Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greek Chicken with Feta

This week, with our tropical honeymoon looming in just a month, Mike and I are kick-starting a healthy diet and exercise plan. Sometimes I struggle with making healthy food both filling and flavorful, but this Greek Chicken is both. 

The great thing about Greek food is that there are a lot of strong flavors- lemon, fresh garlic, oregano, and tangy feta to name a few.  The ingredients in this dish pack a nice punch with minimal calories and the best part is, it could not be easier to put together.  

The chicken can go straight in the oven- no need to marinade. 

* 3-4 chicken breasts, depending on size (mine were huge so I just made 3)
* 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
* 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
*1 lemon, zest and juice
* 1 garlic clove, grated
* 1/4 c. olive oil
* 2 tbsp. feta cheese (I used reduced fat)
* salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine parsley, oregano, the zest of one lemon, juice of one lemon, grated garlic, a olive oil.  Whisk well to combine.  Place chicken in a baking dish and top with the lemon-herb mixture.  Sprinkle feta cheese on top.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food Inspired Friday: The Pizza Oven

Today's FIF is all about some product love and I want to share my absolute favorite wedding present. It's called the Pizzeria Pronto and it has revolutionized at home pizza making. 

I've always loved making pizza at home, but I've never been able to get a crispy crust in the oven.  This little tabletop contraption is heated with a propane tank, just like a grill.  It gets 600-700 degrees and actually achieves pizzeria quality crust.

Mike and I are loving hosting build-your-own pizza parties with a variety of toppings.  I'm in charge of the dough and Mike is the resident pizza-oven expert.  It does take some skill to maneuver the pizza from the peel to the oven, then turn it every so often so everything browns evenly - a skill he's mastered!  

Happy Friday everyone!  I'll leave you with a shot of this handsome pup awaiting a spare crust..

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits

I made good on my plan this week and I actually tried a new recipe.  Line by line, ingredient by ingredient, I followed! And I must say, these Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits were absolutely delicious, so I wanted to share.

Not only is this a tasty recipe, but it's also quick, easy, and very budget-friendly.  The 4-pack of pork chops I bought  was only $3.85 (on sale, but it's usually very reasonable anyway), and the rest of the ingredients are all very basic. 

I was worried the balsamic would be overwhelming in the sauce, but it's just enough to add a little bit of that sweet-tart vinegar taste in the background.  The flavor of the sauce is rich and complex without being heavy on calories.  

Ingredients (Recipe from Food Network Magazine):
* 2 tsp. vegetable oil
* 4 (3/4 in. thick) boneless pork chops
* salt, pepper
* 2 red onions (I used one big one and it was plenty), thinly sliced
* 1 tbsp. flour
* 1 c. low sodium chicken stock
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
* 3/4 c. quick cooking grits
* 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

Heat oil over medium high heat in a non-stick pan.  Pat the pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the pork chops to the pan and cook 3 minutes per side, then set aside on a plate.  Add the onions to the pan and saute until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Add the chicken stock and bay leaf to the pan and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the vinegar to the pan, reduce heat to low, then return the pork chops to the pan. 

Meanwhile, bring 2 1/2 c. water to a boil.  Add grits to the pan and season with salt.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, whisking often.  When the grits are thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Serve pork chops over grits.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Week, New Goals

I'm in spring fever mode - I want to purge my closets, clean out the fridge, and give half of my house to goodwill.  I'm often guilty of buying ingredients I only need for one meal. This week, i'm making an effort to plan my menu ahead,  start with items I have on hand, and hopefully waste a lot less food. 

I have three goals in mind:
1) Clean out the pantry and fridge and focus on using up my random collection of ingredients.
2) For any items I have to buy, think of ways to stretch the ingredients from one meal to the next.
3) Choose a new recipe to try (and actually follow it - this is rare for me)

Here is what I have on hand (much of which is leftover from a build-your-own pizza party last weekend)
-fresh ricotta cheese; half bags of grated mozzarella and cheddar
-2 tomatoes, half box spinach, 1 red onion, fresh garlic, half container of sliced mushrooms
-leftover Pizzetta's marinara sauce (the best marinara sauce ever)
-a huge variety of half boxes of pasta
- fresh Oregano
-frozen chicken breasts
- 1/2 of 32 oz box of chicken stock

1) Baked Penne
*Use: half box regular penne, half box whole wheat penne, mozzarella, ricotta, Pizzetta's sauce, oregano
*Buy: ground sirloin, fresh parsley

2) Greek Chicken served with Sautéed Spinach and Garlic with Mushrooms
*Use: frozen chicken, garlic, spinach, fresh oregano, mushrooms
*Buy: feta, lemon, fresh parsley

3) Smothered Pork Chops with Cheese Grits (Food Network Magazine)
*Use: chicken stock, red onion, grated cheddar
*Buy: pork chops, grits, fresh parsley

Hopefully this will become a weekly effort.  Wish me luck! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Food Inspired Friday: All Things Rhubarb

I'm a big fan of utilizing seasonal ingredients.  Lately, Rhubarb is everywhere I look.  It comes into season right before strawberries and of course rhubarb and strawberry are probably the most classic flavor combination.

I've actually never cooked with rhubarb but i'm excited to give it a try this season.  There are so many great recipes beyond strawberry rhubarb pie - both sweet and savory.  Here's some of my rhubarb inspiration:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crispy Zucchini Sticks

Is anyone else beyond excited that the first day of spring is upon us? I feel like this has been a particularly awful winter.  After the holiday season ends, I just have no interest in winter.  I'm ready for some warmer weather, long days at the beach, and dinner on the grill. 

As such, it's time to start working on that beach bod.  Mike and I took our pre-wedding diet pretty seriously.  Post-wedding? We hit the comfort food. Hard.  I think we're both finally ready to commit to more exercise and less comfort food, but we're starting slow.

These Crispy Zucchini Sticks are a great alternative to fries and make the perfect accompaniment to all things grilled.  Before I made these, I tried Giada's Parmesan Eggplant Fries.  The eggplant version was delicious, but I found that the eggplant got a little mushy.  I switched up the recipe to zucchini, which maintains a bit more firmness and crunch.  I also used Italian bread crumbs rather than Panko with the zucchini version.  

* 2 medium zucchini
* 1 c. Italian style breadrumbs
* 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
* 1 c. flour
* 2 eggs
* cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack; set aside.  Slice the zucchini into sticks.  Set up an assembly line with flour in one bowl,  2 eggs whisked with 1 tbsp. water in the second, and breadcrumbs and parmesan in the third.  Dredge the zucchini in flour, shake off excess, then into the eggs.  Let any extra egg drip from the zucchini, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture.  Place the zucchini on the wire rack cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining zucchini. Lightly spray the zucchini with cooking spray and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Weekend Update: Atlanta

Last weekend, my sisters and I reunited in the A-T-L to celebrate Sara's birthday.  We packed a lot of activities into a short period of time and it was so much fun.

Friday night we went to King+Duke, which is walking distance from my sister's apartment. I had the best cocktail -I don't see it listed on the online menu, but I know it involved citrus vodka, grapefruit juice, and prosecco.

I really tried to be a foodie and enjoy this bone marrow appetizer.  Truth be told, it was delicious, but it was just really hard for me to look at.  It was topped with savory short ribs. Would you try it?  I tried! 

Saturday my oldest friend Honor drove down from Chattanooga to surprise me. We were at a St. Paddy's day party at Fado and I looked up and there she was!  Best surprise ever.  We had our fare share of Harp and Green Bud Lights, as per my usual tradition. 

Before the Chelsea Handler show, we went to dinner at Lure. 

Lure offers family-style cocktails in punch bowls.  GENIUS. Absolutely genius. We went with the Ciao Pesco, which had peach schnaps, peach puree, ruby port and prosecco.  Now, of course, I'm dying for a vintage punch bowl. 

The Chelsea Handler show was at the beautiful Fox Theater.  Is that ceiling not amazing?  It really felt like we were outdoors!

While we were waiting for Sara to get her Chelsea book signed, we wandered across the street for a cocktail.  After we ordered a cosmo, a waiter came to the bar and said he had ordered two by mistake, so they were up for grabs.  Don't mind if I do! 

Hope everyone had a fab weekend!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Food Inspired Friday

Today I'm going to kick-start a new Friday series, Food Inspired Friday.  So much around me inspires me to learn, cook, and entertain.  Whether it's a unique menu, a weathered old note card with a family recipe, the memory of a great meal on vacation, going to a great party with a perfect grouping of hor d'oeuvres, a picture in a magazine at the doctors office, or just a great episode of Barefoot Contessa.  Inspiration is everywhere, and I love to utilize it in the kitchen. 

For my first post, I want to share a really wonderful meal I had when I was in Charlotte a few weeks ago visiting with my high school friends, Magen and Megan, to celebrate our close birthdays.

Friday night, we went to check out Good Food on Montford, a tapas restaurant. 

Let me tell you, I adore a good tapas restaurant, but to really embrace it you need the right group of people.  I think I particularly enjoyed Good Food because our group had the perfect attitude- try everything, share everything.  Because there were 5 of us, we were able to try virtually the entire menu (ok, maybe not the entire menu, but at least a solid 50%).  

I tried mussels for the first time, and I think I chose a good time to make that first move.  Personally, I've never really met a curry I liked, but this green curry broth was mild, slightly sweet and delicate.
Image Via
I think this beef dish was my favorite of the evening.  I've been googling 'how to make crispy rice' ever since, but all I can find is a variety of rice crispy treat recipes.  I might just have to go in blind on this one, because that crispy rice was to die for.  I've also been curious to try kimchi for quite some time - it was bursting with flavor and the perfect accomponiment to this dish. 

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Some other favorites...

I love that they pair scallops and grits, instead of the usual shrimp.  I'd also love to try braised endive at home. 

That pork bun was to. die. for.  Oh my gosh, it was so good.  Next time i'm definitely going to need my own.  I also need to utilize five spice more often at home- so tasty. 

Have you had a great meal recently that inspired you in the kitchen? 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

St Patrick's Day Fare

Who out there celebrates St. Patrick's day with a hearty Irish Feast?  Anyone?

I'm not going to lie.  My St. Paddy's day usually revolves around getting to Fibber's unreasonably early to beat the line and enjoying some green beer, or at the very least, Bud Light in a festive green aluminum can.  I've never actually stopped to enjoy the Irish fare, which i'm not entirely sure is even served at Fibbers on St. Patrick's day. 

As such, my knowledge of Irish food is quite limited.  This year, however, we are having an Irish feast at my office to celebrate.  I'm so excited, but I will admit it was hard for me to think of something to contribute.  I decided I'm going to make iced Irish Coffee.  Who doesn't love Irish Coffee?  Or at the very least, a little Bailey's Irish Cream in their cup o' joe? Here's my recipe:

Frozen Irish Coffee:
* 2 oz. brown sugar simple syrup (equal parts brown sugar and water, heated until the sugar dissolves)
* 1 oz. whiskey
* 1 oz. Baileys
* 2 oz. cream or half & half
* 2 c. ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Enjoy!

Here is more inspiration from the blogosphere:

And lastly, if you just want something green, Bette Crocker will never do you wrong!  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Every since I went to New Orleans last year, I've been thinking about Cool Brew.   Cool Brew is a cold-brewed coffee concentrate made in NOLA that you can use to make hot or iced coffee in a snap. We had it with brunch and it has been on my mind ever since.  Unfortunately though, I've never seen it in Wilmington. 

You can imagine my delight when I noticed Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate while I was waiting in the checkout line at Trader Joe's this weekend.  Finally, easy iced coffee at home! 

I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed with the TJ version.  I'm looking forward to making my own frappucinos, but for a quick pick me up, it can be mixed with milk for an easy cafe au lait, or for my guilt free version, combined with water over ice and a splash of sugar free hazelnut creamer.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Philly Sandwiches

Is there any greater joy than coming home to a fully cooked meal and only having one dish to wash?  I think not. 

I've really been embracing my crock pot lately.  With the hustle-and-bustle of every day life, it's great to have at least one crock pot day a week.  

This Crock Pot Chicken Philly recipe will definitely be added to my regular rotation.  You can't beat the flavorful, beer-braised, fork tender chicken topped with ooey-gooey white American cheese.

* Ingredients (makes 3-4 sandwiches, depending on size)
* 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used two)
*1 (12 oz) beer (I used pale ale - whatever you have is fine)
* 1 c. sliced mushrooms
* 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
* 1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
* salt, pepper
* 5 slices white american cheese
*sub rolls or hoagie rolls, for serving

In a crock pot, combine onions, chicken, mushrooms (place these on top so they don't disintegrate in the slow cooker), beer, worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 8 hours, or until the chicken easily shreds.  When the chicken is done, use two forks to gently shred the meat in the slow cooker.  Top the meat mixture with an even layer of sliced cheese, turn the heat off, and let sit for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.  Remove chicken mixture with a slotted spoon and serve on toasted sub rolls.  Enjoy!