roasted asparagus

Sometimes the simplest of preparations result in the most delicious dishes, no?

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I don’t know about y’all, but give me a plate of roasted vegetables, dressed simply with olive oil and herbs, over those “other” dishes – move aside, gratins, casseroles and all your friends…I’m looking at you.

The method of roasting vegetables, for some, may seem slightly boring or mundane. After all, you’re doing so little – what makes them shine, when standing on a table next to a bowl filled to the brim with steaming mashed potatoes, or crispy fried bits? That is just it, y’all! The expression, less is more, couldn’t hold more true with this discussion today.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables to use with this preparation. The earthy, rich flavor is highlighted when exposed to the high roasting temperature. And the best part is that you lose none of the nutrients! Think of this dish as asparagus, elevated. It makes for a beautiful presentation, piled high on a crisp white plate with some lemon wedges. It couldn’t be more simple, or more delicious.

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Roasted Asparagus

Whether served alongside an entree, placed along the top of pizza, or tossed with pasta, roasted asparagus makes any dish shine. Super simple and quick to prepare, this comes together quickly. It packs a vitamin punch, too! 

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed of woody edges

1 lemon, halved

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spread the asparagus out in a single layer. Toss generously with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place in the middle rack and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and toss to roast the other side, another 10 to 15 minutes {make sure to keep a close eye!}.

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Place on a serving dish and squeeze the fresh lemon halves on while it’s still hot. For additional flavor, you can add a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Let’s Discuss: what are some creative ways you like to serve vegetables, particularly asparagus? 

whole wheat zucchini bread

It’s that time of year. Gardens are overflowing with zucchini, and those blessed with a green thumb are practically begging to give them away. Friends, strangers, and everyone in between hear the oh-so-familiar summer phrase – “Can I interest you in some produce from my garden?”

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And trust me to be the girl jumping up and down, waving hands frantically – “I’ll take as many as you’d like! Lay ’em on me, good sir!”

…then I get home and, in my haze of veggie-loving excitement, realize that I have little means of storing said vegetables properly for the long-term, and carving out time in our insanely busy summer schedule is proving hard to get a lot of canning and other food-prep done.

So I’ve had to get creative, yall. Said zucchinis have found their way into many facets of our eating habits lately: diced up and stirred into marinara sauces, spiralized for “zoodles” at least 3 times, cut into sticks and eaten raw with dip, and probably the biggest stretch – I’ve put them in my juicer with apples and carrots. Sounds weird…yes. Delicious? You better believe it.

However, my favorite way by far to use up this tasty vegetable is to sneak it into treats! That’s where this bread comes in.

Slightly sweet with the additional of vanilla Greek yogurt and dried cranberries, this is breakfast bread you can really get into and not feel guilty about! The majority of the oil is replaced with said yogurt and unsweetened applesauce, and whole-wheat flour gives you a nutty, earthy taste. Cinnamon takes the flavor to a well-balanced place. The small amount of sugar helps highlight the natural sweetness of the zucchini, and the bread itself is so wonderfully moist. Sliced fresh from the oven, it’s tantalizing aroma will beg you to be enjoyed immediately!

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Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread {adapted from Whole Foods Market}

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 egg

1/8 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tbsp. vanilla Greek yogurt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract {I used my homemade version!}

1 cup grated zucchini

1/2 cup dried cranberries, optional

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8″ loaf pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, applesauce, yogurt, sugar and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in zucchini and cranberries, then transfer batter to prepared pan.

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Bake until risen, and the color is a deep golden brown, about 60 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted.

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Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes, and the remove bread from pan. Leave it to finish cooling completely.

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To store, wrap tightly in seran wrap. Bread can be left on the counter, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 days. After that, store in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. 

 

Let’s Discuss: How do you and your family feel about adding vegetables to baked goods? 

colorful corn & bean salad

I’m on a veggie kick lately, y’all.

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Summer speaks to me of warm summer nights, porch sitting, fresh produce, and {if I’m being honest} minimal time spent hovering over a hot oven. There’s nothing more unfortunate than spending time in said space when you could be lounging on your porch, dining al fresco, with an easy dinner based off little or no cooking. This is where this salad comes into play.

I’m fortunate in the sense that I have several friends who actually have the time to spend crafting successful gardens, and I am the frequent benefactor of the fruits of their labors. Granted, I dabble in it – albeit slightly with tomatoes/herbs/lettuces, which is better than nothing – but I do not have the knowledge or time to give it the love it needs. Summer after summer, I find myself constantly coming up with new and inventive ways to jazz up the produce I’m blessed to accept.

I’ve played with preserving and jarring pickles, canning my own tomato sauce, and preserving fruits in the form of delicious jams and jellies. But, it’s so hard to not want to eat up each and every bit of produce as soon as we possibly can. So when a bunch of fresh corn, peppers, and jalepenos showed up on my door step, this salad was born.

I’m not even sure if it’s fair to call this a true “recipe” even. I’ve mentioned before that a lot of my summer cooking is spent on a wing and a prayer, and this was one of those. As I was measuring and stirring, I had the hubs write it down for me so I could share it here with y’all. As as I am constantly mentioning, feel free to play around with this! So far, we’ve served it on top of salads, inside of quesadillas, and even just set out as a salsa for dipping in my fresh chips. I think it would make a wonderful topping for fresh cod, or stirred into sauteed veggies. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spooned it on top of a pizza someday…

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Colorful Corn & Bean Salad {original recipe, serves 6-8}

Ingredients:

4 ears fresh corn {hulled of its skin} and trimmed off so only the kernels remain

1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

1 green bell pepper, diced

up to 1 whole jalepeño, seeds removed {if desired} and finely grated

1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Add fresh corn into the bottom of a large, wide-mouthed mixing bowl {I like to use my largest stainless steel one). Add in both beans, the tomatoes, and the green peppers. Stir to combine.

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Grate in the fresh jalepeño, and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil and lime juice, stirring to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes and allow the flavors to merry while we assemble the spice mixture.

Combine all seasonings in a small bowl, making sure to evenly distribute them {we don’t want any clumps of cumin, or hot spots of cayenne}.

Sprinkle evenly over the corn/tomato/bean mixture, and stir well. Store in an airtight container, or several smaller Mason jars {for easy transport and serving}. Salad will keep well in the fridge for several days.

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summer salmon with roasted asparagus

Hands down, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of fresh, bright produce and gorgeous seafood. It just doesn’t get any better than that, no?

Happily making my way down the produce and seafood section not too long ago, I couldn’t help but notice lovely stalks of bright green asparagus. This being one of my favorite vegetables, I quickly scooped up a bunch, knowing that half of dinner was already taken care of. Thinking to myself what kind of protein to pair with it, I immediately thought a filet of wild-caught salmon would be absolute perfection. I knew that I had some leftover artichokes and Roma tomatoes at home waiting to be used, so I thought that this would pair well with the salmon as well.

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Not only is this a healthy dinner, bursting with flavor and color, but it comes together in a flash. We start by making a quick dressing of herbs and mustard together, then setting it aside so the flavors can merry together. The salmon gets seasoned well with salt and pepper then placed, skin side down,  onto a lightly sprayed piece of foil. We then build layers of flavor by adding first the tomatoes, then the artichokes, then finally, everything gets drizzled with the marinade. Covered tightly with foil {we’re doing foil packet baked fish, after all!}, everything gets roasted off in the oven.

And, dears, the asparagus couldn’t be any simpler. All we’re doing with these lovelies is tossing generously with salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil, then spreading evenly onto a baking sheet. The end result is a perfectly roasted vegetable, with crispy bits.

A lovely plate for dinner, easy enough to throw together during the week but can be trussed up into a date night at home. Light some candles, pour some wine, and enjoy!

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Summer Salmon with Roasted Asparagus {original recipe}

Serves: 2, & can easily be doubled

Ingredients for the Salmon 

1 lb. fresh, wild caught salmon

1/2 can artichokes, drained and rinsed well

1 large Roma tomato, sliced thin

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried basil

1 T. honey

2 T. dijon mustard

1 T. whole grain mustard

few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, or chicken stock {used to thin the marinade}

salt & pepper, to taste

 

Ingredients for the Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed well and trimmed of any undesirable leaves/stems

salt & pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

 

To Make {both the salmon and asparagus!}

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dill, thyme, basil, honey, both types of mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, and then drizzle in the liquid as needed {I ended up using about 2 tsp of stock}. Set aside.

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Line a baking sheet with foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the two pieces of salmon, skin side down, on the foil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Layer each piece with the tomatoes first, then the artichokes, and finally finish with the marinade. Seal tightly and set aside.

Place the asparagus on a piece of foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper {sometimes I even like to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on there as well – be careful of seeds if you do!} Toss to coat, then either place that sheet of foil on the same pan as the salmon packet {if large enough} or on a separate sheet.

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Roast both the salmon packets and asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until desired done-ness is achieved {I prefer mine slightly on the pinker side, with a velvety texture}. Give the asparagus a turn about halfway through, to ensure even cooking.

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For an even crispier roasted asparagus, place in the oven 5-10 minutes before the salmon goes in, making sure to toss halfway through. 

let’s talk…fritattas!

A little bit of this…a pinch of that…fold in the contents of that tupperware…

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We’ve all been there, and I wholeheartedly believe it’s not a bad place to be! We’re talking “leftovers night” today, dears! Sometimes, and I would be the first to say I have them more often than I care to admit, you get home from work and all you want to do is throw yourself on the couch, switch on the TV,and veg out. But there’s that nagging feeling called dinner, and it’s pulling you towards the kitchen gut first. Rather than turn to the phone and order {yet again!} your take-out of choice, let’s peruse the fridge, shall we?

…and so begins the story of how this meal came about. The hubs and I had entertained a few nights prior, and after a long day of work, were staring into the fridge. I was {gasp!!} not really in the mood to whip up a full meal, but rather quickly throw together what we had left over – some roasted chicken, leftover roasted veggies, and some greek-yogurt based spinach and artichoke dip. A half-used box of egg whites {remaining from cocktails at said gathering} stared back at me, standing tall and proud next to a few lonely farm eggs. And that…that!…is when the light bulb went off.

FRITATTAS!

How much simpler can it get? A quick toss of ingredients into my trusty sautese pan, whisking up some eggs, letting it set on the stove, and finishing off in the oven. Dinner’s done, just like that!

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And the beauty of this dish, dears, is that you can seriously use whatever you have on hand. Leftover steak? Toss it in with a little crumbled cheese and herbs, and you’ve got a fun twist on a Philly sandwich. Basket brimming with veggies? Make it a meatless dinner! The only thing to remember is season well – from there, you really can’t go wrong.

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Classic Fritatta

{serves 4 for dinner, 6 for a brunch-style dining experience}

remember that this is just a basis to follow…feel free to swap out ingredients as needed. Whatever you have on hand, and whatever flavor combinations you like, will certainly work perfectly!

Ingredients:

2 large farm fresh eggs

6-8 egg whites

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil {to coat the pan}

assorted herbs – I love to use fresh parsley, rosemary, and basil….but honestly, whatever you have on hand and what flavor combination{s} you like will work fabulously

assortment of meats, cheeses, and vegetables {for this particular recipe, I used leftover shredded chicken, sauteed spinach and artichoke with Greek yogurt, and leftover roasted asparagus/brussel sprouts/cauliflower}

 

To Make:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place rack in the center of the oven.

Generously coat a large non-stick skillet with extra virgin olive oil and place over a burner on medium heat. Gradually bring up to temperature {you’ll notice the oil start to ripple and spatter  – that’s how you know it’s ready}.

Begin by adding in your vegetables and saute for several minutes, until they begin to soften slightly but still retain a bit of snap. Fold in your choice of herbs and/or sauce {in my case, the spinach/artichoke dip I had kicking around the refrigerator}. Bring to temperature, then add in any meats. Cook until heated through. Reduce the heat to medium low.

In an appropriately sized bowl, whisk together your eggs and egg whites. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently pour over the sauteed vegetable/meat mixture in your skillet. Allow to sit for one to two minutes, then gingerly use your spatula to “pull” the egg mixture towards the center of the pan – I do this at four or five different edges around the pan. Just make sure to keep your ingredients evenly distributed throughout the fritatta! Cook for another few minutes, until you start seeing the edges of the egg mixture pull away from the sides of the skillet.

Transfer to your preheated oven. Cook for 15  minutes, or until the top of the fritatta just begins to look set. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve warm, with crusty French bread drizzled with olive oil.

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Leftovers will keep several days in the refrigerator, and it reheats best when done in slow increments. 

chicken divan

First and foremost, wishing the happiest of Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there – and especially to my own Momma : ) It goes without saying that I wouldn’t be here today, doing {& cooking!} what I love, if it wasn’t for her constant encouragement!

With that being said, I thought it would be most appropriate to dedicate a recipe, albeit a favorite one of my mom’s, here in honor of her.

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Chicken Divan is one of those meals that, for me at least, holds wonderful memories of my childhood. We were allowed on our birthday, each year, to pick out whatever meal and dessert that we wanted, and my mom would whip it up for dinner. It was fabulous – and I always, without a doubt, chose this meal. I kid you not when I say that I requested this at least 5 or 6 years in a row…it’s just that good. Because honestly, is there a better combination of chicken/brocooli/cheese/cream sauce that you can think of? I should think not, especially when it’s made just for you.

Flash forward some 15 odd years or so later; this meal is still one of my favorites. It always seemed so labor intensive when I was younger, but with several years of copious kitchen time under my belt, this particular meal is actually fairly easy to throw together. A “one dish” casserole meal, if you prefer.

But, because it’s me, I’ve made it a little bit more laborious than its traditional counterpart {but only by a few minutes or so, I promise!}. This is still easy to make after a long day of work, even if you choose to make the sauce I’ve dictated out below. We all know by now that I love a good and healthy tofu-based sauce, so I’ve gone ahead and replaced the traditional sauce {condensed soup, sour cream, and milk} with a thick and creamy sauce of tofu, sauteed onions/garlic, and bountiful herbs. With its luxurious mouth feel, it beautifully coats each piece of chicken and broccoli in this casserole, and blends so delightfully with the bed of rice you serve this atop of.

Go ahead and give this dish a try – not to toot my own horn here, dears….but this is definitely a “winner winner, chicken dinner.”

xx

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Chicken Divan

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts {fully cooked and shredded}

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head of broccoli, blanched {or keep it easy and use a steamer bag – I adore these}

14 oz. firm tofu*

1/4 to 1/2 C. low sodium chicken stock

1 C. bread crumbs

grated cheese, to suit your taste {I go between 1 to 1-1/2 cups}

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

dried herbs…such as rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, etc. {optional}

Rice, or your pasta of choice, for serving

 

To Prepare:

Precook the chicken

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum {to ensure easy clean up} and place chicken atop. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to the other side, and with clean hands, season the other side. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Set aside to cool, then shred using your hands or forks when it is cool enough to handle. Set aside.

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Keep oven temperature at 375 degrees.

Prepare the sauce

Set a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with a turn or two of olive oil, and when hot enough {the oil will ripple and spatter slightly} add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper  and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic has rendered out some of its spicy notes.

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Drain and cube up your firm tofu, and place into the base of a large food processor {I have a 14 cup…talk about a great wedding present!}. Add in the sauteed onion/garlic mixture, chicken stock {starting with a 1/4 cup and adding in more only as necessary} and begin to process. Let it initially go for 3-5 minutes, then remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust for seasoning – salt and pepper is a must, and sometimes I like to crush up some dried herbs and add in for another layer of flavor. Let the mixture process together for another 3-5 minutes. You want your resulting sauce to be extremely creamy and free of lumps.

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Build the casserole

Spray a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of the dish, then layer in the chicken and broccoli. Add in the remaining sauce {feel free to give it a good swirl in the dish, allowing for the sauce to coat all sides of the chicken and broccoli, and get into the nooks and crannies}. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs, then drizzle with olive oil to help it crisp up.

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Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to bubble and the top is a beautiful golden brown.

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Serve atop rice or your favorite pasta alternative! I’ve had great success using my trusty spaghetti squash “pasta” as well.

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*next time, I may double the amount of tofu, so that there is a bit more of the sauce throughout the casserole. Feel free to adjust, suiting to your taste and preference!

kicked up fish & chips

Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced cafeteria food.

This, I know for a fact, is something that every single one of us has been exposed to in our lives, whether it be long or short. School age children do it {practically} daily, adults may have a workplace cafeteria they frequent for lunch, or you just can’t stay away from the beloved “all you can eat buffets”.  Regardless of location, I find there is always one thing you can count on – that, my dears, is the classic “fish stick”.

I am confident in saying that this is one meal that gets a terribly unfortunate reputation. My reasoning for asking about your cafeteria dining experience is because, almost always, you can ask a person about said fish sticks and I’m willing to bet you will get the same reaction…eyes rolling, hand flies to mouth, perhaps a dash to the bathroom {from a particularly terrible experience} or just a collective sigh of disappointment. It’s just one of those foods that no one liked, myself included.

That is…until I was introduced to the British staple of “Fish and Chips”.

Photo courtesy of  tripadvisor

While insanely delicious and filling, the meal itself is a calorie and fat bomb. Yes, this is what makes it so utterly delicious, and I am never one to pass up the occasional indulgence, but when I find a meal that I adore oh-so-much, I want to enjoy it more than once in a blue moon. So naturally, I decided to take matters into my own able hands.

Enter these kicked up fish and chips. I have been making these on a regular basis for several years now, and figured it was time to get them on rotation here. By subbing out the deep-frying aspect of the dish for an insanely hot roast in the oven, swapping out the large portion of French fries for thick strings of roasted vegetables, you’ve got a pretty darn good fill-in, if I do say so myself. I cannot tell a lie – I may have even patted myself on the back for this meal. It’s truly a winner. You won’t miss any of the greasy outer layers because the panko batter is so crispy from being roasted, and the fish inside stays so incredibly tender and moist.

It’s time we give those sad fish sticks from yesteryear a second chance – let’s start here, shall we?

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Kicked Up Fish & Chips

{serves 2 generously, 3 for a more “tapas” style dining experience}

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. {give or take} of cod, cut into thick strips

1 to 1-1/2  C. all-purpose flour*

1 to 1-1/2 C. panko bread crumbs *

1 large egg*

2 egg whites*

2 to 4 Tbsp. milk*

a few dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, or your preference of sauce {optional}

your favorite dried herbs {optional}

salt and pepper, to taste

 *for a thicker style coating, double the amount of coating mixtures in each bowl – essentially, you’ll run the strips first through the flour, then the egg, then back through the flour, then back through the egg again before ending up in the panko mixture. This is a great way to get that extra crackly coating!…and my preferred choice. 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, making sure to come up the sides. Place a wire cooling rack atop the baking sheet and spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

Line up three shallow dishes:

-In the first bowl, add the 1 cup of flour and season to taste with salt and pepper. This is where you can add your favorite herbs, if choosing to do so.

-In the second bowl, whisk together the egg, both egg whites, milk, and a few dashes of hot sauce.

-In the third bowl, mix together the panko, making sure to season again with salt and pepper {we’re building layers of flavor here, folks!}.

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Bread fish strips by first dredging in the flour mixture, making sure to coat all sides thoroughly – don’t forget the edges! Shake of any excess, then run through the egg mixture bowl, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, pat into the panko mixture, making sure to get a good coating on all sides.* Place on wire baking rack, then repeat the steps with the remaining strips of fish.

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Spray the tops and sides of fish strips with cooking spray – this will help them further crisp up in the oven.

Bake in the preheated oven for at least 10-15 minutes {I often find that it can take upwards of 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish}, until the flesh is opaque and flaky.

I like to serve this dish with a side of roasted vegetables – whether it’s sweet or russet potato wedges, asparagus, carrots, etc. – or a good basket of crispy French fries. You cannot go wrong!

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Happy dining!

kale pesto

Kale is, easily, one of my favorite greens. Aside from its gorgeous green color, it’s chock full of nutrients!

One cup of chopped kale has:

-33 calories (!)

-9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and 684% of vitamin K {wowzers!}

-it is a good source of copper, potassium, iron manganese, and phosphorus

-rich in the anti-oxidants {carotenoids and flavonids} associated with fighting cancer

-rich in lutein {great for eye health}

-its high fiber content helps to bind bile acids, helps lower blood cholesterol

-reduces the risk of heart disease

…..makes you want to run out and buy some right now, right?

 Aside from being a nutritional powerhouse, kale is also easily adaptable into many of your run-of-the-mill recipes. Chopped and eaten raw in salads, sauteed and served as a side dish, run through your juicer for the delicious “green juice”, wilted and served atop salads, let’s not forget the hugely popular kale chips – the list goes on and on.

I’ll take a leap and say that this particular pesto is one of my favorite ways to jazz kale up. Don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional pesto packed with fresh basil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese, but this is such a fun twist on it! I made it one evening for a quick pasta dinner not too long ago, because…right now…as we all know, fresh herbs are hard to come about before the bounty of spring/summer starts hitting the market {I just can’t bring myself to buy basil when I grow it in groves during the summer!}.

So….enter kale – the hearty leaf is the perfect substitute! Aside from the benefits listed above, I also set out to slightly lighten the pesto sauce. I’ve found in the past that replacing some of the extra virgin olive oil with a splash of two of stock does nothing to the flavor, but rather, adds another depth and richness to the dish. It also lets you go back in for an extra big scoop without the guilt, amiright?

I love to serve this as an appetizer, with crusty bread or whole wheat crackers. It’s also great for smearing on sandwiches {think a grilled cheese topped with a fried egg!}, or just tossed with warm pasta and olive oil. Whichever path you choose, you will be sure to enjoy the bright and fresh flavors of this pesto!

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Kale Pesto {original recipe}

Makes about 1 to 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

5 cloves of garlic

1 lb. kale

juice of half a lemon

1/4 C. grated pecorino romano cheese

1/3 C. chicken stock {feel free to use a combination of olive oil and stock, making sure you keep the overall amount of 1/3 consistent with the recipe}

salt & pepper, to taste

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To Make:

Fit your food processor with the standard blade. Add in the kale and garlic, and process well to combine {you want the kale to be very finely processed, and the garlic as well}.

Add in the chicken stock and lemon juice, processing again. Lastly, add in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Give it one last final whirl.

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Pesto will last up to one week, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator. It also freezes extremely well! 

 

roasted chicken with buttermilk smashed potatoes & dijon gravy

If roasting chicken is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

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I mean, how can anyone say no to a piece of perfectly roasted chicken, with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy?

Is anyone raising their hand??…I didn’t think so. 

One snowy day back in January, the hubs and I were lucky enough to be granted a snow day. Well, more like half a snow day….when the roads get bad around here, people tend to head home. Untreated roads and not living in the “north” can make for an…interesting…commute home. But I digress – wow, I tend to ramble sometimes!

We had both been craving a hearty roast for dinner, but a somewhat bare refrigerator and sore lack of a whole chicken left something to be desired. I began rummaging around, thinking to myself “How can I make this work?”. I knew what I wanted to achieve – a healthy, balanced dinner but still so comforting, no one would miss the lack of butter, cream, and the like. Sometimes, a little health kick is what you need, no?

Eyeing up the pantry and fridge, the light bulb started to form. I had been successful in the past with making gravy and other sauces with only a minimal amount of butter and using mostly stock, so I knew that would work. To enrichen the flavor, I thought to myself, how about some mustard? A smooth, tangy dijon would heighten the profile of a pretty basic gravy, and then to freshen it up I would add in some herbs. “Rosemary!” I thought to myself….thus, component #1 was born.

The chicken I knew I wanted to keep simple, to really let the gravy and potatoes shine. I always find myself loving chicken the most when it’s roasted with just the basics. Fresh cracked pepper, kosher salt, and good extra virgin olive oil always do it just right for me. That was a no brainer.

The last component – the potatoes – I knew I wanted to keep it slightly on the healthier side. While I have a soft spot for mashed potatoes whipped with copious amounts of butter, cream and tangy Parmesan, I found myself gravitating towards the buttermilk I had leftover in my fridge. Knowing that this would be a great mix in with the potatoes, and along with lots of fresh garlic, I had formulated the rest of my plan.

…and thus, my roast chicken dinner was born. I’ve made this multiple times since that snowy day in January, and let me tell you, this will continue to be on rotation in our household. It’s quite easy, healthful, and full of flavor. It’s also a perk that the leftovers make a killer sandwich the next day.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Chicken with Buttermilk Smashed Potatoes & Dijon Gravy {original recipe}

{serves 2, with leftovers}

For the chicken:

1-1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

For the buttermilk smashed potatoes:

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and dried well {I like to leave the skins on in my mashed potatoes, as this is where the majority of the nutrients are found…not to mention, they’re full of flavor!}

1 to 1-1/2 C. low fat buttermilk

4 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced

salt and pepper, to taste

For the dijon gravy:

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, diced

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2-3 C. organic, low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 tsp. rosemary

2-3 tsp. dijon

extra virgin olive oil

so you aren’t waiting on the potatoes to boil, let’s first get a large pot of water going on the stove. We want a good, rolling boil!

Cook the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle with a hefty dose of olive oil. Add on the chicken and, with clean hands, sprinkle with  a generous amount of salt and pepper. Be sure to rub both sides, coating well! Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until juices run clear. Set aside, and cover tightly with foil to keep warm.

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While the chicken is cooking, prepare the potatoes to add into the boiling water.

Prepare the potatoes: Dice the potatoes into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes, making sure to ensure consistent cuts {tip: the smaller a dice you cut your potatoes into, the quicker they will cook!}. Add into the pot of boiling water, and cook until fork tender; this should take anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Once ready, drain of all cooking liquid and return to the stovetop, turning the heat down to low or even off {you can always adjust the heat as needed to keep them warm}. Add in the minced garlic, lots of fresh cracked salt and pepper to your liking, and lastly the buttermilk. I find it helpful to start on the lower amount of liquid, adding in as necessary so they don’t become gummy. Mash with a large wooden spoon or potato masher, making sure to leave lots of good bumps and lumps! Cover and keep warm until the gravy is prepared.

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Prepare the gravy: In a medium saute pan, drizzle in a few good turns of olive oil. Add in the onion, and saute for 5-10 minutes or until translucent. Add in the garlic, salt and fresh cracked pepper, rosemary, and cook together until the flavors all merry, 3-5 minutes. Add in the butter and, once melted, sprinkle in the flour, whisking constantly to negate any lumps {you want your gravy to be nice and smooth}. Cook for 2-3 minutes, allowing the raw flavor of the flour to cook out. Slowly stream in the chicken stock, whisking briskly. Bring the gravy to a boil, and once thickened {it should coat the back of a spoon and leave a trail}, stir in the dijon mustard.

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I like to serve this dish in a large, rimmed pasta bowl….a heaping mound of hot smashed potatoes, with a perfectly cooked chicken breast nestled in, and all swimming in a pool of flavorful gravy.

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It’s truly like having your food give you a hug. Life doesn’t get much better, no?

loaded up brie mac & cheese

Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food.

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than settling into your kitchen after a long day at work, tying on your apron, and setting to work preparing dinner. Call me crazy, but sometimes the more involved the recipe is, the more soothing it is for me. You see, the kitchen is my safe haven, my place of calm, where I like to unwind. There are days when the stresses of work and everyday life just get to me, and all I can think about is making it to 5:00 and getting home to cook dinner. Call me crazy, and people certainly have, but to each their own, right?

The hubs and I have been on a bit of a Brie kick lately. This was one cheese I was never particularly fond of, or at least I thought that. Typically, the stinkier the cheese is, the more I like it. Pass me over a wedge of tangy Blue Cheese, perhaps a cube (or three!) of briny Feta, or some shavings of tart Romano cheese, and I’m a happy girl. It’s never been about the texture for me, but I’ve just always been drawn to bold flavors. Brie never really fit the bill.

Until one day last November, that is. For a “Friendsgiving” party a girlfriend of mine threw, I was tasked with some appetizers and a few side dishes. I’ll save the recipe for another time, but my dears, the Brie was the star. And it totally opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of cooking with it.

Flash forward to this week. One day not too long ago after work, I knew it was going to be one of those nights. A long, unwinding time in the kitchen, grating cheese, chopping veggies, the whole deal. Perhaps a glass of wine, if I may be so bold. I had been mulling over this particular mac & cheese recipe for some time, waiting for the perfect opportunity. And then inspiration struck me – let’s jazz it up, because why not? A quick glance in the refrigerator was all I needed; roasted vegetables could only make this even better, right? And toss in some salty prosciutto….now we’re getting somewhere.

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This does take a little bit of time to prepare, but the result is well worth the time (and the resulting dishes). Creamy Brie marries wonderfully with the sharp Cheddar and nutty Parmesan, and the roasted vegetables provide textural contrast to the smooth mouth feel of the dish. And if you’re willing to part with half of the dish (I only cook for two, so I do this quite often), immediately transfer half of the recipe into a freezer-safe dish for another time. All the perks of two rich, homemade meals….but only the work of one kitchen round. I think we can all get behind this, yes?

Enjoy!

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Loaded Up Brie Mac & Cheese {adapted slightly from Half Baked Harvest}

1 bag of Brussels sprouts, washed and removed of any unsightly leaves, and cut in half from top to bottom

1/2 head of cauliflower, washed and trimmed to the size of the Brussels sprouts

1 package of good prosciutto, cut into cubes

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 box of DeLallo pasta (I used a whole wheat shell)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 onion, finely diced

1/4 C. all purpose flour

2 C. milk (I used 1%)

1 C. low sodium chicken stock

7 ounces Brie cheese (I opted to leave the rind on, as I enjoy the flavor of it…but feel free to remove)

3 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese

4 ounces Parmesan cheese

heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 – 1 C. panko bread crumbs

To make:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and spread the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in an even layer. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until browned and crispy, tossing once, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once a boil is achieved, generously salt the water. Add in the pasta, and cook until al dente (you want it to have a bit of bite to it still, as it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain well and set aside.

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While the pasta boils, add 3 tbsp. of your butter to a medium skillet and melt. Add in the garlic and onion, and saute for several minutes. You want the onions to be slightly soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the flour cook in with the butter/garlic/onion mixture for one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and stock, raising the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently until the sauce has thickened, about 3-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the cheese, Dijon mustard, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. Stir until the cheese is fully melted, and then fold in the roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, and cubed prosciutto.

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Transfer to a prepared baking dish, and sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the panko is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes, then dig in!

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