Back in the Kitchen

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe or, if I’m being really honest, cooked a full meal from scratch in our kitchen. Since one of our goals for 2014 is to cook more and eat out less perhaps it’s time to revive the ol’ blog with recipes and stories from our kitchen. Here goes nothing…

First, it helps to have a great playlist for motivation and impromptu dance breaks with a spoon as a mic. Oh wait. I’m the only one that does this? Forget I said anything.

But, if you do need a playlist, I found a great one. Unfortunately, I can only take credit for finding it, not for putting it together.

It will become my soundtrack for all cooking going forward, so if you’re coming over for dinner be prepared for music blaring from our front room so I can hear it in the kitchen.

My husband spent many of his formative years in a commercial kitchen and, since I apparently suck at getting all the dishes ready to serve at the same time, he is in charge of timing the dishes. He always succeeds in this area. Thankfully.

This week, we chose to cook grilled chicken with a basil-lemon drizzle and garlic rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes. We also had a side salad using a premade organic Italian salad mix and Newman’s Own Italian Dressing (because I was too lazy to whip up my easy scratch vinaigrette).

I started on the fingerling potatoes first and used this recipe from Designlovefest. These were the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever eaten and I definitely added it to our binder of go-tos for future reference. Adam kept saying how amazing they tasted and how perfectly cooked they were. #winning

While the potatoes were roasting away in the oven, I got started on the drizzle for the chicken and told Adam, ” Go forth and grill chicken”.

For the chicken, he seasoned boneless skinless chicken breasts with black pepper (he LOVES black pepper) and some chili powder, before grilling them to perfection.

For the drizzle I followed a recipe from Skinny Italian by (don’t judge) Real Housewife Teresa Giudice. This isn’t the first recipe I’ve made from her cookbook and it won’t be the last. This had a wonderful flavor that we both loved and it was quick to put together!

Basil Lemon Drizzle
from Skinny Italian

 Ingredients
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (We added a bit more. Did I mention the hubs loves pepper?)

Directions

  1. In a food processor (we only have a mini-prep and it did the job), drop in garlic to mince.
  2. Add basil and pulse a few times to chop it.
  3. Add in the lemon juice, oil, and 2 tablespoons water and process until it becomes a thin sauce.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and pulse once more.
  5. Let stand at room temperature until ready to serve, no longer than one hour.

Yield: 6 tablespoons, about 4 servings

Once the chicken was grilled and the potatoes roasted, we plated our meals and ate up. Everything was delicious and we were quite happy to have leftovers, which we’re planning to finish off tonight 🙂

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I’ve always loved cooking, but leftovers? Not so much. I mean, I can enjoy them for lunch the next day, maybe dinner too, but typically after one additional meal I’m totally over it and want something different.

Now that we’re married, and basking in newlywed bliss, it’s been wonderful to fix a recipe and know that it won’t go bad before I tire of eating it – because there’s 2 people to eat the leftovers!

Last week, as we began to decorate our little abode for Christmas I decided to get in the kitchen and cook a meal. It had started getting chilly outside and I wasn’t really in the mood for soup or chili. Thankfully, Pinterest came to the rescue with Lemon Roasted Chicken and Hasselback Potatoes.

The chicken was phenomenal. Both Adam and I devoured it. Adam even requested that it be a regular meal in my arsenal – I’m good with that!

We both thought the recipe could easily be adapted for chicken breasts, though I cooked it as directed using chicken thighs. In fact, we’ll probably try it with chicken breasts next time. Mmm…next time, my mouth is already watering just thinking about it.

Added bonus: the chicken was just as delicious reheated the next night for dinner!

Now, I’m not gonna lie and tell you the potatoes tasted as good as they looked coming out of the oven. I mean, they were good, but the flavors didn’t blend throughout and sometimes you were stuck eating plain roasted potatoes with no seasoning.Plus, they were a pain to slice and season thoroughly  – which probably explains why the flavors didn’t blend.

Next time, I think I’ll use the same seasonings but toss them with potato wedges or slices instead of the fanned whole potatoes.

Lemon Chicken

from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished

Directions:

  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag.  Seal the bag and shake well to blend.
  2. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more.  Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade.
  5. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned.
  7. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish.
  8. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Baked Hasselback Potatoes

from Chicho’s Kitchen

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed (leave skin on)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped chives for garnish
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220ºC).
  2. Slice each potato crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. Be careful not to slice all the way through. The potato will fan out a bit as it bakes.
  3. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, smoked paprika and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.
  4. Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet.
  5. Carefully insert pinches of this mixture in between the slits of the potatoes.
  6. Rub the outsides of the potatoes with residual oil.
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The inside should be cooked through and the outside of the potato should be a bit crispy.
  8. Garnish with additional parmesan and chives!

Confessions of a Real Housewives Addict

Full disclosure?

I’m addicted to the Real Housewives franchise of reality television.

As in, you say Orange County and I still shed a tear over the breakup of Jo and Slade. New York City? I immediately think of the crazy catwalk Ramona did in a fashion show. Atlanta? I think of the dysfunctional relationship of Kim and Big Poppa. New Jersey? Someone needs to get Danielle a straight jacket. Beverly Hills? The home of $60,000 children’s birthday parties. D.C? The party-crashing Salahis.

This obsession for the RH franchise is pointless, but it’s like a trainwreck, I. Can’t. Stop. Watching. Unfortunately, the effects of RH last much longer than the 1 or 2 hours it’s on each week. Take, for instance, this summer when my family drove through Georgia en route to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We pass through Atlanta and the only thing that goes through my head is Don’t be Tardy for the Party.

Apparently, the trend for Real Housewives turned [bad] singers has continued. Countess LuAnn, from New York City, released Money Can’t Buy You Class this spring and Danielle, from New Jersey, released a collaboration with Lori Michaels aptly titled Real Close this summer. Fortunately, though not all the housewives are wannabe recording artists. Kandi, from Atlanta, was a member of the group of Xscape and is a Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter. She released Fly Above last fall. So there is some street cred mixed in.

But it’s not just my music collection that’s seen the effects of RH…

This obsession has also influenced what comes out of my kitchen, thanks to the Skinny Italian cookbook by Teresa Giudice, from New Jersey. While she’s most notably known for table-flipping in the general direction of Danielle and shoving Andy Cohen down during the reunion special this past season, she’s also a “writer”. Who knew?

I picked up the cookbook during a regular Barnes & Noble browse with Adam as a joke, just to make him uncomfortable as we meandered around the store. Then, I started looking through the recipes. Oh, the recipes. My mouth was literally watering as I read through the ingredients for each dish. I was all “Adam! Look at this!”, “This sounds amazing!”, “OMG I HAVE to make THIS!”. Begrudgingly he took a look, and, to my surprise, said “That does sound good!”

Of course, then I HAD to buy the cookbook and I’m so glad I did. So far I’ve made 3 dishes/sauces from it and all of them have been exceptional, but my favorite is the Arrabbiata (or Angry Sauce) for pasta.  It’s spicy, but not light your tongue on fire. It’s got a great flavor depth to it and tastes even better the next day as leftovers.

Arrabbiata Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. About 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in red pepper.
  4. Stir in Basic Tomato Sauce, lemon juice, and pepper.
  5. Bring to simmer.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until lightly thickened. About 15 minutes.
  7. Simmer up to 40 minutes, the longer it simmers the hotter the sauce.
  8. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Yield: approximately 3 3/4 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

Basic Tomato Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed or diced in their juices
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add basil.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Yield: approximately 3 1/2 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

Shrimp Addict?

I should probably start this post with a confession. For the past 3 days, my main source of protein at each meal (except breakfast) has been shrimp. I may have a problem.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

I had mentioned earlier that my local K-Roger let me down, but luckily Fresh Market came through for me. I don’t normally drive 30 miles for groceries, but since I was already in Little Rock visiting my parents last night to pick up some things I was able to grab the 2 necessary ingredients for Sunny Anderson’s Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce from Fresh Market on my way home. Plus, stopping at Fresh Market gave me the excuse to pick up one of my favorite treats, chocolate covered banana chips. Some serious yum right there folks!

After imagining what this dish tasted like for 3 days, I was excited to make it after Jazzercise. Once I got home, I opened up my MacBook and cranked up my Eat & Greet playlist, because it’s the perfect mix to have in the background while you cook.

I’m not gonna lie, there was a bit of prep involved: chopping a full HEAD of garlic, dicing 16 ounces of pepperoni, removing the tails off a pound and a half of shrimp, but in the end the prep was worth it. The flavors were intense and not spicy like I was expecting, though next time I probably won’t use quite so much pepperoni or olive oil.

Shrimply Delicious

Yesterday, as I was watching Food Network in bed, I was absolutely delighted by the Shrimp in a Garlic Pepperoni Sauce Sunny Anderson made on Cooking For Real. I mean, I love pepperoni, I love garlic, and I looooove schrimp. Mmm mmm wonderful schrimp. [Don’t adjust your vision folks, I typed schrimp] My mouth was watering as she made it and I could practically smell its goodness through my television, so it should come as no surprise that I would make it for dinner Sunday night.

After my Sunday Jazzercise ritual, I went to my neighborhood K-Roger to purchase the necessary ingredients. Unfortunately, K-Roger had other plans, which included not having 2 of the ingredients I needed: Pepperoni that didn’t have Hormel in the name and Adobo seasonings. I was defeated and schlepped to the front of the store for a fresh start. As I schlepped, I remembered my go-to shrimp recipe that I hadn’t made in quite a while (okay, maybe a year), and my mood brightened. Garlicky Lemon Shrimp anyone? I promise it will change your life.

Garlicky Lemon Shrimp by Rocco DiSpirito

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (I use the juice of 2 large lemons)
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (I use shredded)
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian Style)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp with lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cheese and bread crumbs (coat evenly).
  5. Spread shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  6. Bake 5 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serves 4

Baked Lemon Pasta

Perfect Spring Pasta

Baked Lemon PastaNothing says spring like a pollen covered car. It’s the sign that spring has sprung, that new life is blossoming, and that light, yet flavorful meals are a comforting dinner. My new standby pasta dish? Thanks to Pioneer Woman? Fits the bill perfectly. I mean, seriously, what says spring like lemon? And when you combine that with a bit of garlic and toss with some pasta? It’s not going to disappoint.

You see, one of my favorite movies is Julie & Julia. At the beginning of the movie, Julie arrives home from a stressful day at work and begins whipping up a Chocolate Cream Pie. She says:

“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

Well, this dish serves as that comfort for me. Only my day wasn’t stressful and my ingredients are sour cream, lemon, garlic, and butter. Nevertheless, after you’ve whipped it together once it’s practically mindless to whip up again. And mindless recipes that always come out right? Never hurt anyone.

Baked Lemon Pasta
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • half pound Thin Spaghetti
  • 2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Lemon, Juiced And Zested
  • 1 cup Light Sour Cream
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Chopped Flat-leaf Parsley

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook spaghetti until al dente.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Turn off heat. Squeeze lemon juice into the pan.
  3. Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.
  4. Combine mixture with drained spaghetti. Transfer spaghetti to an oven safe dish.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)
  7. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top after you remove it from the oven.
  8. Top with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Enjoy!

Servings: 3