sausage and cook until chicken browned and onions are translucent. Add beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add Jambalaya mix, stir.  Return to a boil then reduce to low.  Cover pot and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Let stand 5 minutes before serving…it will be piping hot, just FYI.

Jambalaya

Verdict:  Eric really liked it, especially since it’s way less salty than the regular mix.  I agree, it was pretty tasty and low sodium is always good.  I don’t usually cook with salt so when there is a little more sodium than what we’re used to we tend to notice it.   I’d make this again, especially on  weeknight.

Again, we had a huge salad, with avocado’s since I’m still obsessed with them.  I really wish I had some King Cake, that would top off the night.  Instead, I think I’ll make a quick pear tart, Jacques Pepin style.

Hope you had a festive Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!

“Oh, that’s okay. I make lamb.”

The movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding is probably one of the only movies that Eric will watch with me, well besides Legally Blonde, but let’s keep that a secret.   The big Greek family reminds me of my own crazy kin.  It doesn’t look like there is a lot of us, but our loud voices, over dramatized hand gestures and just overall demeanor will make you think there are hundreds of us in the room.  Another similarity is the fact that whenever there is a get together you can be sure there is a ton of food, usually enough to feed an entire army.  We just don’t want anyone to go hungry and we will force you to eat until you’re bursting at the seams.

My favorite character in MBFGW is Aunt Voula.  This character reminds me so much of my Aunt Theresa, especially the scene where Ian says he doesn’t eat meat and she proceeds to announce she’ll make lamb for him.   Every time I see lamb on a menu or in the store I think of this movie.   I don’t even like lamb.  I like the idea of lamb, I just can’t get over the fact that I think it tastes like the meadow.  Eric on the other hand loves lamb, so since he chose the menu for the week he included lamb chops, I had a huge salad.

Lamb Chops Marinade (for 8-10 chops,or three, whatever)

 Ingredients
4oz. Olive Oil
2oz. lemon juice
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. parsley, chopped or 3 Tbsp. dried
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. thyme (dried)
2 tsp. caraway seeds
2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
Directions
Combine ingredients in resealable bag.  Put chops in bag and squish to evenly coat.  Refrigerate overnight, tuning occasionally.  Scrape off onion bits and grill for 4-5 mins on each side.  If you don’t have a grill pan sear them for 3 mins a side and finish to desired doneness in the oven, 350-375 degrees,about 10-12 minutes for medium rare.
LambChops
Verdict:  Considering Eric wants me to make this every day, I’d say he loves this meal.  I love couscous and when I’ve had the lamb it’s good, you know, for lamb.
Here’s how I make couscous.
Couscous
Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion (or half of a medium one)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you like it
1/4 tsp of Marrakesh Za’atar seasoning ( I eye-ball it, this stuff is awesome)
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 1/4 cup of chicken broth or water
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped (optional)
Directions
Heat olive oil in sauce pan on medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic, saute until translucent, be careful not to burn garlic (turn down heat if too high).  Add pepper flake and Marrakesh Za’atar seasoning, cook for 30 seconds.  Add couscous, cook for 1 minute (I like the toasted flavor this brings out).  Add broth and bring up to a boil, stir, take off heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork, add in tomatoes if you want.  Enjoy!
I swear we do eat veggies, just not as much as I would like.  But I’m trying to change that, it’s a process.
We’re off to a hockey game.  I hope we don’t lose….again.  GO CAPS!

Chinese Stay In

Night 3 of Eric’s menu included two Chinese classics, chicken lo mein and veggie pot stickers.   I tend to find Asian recipes tedious as there is usually a ton of chopping and prep work.  Knowing this I left work a tad bit early so I wouldn’t be cooking until midnight.  I was pretty proud of myself, I made record time prepping for both the lo mein and pot stickers.  I figured I would assemble the pot stickers a head of time so they would be ready to go when Eric got home from work, tonight is his late day so I had ample time, however when I went to the fridge for the won ton wrappers, they were nowhere to be found.   I must have taken the whole fridge apart twice and even looked in the cabinets (why they would be there I have no idea), then I remembered Eric put them away and I found them in the freezer, needless to say, we’re not having pot stickers tonight, they’ll be appetizers for tomorrow.

The lo mein however, we did have tonight and it was really delicious.  I found a basic recipe and added my own veggies to it, most of them were left overs from the weekend which I was glad to get rid of and not throw away.  I hate wasting food.

Chicken Lo Mein

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts

10 oz. dried Chinese egg noodles or angel hair pasta (Wegmans has lo mein noodles, so I used those, they’re in the freezer case if you’re wondering were to find them)

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce-reduced sodium

2 Tbsp. rice wine or dry sherry

1 Tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 head of broccoli (or as much as you want)

1/2 head of Napa cabbage, shredded

Directions

Cut chicken into bite-size chunks; set aside.  Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain noodles, rinse with cold water and set aside.

In a small bowl mix oyster sauce, soy sauce and rice wine.  Set aside.

Pour oil and sesame oil in skillet or wok.  Heat over medium heat.  Add ginger and garlic, cook and stir for 30 seconds.  Add onion; cook 2 minutes. add broccoli and cabbage, cook 3 minutes.  Remove veggies from pan, set aside.

Add chicken to skillet and cook 3-4 minutes.  Add noodles, veggies and sauce to the chicken.  Lightly toss and cook 3 minutes until heated through.

LoMein

 

Verdict:  Eric loved it.  It’s a good thing I ate before he got home because he finished the whole thing, no leftovers…again.  I love lo mein, it’s probably one of my favorite dishes to order.  This was nothing like Hong Wah’s lo mein, but it passed the tasty test.  I’ll definitely be making this again (confession, it’s not the first time I’ve made this)  I just need to get more noodles from Wegmans.

I can’t wait for this week of doing dishes is over.  I can’t believe how much of a mess I make when I cook.  Plus, since I’ve been cooking and cleaning I haven’t had time to sit down and do any of my needlepoint.

Tomorrow is lamb, well Eric is having lamb, I’m not sure what I’m having yet.  I’ve already made the marinade and the chops are getting infused with deliciousness as we speak.

A Chop Above The Rest

Today is day 2 of Eric’s dinner menu.  Last night when we went to the store to shop for the week, the meat selection in the case was a little on the sparse side.  I have no idea about anything when it comes to meat, well besides the basic chicken, pork, turkey and veal, ok, I guess that just means I’m not a beef aficionado.  What all this comes down to is that anything meat related I leave to Eric.  It’s probably a good thing because he found two amazing pork chops for tonight’s dinner.

For dinner tonight Eric found a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce.  The only problem was there is just two of us and this makes a lot of sauce, but I figure I’ll save the leftover sauce, add some chicken and pasta and BOOM! round two dinner for another night.

Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce (from Giada De Laurentiis)

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
4 boneless (2-inch-thick) pork chops (I had two huge ones)
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning meat
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning meat
2 fennel bulbs with fronds, thinly sliced (about 8 ounces or 2 cups)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/3 cup
1/2 cup white wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1/2 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons capers

Directions

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Add the fennel, shallots, and 1/3 cup parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the pork back into the pan, nestling the chops between the fennel and tomatoes so they are mostly submerged in the pan juices. Cook until the fennel is tender and the pork is done, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Place the pork on a serving dish. To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, remaining 1/3 cup parsley, capers, and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Spoon over the pork chops and serve immediately.

PorkChopwFennel

 

Verdict:  Eric loved it.  He really has been on a fennel kick lately so anything with fennel is good in his book.  I thought it was pretty good as well.  Sometimes I think Giada’s recipe’s are a little bland, but this one was bursting with flavor.   I’m looking forward to the round two recipe, I’m hoping this freezes well because my week is jammed pack with other delicious recipes.  Oh and you might want to have a veggie with this,  I had a huge salad but green beans might be tasty too.

Tomorrow’s menu may be a little complex, I’m making pot stickers and chicken lo mein.  I love pot stickers, I just hope it doesn’t take all night to make…

Supper Bowl

It’s the day after the big day and though I’m not a football fan, I’m pretty disappointed in the 49er’s.  Usually I’m not one to place bets on sporting events, but since I was sure I was going to win this one, I decided it might be fun to have a friendly bet with my husband.  Now Eric usually places bets with my mom, she usually wins, so I guess I figured the luck would run in the family…not so much (she lost a bet against him this time too).    Since we share a bank account, money bets were out the question, so we came up with of course the next obvious gamble which was loser has to make and clean up dinner for the whole week, winner chooses the menu without consult of the loser.  A fine bet if I may add, unless you’re the loser, which if you already hadn’t guessed, I was.

I have to give Eric credit for variety in his menu.  There won’t be dull dinner in this house all week.  Tonight was pizza night,the easiest and fastest menu of the week, probably chosen as such because we needed to go grocery shopping after work.   I feel like such a slacker when I don’t make my own pizza dough, but lack of time meant it was pre made dough all the way.

Pizza

 

As you can see we went super simple on the toppings as well. (Pay no attention to the Christmas table runner, I’ll get around to changing that before Spring…maybe).

Tomorrow is pork chop night, a new recipe too!  I’m hoping it comes out good, the recipe looks delicious.

I have a sink full of dishes calling my name…I have a feeling this is going to be a really long week…