Saturday, February 25

Baked Chicken & Romaine Hearts Caesar Salad

Something is so wrong about roasting lettuce in the oven. And yet something is so right about it.

Something is so wrong about dressing the chicken in a salad and leaving the lettuce scantily clad (ooh la la). And yet... something is soooo right about it.

It's like 65 degree days in the winter. Or watching Dance Moms. Or playing QI or LA in Words with Friends. You know there's something off about it; but it's still just awesome when it happens.

I love salads. I could eat big, vegetable packed, leafy, colorful salads all the time. And love it. And I think the only issue that I would ever encounter would be the lack of warmth in the winter. Sometimes you just need a hot meal, ya know? 

Problem. Solved.

Baked romaine hearts have so much more flavor than their raw counterparts. They soften and become almost juicy. The ends of the lettuce crisp in contrast. When eaten with the Caesar chicken the flavors combine in a way that's much better than Caesar salad as it should be. Or as it USED to be.

Everything in this dish is baked on one sheet pan for easy cleanup. The most mess that you will make is in breading the chicken. Your dishwasher will thank you.

And so will your mouth....

Soundtrack: You're listening to the boiler room...

Baked Chicken and Romaine Hearts Caesar Salad
Serves 3-4
Inspired by Bon Appetit

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1 1/2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 c cherry tomatoes
10-15 pitted kalamata olives
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, halved lengthwise
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie or baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a medium shallow bowl, combine Pecorino, panko, EVOO, parsley, and 1 clove garlic. Press chicken into the breading mixture to coat (press hard so that it will stick). Lay each piece of chicken out on the baking sheet, leaving space for a piece of romaine between each. Intersperse the strips of red bell pepper between the chicken. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until panko begins to turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, give the romaine hearts a very light drizzle with EVOO. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. 

After the 15 minutes, remove baking sheet from oven. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and olives, being careful to place the tomatoes and olives in places where they will not roll of the sheet into the oven. 

Place the entire sheet back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and plate each piece of romaine with a piece of chicken and a portion of the roasted veggies. Before serving, use 1 lemon wedge to drizzle juice over the entire salad. Serve while still hot.

Saturday, February 18

Homemade Soft Pretzels

If you don't already think I'm more than a little crazy when it comes to food, I think I'm about to convince you otherwise. If you're not convinced I need help after this post, well then maybe we should be friends.

I found the best soft pretzel recipe in the world. Just stumbled upon it one day about 2 weeks ago.  I promise it has nothing to do with my being obsessed with Alton Brown or my impulse to try every recipe the man puts his name on, buy all his books, or tackle him at a book signing while sobbing and screaming "OMG I'm your biggest fan, teach me everything you know!". Nothing like that. I was casually scanning the internet for shoes like a normal 25 year old female. I swear.

Anyway, I found this pretzel recipe. It's die for. The pretzels are like little pillows of delicious salty, buttery perfection. Pretzel pillows that can be twisted or cut into many different shapes, used in so many different ways, and dipped into cheese. They put every other soft pretzel I've eaten in Philadelphia, the city of soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, to shame. Step it up Philly, A.Brown is putting you to shame.
Pretzel buns..

And this is the part where you're going to think I'm crazy. I've made 4 batches of these pretzels since finding the recipe. I'm eating one now. I ate one last night. I'm actually obsessed.

But honestly, soft pretzels are very easy to make. They're so versatile! I made bites, twists, and buns (best egg sandwiches ever). I par baked a whole batch and froze them to be defrosted and fully baked individually in the toaster oven as needed. (Homemade Super Pretzels) Yea, I'm a freak. But it's delicious.

I've tweaked the recipe a bit (I omitted the baking soda and eggwash at the end of A.B's recipe, on account of forgetfulness and someone ate my egg while the dough was rising the first time I was making these. I was so obsessed with the result, I never tried it the original way). I also don't have a stand mixer, so I adapted for hand-kneading the dough.

Soundtrack: (OMG so much fun. Dance and twist.)
Homemade Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Alton Brown <3

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (1 packet)
4 1/2 c AP flour
2 tbsp butter, melted, but room temperature

vegetable oil
plastic wrap
~ 5 quarts water
pan spray
parchment paper
more kosher salt to top the pretzels

In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar and salt. Sprinkle the yeast over top and then stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside for ~5 minutes. When you return to the bowl, it should look very different. It will be foamy and frothy and have the distinct smell of yeast (basically smells like fresh bread!). 

Add the flour and butter and stir until dough comes together. Remove dough to a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead, adding more flour as needed (if the dough gets too sticky, add a sprinkle of more flour) for about 8-10 minutes. Dough will be very slightly sticky and smooth when it's ready to rise. Shape dough into a ball.

Grease a shallow bowl with a tbsp of vegetable oil. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat and cover the bowl lightly in plastic wrap (don't seal!). Place the dough in an OFF oven to rise for 1 hour.

After dough has doubled in size, remove from oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring ~5 quarts of water to a boil on the stove and prepare 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with pan spray to ensure that the wet pretzels don't stick. Have kosher salt ready.

Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean, lightly oiled surface (not floured). To make pretzel twists, roll out 1/8 of the dough into a 24-inch rope and bring the ends together. Cross the ends, with the middle of the rope still on the surface, and bring them to meet the center of the rope with about 1 inch in between them. To make bites, roll out dough into 5-6 thicker ropes, then cut into bite sized pieces.

No matter what shape you choose, drop each piece into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to prepared sheet pan and top with salt. Bake 15-20 minutes or until pretzels begin to brown.

To make a batch to freeze: Bake for 10 minutes, allow to cool and pack into ziploc bags with as much air removed as possible. Freeze for 2-3 weeks. To eat, remove pretzel from bag and place in preheated (425 degrees) oven or toaster oven for ~10 minutes.

Saturday, February 11

Kalamata Olive Pancakes

Winter weekends are made for brunch at home.

They want you to roll out of bed and throw on a sweater and some slippers and whip up something delicious.

They definitely don't think you should roll out of bed and shower or brush your hair. (They're ok with it if you want to brush your teeth though!)

They want you to be happy.

They want you to eat fluffy pancakes while curling your hands around a mug of hot coffee. Or a good book.

I agree with winter weekends. But want you to put olives in your pancakes. Trust me.

Soundtrack: Hall & Oates

Kalamata Olive Pancakes

1 1/2 c. ap flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 c milk
3 tbsp melted butter
about 15 kalamata olives, cut into 1/4's

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Create a well in the center and add egg, milk and butter. Combine with a large spoon in as few strokes as possible. Batter will be lumpy.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and spray with nonstick spray. Drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the pan to create round pancakes, leaving enough space in between each pancake so that they don't run together. Drop 8 or so pieces of olive onto the up-facing side of each pancake, dispersing them evenly.

Once small air bubbles appear on the cakes, flip them and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Serve hot and relax.

Tuesday, February 7

Red Wine Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro & Avocado

Ok, so there are chicken fajitas. Big whoop. (90's <3)

But these have been drinking.

They started out purple. I was a little nervous.
(Don't be nervous if your fajitas are purple at first.)

This overwhelming purple-ness did reminded me of a time when I made purple risotto though. I didn't have any white wine and thought it was an obvious substitution. Wine.. wine.. same... right? The risotto was delicious, but there's something about certain colors that just makes foods weird.
Anyway, no one likes a purple risotto. Fail.


These are deeee-licious and totally not purple. Phew. A mostly sweet flavor with a hint of smokiness and a touch of spice. And so much more interesting than boring sober fajitas. But then again, so aren't we all?

Speaking of the '90's I really wish I still had my copy of the original Now. Like, a lot. But.. did you know they're still cranking those out? 'Tis true! Numero 41! Are people still buying these things? Please, someone tell me you know someone who is still buying these things.

I'm a Barbie girl. Foreva.

Soundtrack: Funk is back and boogie is alive.

Red Wine Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro & Avocado

1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. red wine
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 avocado, sliced
flour tortillas
EVOO, salt & pepper

In a large saute pan, heat a drizzle of EVOO over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Continue to saute until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, paprika, and brown sugar. Stir to coat.

Pour in red wine and stir again. Try to make chicken and peppers as level as possible to submerge in the wine. Season again with a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Bring the dish to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and continuing to cover the chicken as much as possible in the sauce. 

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas in the oven at 200 degrees for 2-3 minutes.

Adjust seasoning on chicken to taste. Serve in warm tortillas, topped with a hearty amount of avocado, tomato and cilantro.

Sunday, February 5

Simple Spicy Chicken Cattiatore

Happy Super Bowl Sunday Amurika! Dip things in cheese! Cover them in buffalo sauce! BBQ something at least...

Right about now we should all be gearing up for the big showdown. The end of the football season  and greatest food event known to February (only b/c we had to extend the football season a few years ago, before that it was a tie between National Pancake Day and various restaurant weeks). 

But I figured everyone is probably sorta bored in a meantime. Unless of course you've started drinking early or you live somewhere warm. I know I sure was; I finished my first and only scrapbook today, which I started to commemorate my first trip to Europe about 4 years ago. So, life points for me.

So I figured I'd share a recipe.

And this. Because it made me laugh.

And this video, because it's relevant and hilarious. 

But let's get on with the recipe, shall we?

 I know we've had this discussion before, over this meat sauce. Authentic chicken cattiatore ain't got no tomate-ers either. But I bend the rules because I'm an American. And Olive Garden.

Look at all those tomatoes!
This is a pretty simple chicken dish. Healthy. Perfect for pasta. Or great without pasta on the day after you eat way too much, while pretending to care about football. Delicious, with just a bit of heat (or more if you like!).



Simple Spicy Chicken Cattiatore
Serves 3-4

1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, diced
chicken breasts, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1-28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped, retain about 1/3 cup liquid
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on tastes)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1-2 tbsp grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
salt, pepper, EVOO

In a large saute pan, heat EVOO over medium heat. Add garlic, peppers, carrots and onion. Saute for 5-10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add chicken and continue to cook until chicken is cooked through.

Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano and rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes until reduced slightly.

Serve over pasta or rice or with a salad. Top with cheese.

(Told you it was simple...)

Thursday, February 2

Grilled Pork Chops with Sauteed Spinach and Caramelized Onion Applesauce

Great news!

That... and.. I woke up this morning... and I can breathe! With the help of some Sudafed of course, but all that you need to know is that my nose  functioning and life is good!

Today I feel like this:

And last time I posted, I totally felt like this:

I've been on a steady regime of Sudafed, soup (Adam totally rules and got me two orders of spicy shrimp and turnip noodle soup from David's in Chinatown which cleared my sinuses for a bit), cough drops, Theraflu and tea. And Honey Bunches of Oats. But I think the trick is definitely the Vitamin C pills that I've been taking 4/day (2 in the AM and 2 in the PM). That totally works. (Superstition?)

 It's amazing how much we take breathing for granted. 

Anyway, eating this pork chop tonight and being able to taste it was pretty awesome. So enough about me being sick. Let's get excited about grilled pork chops with caramelized onion apple sauce.

The thing about making applesauce is that you can make a lot. You don't have to spend a ton of time on this. You've just got to core the apples (Yea, you heard me. Don't peel them.). And cut them up. Boil them with some water and spices for a long time. And you're good to go. The boiling takes a while though. Caramelized onions can take some time too. So to make this a SUPER quick and delicious meal, I suggest making a batch of the applesauce on a weekend. You can divide it up and freeze the extra (individually depending on the number of chops you will serve it on) for later use (oh, how domestic of you!). Then, of course, it's just defrost and place on top of a grilled chop with some spinach!

So I'm going to give you this recipe as 2 different recipes. And the applesauce is going to make a lot. But you'll thank me later. And once again after that.


Caramelized Onion Applesauce
(double to make extra - freezes well divided into small ziplocs and defrosts easily for quick meals)

4 apples, cored and quartered
3/4 c water
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c caramelized onions (if you've got leftovers from your batch try this awesome hummus)

Combine apples, water, sugar and cinnamon in a quart saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add onions and puree using an immersion blender (or wait until sauce cools and pulse in a blender or food processor).

Grilled Pork Chops with Sauteed Spinach and Caramelized Onion Applesauce
Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops
1 clove garlic
15 oz bag baby spinach
splash of chicken broth
1 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 c. caramelized onion applesauce (see above)
Salt & pepper, EVOO

Salt and pepper both sides of each pork chop. Place a grill pan over medium heat and heat until hot. Spray pan with cooking spray and place chops in pan. These will cook 7-10 minutes on each side until done.

Meanwhile (after the pork cooks for 15 minutes or so), in a large frying pan, heat a small drizzle of EVOO over medium heat. Add garlic and toast for 1-2 minutes or until aromatic. Add spinach, a splash of chicken broth and the Pecorin Romano. Cook spinach for 1-2 minutes or until it begins to wilt. Remove from heat and continue to toss until spinach is fully cooked.

Serve each pork chop topped with 1/4 of the spinach and 1/4 c of caramelized onion applesauce.