Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekly Menu Plan and Yogurt Lemon Poppyseed Cake

So for the past few months, Bryant and I have decided to have dessert only on the weekends. I think it's a great system because then you can really enjoy dessert for those few days. (Well, Bryant isn't really a dessert person so he doesn't actually care. I, on the other hand, care much, much more.) But almost every Friday night after dinner, I scramble to think of a good dessert that I can whip together in a few seconds. Unfortunately, it's usually just chocolate chips or, if I'm really inspired, chocolate chip cookies.

So while I love dessert, I don't make a lot of desserts and don't really plan desserts in advance. I kind of lament this on the weekends and whenever I see all the cooking blogs with beautiful pictures of baked goods. However, since for the life of me, I can't remember to take a single picture of anything I make, you guys won't miss out on much, anyway.

All that being said, I finally do have a dessert recipe (and of course, no picture) to share! It's a yogurt lemon poppyseed cake that I actually planned ahead to make last night. However, when I looked in the refrigerator for the yogurt, it had magically disappeared. Turns out Bryant had enjoyed having "something different" for breakfast that morning. So I made him accompany me on a walk to the grocery store to buy some more. Despite this minor setback, the cake turned out so moist and good. Next time, I think I'll make a few changes to healthify the recipe a bit. (Yes, I realize that healthify isn't a word. You understand.) But it was still delicious this time.

Also, I have the weekly menu plan to share! We're actually planning a few more days in advance because the Evans family is coming to visit next weekend. We're so excited for their visit!

Weekly Menu Plan

Saturday: corn chowder, paninis, salad

Sunday: gyros w/ tzatziki sauce and whole wheat tortillas

Monday: baked fish and sweet potato chips

Tuesday: blackened chicken, corn on the cob

Wednesday: moo shu pork and vegetables

Thursday: coconut red beans and rice

Friday (Evans family arrives!): pizza - Chicago style and regular, salad, Bryant's "award-winning" chocolate chip cookies

Saturday: out

Sunday: picnic for lunch, Mexican for dinner

Yogurt Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Taken from: Ina Garten

**Also, Smitten Kitchen also had some good suggestions for other ways to make this cake, such as adding blueberries instead of poppyseeds, adding orange instead of lemon and then stirring in chocolate chips, adding walnuts or pecans, etc, etc. Whatever way you like it!
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cake Glaze (I think I actually preferred the cake without it, however!):
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using cooking spray, grease a loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
-Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.
-In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil (I used a stand mixer on the lowest 2 settings).
-Slowly whisk (or mix) the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold poppyseeds into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean (Mine baked about an hour, so I covered it with tin foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent the top from burning.)
-Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
-When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.
-For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and then drizzle over the cake.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach

So I'm afraid I've been giving you a lot of recipes with chopping lately. Of course, I think the recipes are definitely worth the effort (or I wouldn't tell you about them!) and there is so much fresh produce is in season now but I do realize that not everyone has the time or interest in chopping away. So to make up for that, I'm sharing this recipe with you. The gnocchi with white beans and spinach was great and requires very little prep work from you. However, my only complaint about the original recipe is its lack of seasoning anything. I understand (and appreciate) trying to cut down on sodium but it definitely needed some seasoning or it comes out a bit bland. So with some salt and pepper thrown in there, this would be an excellent dish. I served this one-pot meal with marinara (however, I always serve pasta dishes with marinara because I like it so much).

One nice thing about this recipe is that you can buy everything ready to go or you can save a little and make it on your own. Any packaged gnocchi at the grocery store would work really well but we actually had homemade gnocchi in ours. I made gnocchi about a month ago and froze half of it. It took a bit of time but its cheaper, tastier and probably better for you (I, of course, used whole wheat flour). So for those interested, my gnocchi recipe is below. I'm still perfecting the gnocchi technique - quite a few of mine fell apart although they still tasted delicious.

Gnocchi with White Beans and Spinach
Taken from: Eating Well
Serves 4
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 16-ounce package shelf-stable gnocchi OR homemade gnocchi
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups chopped spinach or swiss chard leaves
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings OR 2 tomatoes, chopped and seasoned with dried thyme, oregano and parsley
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
-Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
-Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and garlic to pan over medium heat and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds), stirring.
-Add onion to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Add water. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook until starting to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes.
-Stir in tomatoes, beans and pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
-Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 3 minutes.

Homemade Gnocchi
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
Serves 8 (could be easily halved or half of this frozen for a future meal)
  • 2 lb. russet potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
-Boil the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot until tender (easily pierced with a knife), about 30 minutes. Drain. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle. peel off the skins and mash until light and fluffy (or run them through a ricer if you have one). Let cool to room temperature.
-In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the egg. Add the flour (starting with about 1 cup) and salt. Mix with your hands until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to clump together (adding more flour if necessary). Form the dough into a large ball. Knead gently until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft, smooth, and a little sticky, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Don't overmix it, or the gnocchi will be tough; the dough should feel very delicate.) Cover the formed dough with a clean kitchen towel.
-Lightly flour your work surface. Tear off a lemon-sized piece of dough (covering the rest with the towel so it doesn't dry out). With the palms of your hands, roll the dough on the floured surface into a rope (about 3/4 inch in diameter). With a sharp knife cut the rope crosswise into square gnocchi. Arrange them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet (sprinkled with flour) to prevent sticking. Repeat until you have used all the dough, reflouring the work surface as needed.

NOTE: At this point the gnocchi can be kept at room temperature for several hours or refrigerated if longer. Gnocchi can also be frozen and then directly boiled at a later time. To prevent clumping, I suggest sticking the entire pan of gnocchi into the freezer for 2-3 hours until they have partially hardened. At that point they can be combined in freezer-safe storage containers without risk of clumping.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Minestrone Soup and How to Cook Dried Beans

So many recipes to share, so little time. It was a serious debate with Bryant which of the past weekend's meals to share. We decided on the minestrone soup but the blueberry scone and the quiche recipes are sure to follow.

Minestrone soup is probably my favorite soup. Whenever I see it at a restaurant, I always want to get it (but often balk at paying $5 for a cup of soup). So of course, making it at home is a lot cheaper! Also, it has so many fresh vegetables that summer is the best season for it.

This recipe makes a lot of meals. It says that it serves 8 but I think we're going to get more than that out of it. We had it for dinner Saturday night, then I had it for lunch 3 days in a row and I still froze about half of it for a future meal! Definitely worth all the chopping.

Minestrone Soup
Taken from: Allrecipes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups tomato sauce OR 4 cups crushed tomatoes OR 6 fresh tomatoes (crushed in the food processor)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1 cup kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup white beans, drained (I used canario)
  • 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
  • 3 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano OR 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil OR 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat short pasta (I used rotini)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese for topping

-In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
-Add chicken broth, water, tomatoes and red wine, bring to boil, stirring frequently.
-Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, white beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.

-Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside.
-Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to taste.

Cooking Dried Beans

Also, I've finally figured out how to cook dried beans! Sad, but true. Bryant and I had a black bean fiasco a couple months ago where we soaked the beans overnight, all day and STILL they weren't ready to eat! I had also decided to soak the entire bag about 3 weeks before we moved to California. Needless to say, we had a lot of black beans before we left. I definitely had to get creative to use those up...and probably cleared out our systems in the process!

So I hadn't bought dried beans since...until they had some at the farmers market on Saturday and was going to make minestrone soup that night. Bryant reminded me of "the incident" so after searching the internet, I found that you some easy directions to follow AND they don't require overnight soaking.

Also, since dried beans are cheaper than canned, it always helps our budget (Bryant lovingly calls me "the budget nazi" thanks to my extensive excel sheet, large collection of coupons and money-saving tips). Cooked beans can also be frozen so unless you're moving in 3 weeks, you could always make a few cups at a time and freeze them for easy future uses (as I mention below, dried beans will typically triple in volume). Finally, any time you can get away from added sodium and preservatives, found in canned beans, is always a benefit!

-Rinse beans to be cooked (dried beans will typically triple in volume so 1 cup of dried beans makes 3 cups of cooked) and pick out any bad ones.
-In a large pot halfway full of water (do not add salt), bring them to a boil and boil for at LEAST 10 minutes. (Apparently, dried beans have low levels of a toxin so you need to boil for 10 minutes to make sure the toxin is removed.)
-Drain beans. Place beans in slow cooker and add 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans. Cook on high for 2-4 hours or on low for approximately 4-6 hours. Cooking times can vary by bean type.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Celebrations and Week's Menu Plan

Today is definitely a big day. Not only is it our first wedding anniversary but it's also Bryant's birthday! And we've been celebrating both occasions since Thursday. Last Thursday and Friday, we had an anniversary getaway to Napa! Bryant did all the planning so it was a complete surprise to me and it was perfect. We started by hiking a trail through one of the Redwood forests (we ended up picking quite a steep trail, too!). We love hiking and also getting a workout in as well.

I was astounded by how many wineries there are in Napa! There's two main roads that are just lined with winery after winery - needless to say, it was absolutely beautiful (it didn't hurt that it was 80 degrees and perfectly blue and sunny skies). Bryant had winery recommendations from a colleague whose family actually owns a Napa winery; Bryant picked one that also has a picnic area. We went on a Thursday in the early afternoon but it was completely packed when we were there! The tasting was a lot of fun and Bryant has a 2-for-1 deal on it, too (I love that my husband found an online coupon!). However, we both accidentally wore white shirts - obviously, these were our first tastings! After our tasting, we had a picnic lunch outside.

One of the best parts of the trip was where Bryant picked for us to stay - it was a bed and breakfast called the Old World Inn. It was beautiful! It had all the charm of old houses - our room had a (gas) fireplace in it! The inn also had french press coffee and loose leaf tea set out all the time (we had our fair share of both in our 24 hours at the inn). The food was awesome, too - it was one of the reasons he picked the place. It had a wine and appetizer hour, delicious desserts set out all night, and of course, a wonderful breakfast. It was also nice because the eating area was set up with 10 tables in rows. This allowed you to be sociable if you wanted but you could also choose to just have private conversations and be alone.

Of course, we spent an hour at the inn, reading and drinking fresh coffee. Then we walked to downtown Napa, looked around the town, went to the farmers market and finally, had dinner at a small Italian place there (where we, of course, had pizza). Then we went back the inn for dessert, more coffee and tea, a fire and the movie Fireproof. It was really the perfect anniversary!

Week's Menu Plan:
The weekend has come and gone but the meals really were great. Saturday was minestrone soup (, highly recommended!). Today was Bryant's birthday celebration so we had blueberry scones and a spinach, ham and broccoli quiche for breakfast. For dinner, we had sweet and sour chicken with pineapple, bell peppers and broccoli. I'll definitely be sharing these recipes in the near future.

Monday: Taco salad (this is a good homemade taco seasoning:

Tuesday: Gnocchi with white beans and spinach (

Wednesday: Cod with peach salsa (

Thursday: Pizza

Friday: Loaded sweet potatoes

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

So it's only Tuesday but I've already switched up the menu plan a bit. Not a big deal - I just switched around Tuesday's and Wednesday's meals. However, in case you were wondering, that's why I'm writing about Wednesday's meal on Tuesday!

The Vietnamese rolls worked well for dinner but would also be excellent appetizers as well. A word of caution, however: this is a lot of chopping. You don't have to add in as many vegetables as I did, but I always love an opportunity to throw in extra vegetables. So just add on a little extra time to do the prep work...or you could shell out a few extra bucks and buy them pre-chopped as well.

I couldn't find rice paper wrappers at the Commissary so I used soy wrappers instead. I liked that it added a little extra protein but they were way too small to fully wrap these rolls. It made for a messy dinner, but well worth it.

We really liked the dipping sauce, too. Even Bryant, who isn't a fan of peanut butter in the first place (I made ours half peanut butter and half almond butter for him, though). You'll definitely see this sauce in other recipes in the near future.

I originally was going to assemble these rolls myself but after starting a few, I decided it would be part of the meal for Bryant and me to assemble our rolls as we go along. Messy but still was delicious and kind of fun (I happen to like playing with my food!).

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Shrimp
Taken from:
  • cellophane noodles (I used rice noodles but bean threads could also be a substitute)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt and pepper
  • Bibb lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
  • carrots, peeled, julienned (could be shredded as well)
  • red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • bamboo shoots, sliced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh mint leaves, minced
  • Rice paper wrappers (I used soy wrappers)
Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sriracha chili sauce (I used hot sauce instead)
  • 2-4 Tbsp. water (to thin it down)

-Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and let drain.Toss with vinegar and sugar. Set aside.
-To make the peanut sauce, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk together, adding water by the tablespoon until the desired consistency.
-To cook the shrimp, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 10 seconds. Add shrimp and saute until just cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
-To assemble the summer rolls, soften the rice paper in hot water, according to package directions. Place the fillings on the center of the paper, fold up the sides and then roll tightly. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Slice on the diagonal, drizzle with peanut sauce, and serve (with extra sauce for dipping).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Menu Plan and Spanish Rice Casserole

While I originally wanted to write about something else entirely, I first want to tell you (read: brag) about my husband's bread baking abilities. Bryant just made bread today using my dad's recipe for loaf bread. He started in the morning before church and by the time we got home, it had completely risen (almost bursting out of the bowl). He did a second rise in the bread pans and FINALLY (patience is clearly a virtue I need to work on) baked it. And this bread turned out delicious! We're always looking for ways to make foods healthier so Bryant used white whole wheat flour (which is a new staple in our household), ground rolled oats and some King Arthur all-purpose flour. It was incredibly light and didn't taste at all like there was wheat in it. In short, it was bread that rivals my dad's. Excuse me for a second while I go back to the kitchen for my third slice.

However, I didn't want to just brag about what a lucky wife I am but I also wanted to share this week's menu plan and a Spanish rice casserole recipe we had last week. I'll try to include links to any recipes that are online in case you're interested. I typically make my menu plan from Saturday-Friday; I plan it on Thursday or Friday which allows me to be prepared to do most of the produce shopping at the Farmers Market on Saturday.

Yesterday (the real beginning of my list of this week's meals), I made Chicago-style pizza for the first time. The recipe needs a few tweaks but did get rave reviews from Bryant both yesterday for dinner and today for lunch. However, I've only had real Chicago pizza once so I'm not sure whether I was even close to the real deal. I need to find a Chi-town resident who can test this recipe. But whatever it was, it was tasty. Especially after a couple of changes, this recipe will probably be a future post!


Sunday: Vegetable Linguine (

Monday: Jalapeno Lime chicken (, crisp roasted potatoes (**ASCA00), and steamed green beans

Tuesday: steak tacos

Wednesday: Vietnamese summer rolls with shrimp (

Thursday & Friday: Out of town!


Spanish Rice Casserole

Spanish rice casserole was dinner a few days ago. I actually switched around the week's menu plan but I knew we needed to have an early dinner that day to allow Bryant to brave traffic and make it to his ER shift at 7 pm. This recipe looked both easy and easy to make-ahead. Also what was nice is that it was pretty versatile. I had a lone zucchini so I just chopped it up and added it to the casserole. I didn't have any green peppers only red, so that was an easy switch (for anyone looking to add more vegetables, you could probably a couple more vegetables in here and it wouldn't be noticed). Also, for extra fiber and protein, I added half of a can of black beans. This serves 4 but would be easy to double.

Taken from

  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey breast (could also use ground beef)
  • 1/2 of 14.5 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped (could use other vegetables instead, like a green bell pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped (could also use a 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup brown rice (Cook according to package directions)
  • 1/2 cup chile sauce or prepared salsa
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2-4 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped (we like a lot of cilantro)
-Cook brown rice according to package directions (you could do this a day or two in advance).
-Preheat oven to 375 F.

-In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook onions, peppers, zucchini and garlic until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey, salt and pepper and cook until brown. Drain excess fat and return skillet to the stove top over medium low heat. Stir in the tomatoes, water, rice, salsa, cumin and Worcestershire sauce.
-Cook for about 5-10 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Put mixture in a 9x9 baking pan and press down firmly. (You could do up to this step a day in advance and then just bring the casserole to room temperature right before cooking).
Sprinkle with the shredded Cheddar cheese.
-Bake at 375 F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with chopped fresh cilantro.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pecan Crusted Salmon

So I have a confession to make. Typically, we run the dishwasher every 2-3 days. For 2 people! It seems a bit ridiculous to me but in our defense, we do eat almost every meal at home (or bring the leftovers for lunch). Also, I feel like I always end up dirtying quite a few dishes while I cook.

The pecan crusted salmon turned out delicious but the lack of dirty dishes is another reason why this recipe was so great - since it was just a few easy ingredients, there was hardly any cleanup (I believe Bryant was thankful for that, too)!

This recipe was perfect for 2 people and would be easy to double or triple for serving more people.

Pecan Crusted Salmon

Taken from: A Hint of Honey
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped (I pulsed the pecans in a food processor)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (I didn't have any fresh parsley so I had to use 1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley)
  • 2 (4 oz.) salmon fillets (choose wild, not farmed if you can help it)
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon wedges, for serving
-Preheat oven to 400 F.
-In a small bowl, combine mustard and honey. In a separate small bowl, combine bread crumbs, pecans, and parsley.
-Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Brush top with mustard mixture and sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Place in a greased baking dish.
-Bake in preheated oven for 10-20 minutes (10 min per inch of thickness) or until salmon flakes when tested with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

California BLT and Mexican Bean Salad

As I sit here writing this blog, I'm currently finishing off the rest of the Mexican bean salad (well, that's only partly made so much that I froze half of it! So I'm only finishing off the non-frozen portion.). Bryant and I had BLTs with avocado and Mexican bean salad for dinner Tuesday night. First, I was excited to find this BLT recipe because we both LOVE avocado. Our first week in California, we consumed 4 avocados...4! Once I realized that, I tried to cut back on our intake a bit but they are so creamy and such a good source of monounsaturated fat and potassium.

Another reason why I was excited about the BLT is that we have Bryant's great homemade bread (recipe courtesy of my dad). Since we've been in California, Bryant has started to get into bread baking (I obviously do not complain). He's made two batches (one whole wheat loaf bread and one whole wheat cinnamon boule), both of which have been extremely successful! He's planning to bake more this Sunday because we've already devoured all of his bread.

So if you're going to have a recipe with only a few ingredients, they really should be high quality. With Bryant's bread, farmers market tomatoes and ripe avocados, it was the perfect time for this sandwich. Of course, I nixed the mayo and threw on a few Heinz Genuine dill pickles because that's just what my family does. They were great (even though I finished off half of a sandwich, I don't think one sandwich was quite enough for Bryant so just a heads up).

California BLT
Taken from: Ina Garten
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 4 slices of whole-wheat bread
  • 2 lettuce leaves (we like Romaine for the crunch)
  • 1 tomato, cut into 4 whole slices
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/2 in. thick slices
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Extra toppings: mayo, dijon mustard, pickles, etc.
-Prep all ingredients and toss avocado slices in lemon juice to prevent browning.
-Cook bacon in frying pan over medium high heat until browned. Let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.
-On a baking sheet, place the 4 slices of bread and broil for 1-2 minutes until browned, checking every 20-30 seconds. Flip slices over and broil for 1 more minute.
-On one of the slices, pile lettuce, bacon, tomato, avocado, salt and pepper and any extra toppings. Place second slice on top and serve.

I really like bean salads. They're typically fresh and it's a great way to get protein and fiber. This bean salad was no exception but a word of caution - it makes a lot of salad! I put this in a medium sized bowl and it was filled to the brim. I ended up freezing half of the bean salad (I'm not sure how well they freeze but we'll find out!) because I didn't want us to be eating beans for days (maybe weeks). At first, I thought the spices were a bit overpowering but the longer the salad sat, the better the spices melded with the dish. So if you don't like spices, go easy on the cumin and chili powder.

Mexican Bean Salad
Taken from: A Hint of Honey blog
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
    **You could also add avocado, corn or tomatoes.
-In a large bowl, combine beans, bell peppers, onion, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. Add oil mixture to large bowl and toss to combine. Allow the salad to sit for a few hours to let the flavors meld together.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Greek Chicken Skewers and Greek Salad

Our Greek-inspired dinner on Monday turned out really well with marinated chicken skewers, a Greek salad and garlic bread (since I have to have some carbs at each meal). We served it with a glass of Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck Cabernet (we live pretty close to Napa and all we've had since we've been here is Two Buck Chuck. You just can't beat the price!). It was a good Greek dinner and a perfect summer meal.

I had made the Greek salad two days in advance and I love that the longer it sits, the better it tastes. The marinated Greek chicken was good - it actually reminded me a lot of spiedies! This excitement will make a lot of sense for anyone on my side of the family reading this but not many others. Spiedie sauce is a special marinade which originated in Binghamton, NY. Chicken cubes are marinated in the sauce and then usually served on a sub roll or soft Italian bread. While we did not serve it with rolls, I did include green pepper and onion on the skewers as well. We don't own an outdoor grill but our Cuisinart grill worked just fine. The chicken stays nice and moist, thanks to the lemon juice/olive oil mixture that you brush on while it grills. For those of you interested to try spiedie-like chicken without Lupo's actual spiedie marinade, here it is:

Greek Marinated Chicken Skewers
Taken from

• 1 - 1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 in. cubes
• 1/2 onion, cut into 1 in. pieces (you could also use red onion)
• 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces
• 2 Tb. olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. pepper

• 2 Tb. olive oil
• 2 Tb. lemon juice

-Prep by cutting chicken breasts, onion, green bell pepper and red bell pepper in 1 in. pieces.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tb. olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken cubes and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
**A hint I found helpful is that if you're using wood skewers, soak them in water for 20 minutes to prevent burning.
-In a small bowl, whisk 2 Tb. olive oil and lemon juice together and set aside.
-Heat grill (indoor or outdoor) on medium high heat.
-Thread bell peppers, onion and chicken onto skewers, alternating. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
-If using indoor grill, spray with cooking spray. Add skewers, basting with olive oil/lemon juice mixture occasionally while it cooks (this helps keep it nice and moist). Rotate skewers occasionally until chicken is cooked through (It took my skewers about 7 minutes on a closed-top indoor grill).

The Greek salad recipe is courtesy of All Recipes, which my friend Libby introduced me to a few years ago. The site is wonderful! Some of my favorite things about it are getting the nutritional information for the recipes and reading the reviews of the recipe. I read enough reviews to see if there is an overall consensus on an improvement and oftentimes, adjust the recipe before I even try it. Here is the Greek salad recipe: . The main things I change from the original recipe are that I cut the amount of feta in half (I like feta cheese but it seemed too dominating to me), I use green olives instead of black and I ALWAYS forget the oregano.

Greek Salad

• 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
• 2 cucumbers, chopped
• 1/2 - 1 small red onion, chopped
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 4 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 1/8 - 1/4 c. sliced green olives (this is estimated as I usually just toss some in)

-In a medium bowl, toss all ingredients but the feta together. Let the salad sit in the fridge for a few hours to have the flavors meld together. Just before serving, toss the feta in the salad.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week's Meal Plan

Tonight, Bryant and I will be cleaning out the fridge and will have leftovers from this week's dinners (specifically, leftover crab cakes, chicken tortilla soup, pizza, chicken tikka masala and brown rice with peas, carrots and black mustard seeds...oh, and a salad thrown in there...whew!). This is actually the first time since we've been married that we're having a leftovers dinner. I think one of the biggest shocks of being married was how much MORE guys eat than girls! I'd make a dinner where as a single girl, I could expect to get several days of leftovers but with a boy in the picture, the food would be gone by lunch the next day. I don't mind at all - it's actually more fun this way because then we can have something really different each day.

Which leads me to our week's meal plan. While chicken is typically my go-to, I like to have a non-meat meal and a fish meal each week. I also throw in some red meat every other week or so (however, since we can get good, responsibly raised, local meat in CA, that might increase!).

Marinated Greek Chicken Skewers, Greek salad

Tuesday: California BLT (with Bryant's homemade bread), Mexican bean salad

Wednesday: Pecan Crusted Salmon, sweet potato fries, salad

Thursday: Spanish Rice Bake with ground beef, peas, refried beans

Friday: Easy Garlic Broiled Chicken, Baked Eggplant and Zucchini Crisps

I had to change the meal plan a little because the egg stand wasn't at the farmers market this Saturday. It's owned by a local family and their eggs are awesome - the yolk is actually orange (which, according to Michael Pollan, is a very, very good thing in terms of nutrition). So any dishes that need eggs (specifically, yogurt lemon poppyseed cake and Southwest hash) will be put on hold until after next Saturday.

Even though I couldn't get eggs, I did go a little overboard at the farmer's market (Bryant wasn't there to reign me in) and bought a lot of fruit. I mean, how much fruit can two people eat? I'll just have to get creative... I've already dried the apricots (and promptly ate them with Bryant), I'll probably freeze the cherries and honestly, who doesn't like fresh strawberries and whipped cream for dessert for several days in a row?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

First Entry

So this is the beginning of a blog. Bryant and I moved from Washington DC to California last month, courtesy of the United States Air Force, so we're starting our new life here. And seeing that the job search is ALWAYS harder than one thinks, I've thrown myself into other things...going to the gym, finding free samples/coupons online, doing online surveys for chump change (but I DID get a $100 gift card...crazy, huh?), and my favorite, COOKING.

Ever since we were married last year, I've really gotten into cooking (I mean really into it - a friend of mine found me in bed one evening, reading a cookbook) but I think it's been taken to a whole new level here. Two reasons: 1) being gainfully unemployed, I (shockingly) have a lot more time on my hands and 2) we've moved to the land of plenty! It hasn't been overflowing with milk and honey yet but summers in California give us an opportunity to have SUCH wonderful food. Plus, conveniently, on our way out to California, Bryant and I both read different books on food. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which I liked although I find myself at polar opposites with the author, Barbara Kingsolver, when it comes to religion and politics. However, we find some common ground with food. When it comes down to it, I like the idea of eating the ripest, freshest food WHILE supporting local farmers. Bryant read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. He was really influenced by the idea of eating healthier foods - foods that lack negative issues - such as antibiotics in chicken - as well accentuate the positive (did you know grass fed beef has MORE omega 3s than farm raised salmon?).

But I digress (obviously, when you get me started on food...). This blog is dedicated to food and other adventures Bryant and I have with our new life in California!