Thursday, June 30

Mint Iced Tea

For about 3 years of my young life, I lived in Atlanta, GA. Something around middle school to freshman year of high school. Living in that locale in contrast to the Northeast, a person is bound to notice endearing little cultural differences fairly often. As I typed out the title of this post, one particular thing popped into my head: the meaning of the word "tea." Tea in GA (and I can only assume the rest of the south) is served iced and sweetened. And LAAAWWDD, is it sweetened. Tea to me, should be hot. Iced tea, is not. 

Looks refreshing huh?
The best part of differences like this, is always the instance in which you figure out the disparity. I actually have a pretty vivid memory of my mom ordering tea in a restaurant and being served a sweetened iced tea for the first time. Weird how I can remember that, yet so many more useful things just seem to go right out the window (the one pictured above, of course).

This tea is made from Lipton tea bags, which cost like what? A dollar for 1 million? Fresh mint (which, if you planted any this year, you probably are like me and have more than you know what to do with!), 1 lemon, and a couple tablespoons of sugar (for good measure!). So it's cheap, and it's really fan-freakin-tastic!
This dude knows what's up!
Except he's a bird so he's also evil, watch out.
And it's homemade. And you can impress anyone that comes over with your delicious homemade iced tea!!

Soundtrack: Amazing Baby - Rewild (It only felt appropriate after the last post's soundtrack)

Mint Iced Tea (Serves 8)

6 Lipton tea bags
water (a little more than 2 quarts (so you can boil it) then 4 cups cold)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp sugar
A few sprigs of fresh mint

To start you will need 2 quarts of boiling water. (I boiled the water with some extra in a kettle, then measured out the 2 quarts into a saucepan, using another saucepan. It was pretty resourceful and awesome.) Steep 6 tea bags in water, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the mint leaves from the stems and set aside. 

Remove the tea bags and whisk in the sugar and lemon juice. Pour into a container and add 4 cups of cold water. Stir in the mint leaves. Chill until cold!

Oooh, how artistic of me?

If you are a pot, just don't call this kettle black

Steeping and measuring


Sweet and Sour, oh, the contrast!

Just chill, yo!

Sunday, June 26

Fetta-zuc-chini Alfredo with Chicken and Kalamatas

Fetta-zuc-chini? I made it up! I'm afraid to google it though, in case that proves otherwise. God, I hope it's not copyrighted. It's my word. Thanks. Zucchini takes on a whole new role (a window into editing, originally typed roll) in this dish, as a mock pasta! I've been thinking about trying this for months (after my favorite Top Chef did the same). My first failed attempt became this dish (not enough zucchini) and I gotta say, try #2 was pretty impressive! 

Fetta-zuch-ini! Can I say it enough?

I've been feeling pretty stressed at work lately, so this week I've been trying to focus on the little things in life that make me smile. If it's cool with you, I'd like to share my list. And maybe it will bring a smile to your face as well! And then I promise we will get back to food. (But some of these things are food, so it's totally relevant.)

Little things that happened this week that make me happy:

  • Fetta-zuc-chini!
  • Dresses with pockets
  • Chocolate chips that are stuck together butt to butt (the flat side is the butt, in case that's not obvious to you)
  • This little bun and the person it always reminds me of
  • Iced coffee, in a cup with a straw
  • Free Kindle books (reading The Secret Garden right now; A Tale of Two Cities which I've been trying to reread for years is next!)
  • Olive bars
  • Watching little kids do weird things and then picturing them as adults doing the same things and thinking about how weird that would be
  • The mini garden gnomes I stuck in some of the pots on my rooftop "garden"
  • The actual flowers in the aforementioned garden
  • Wedge heels, because they are possible for me to walk in
  • Clean bedrooms
  • Lime green grocery totes
  • Opening a new eyeliner
  • This little boy (I love when his face gets itchy)
  • And then, when all else fails, beer!

So, now that we are all good and happy, let's talk healthy Alfredo. I didn't use butter or heavy cream, so I'm not sure you can really call the sauce an "Alfredo." I used a technique similar to what I use to make macaroni and cheese, and whisked flour and milk into a little chicken stock, allowed it to thicken, and then stirred in the cheese. The sauce comes out thick enough to rival a classic Alfredo. This time around I cooked the zucchini IN the sauce, next time I won't do that. By cooking the vegetable in the sauce I added a lot of water and thinned it out. So I will instruct you to do it that way and that is why. Do as I say, not as I do! Also, I will add olives to anything. You can leave them out and it won't take anything away from the dish. But let's get started! You seem hungry.

Soundtrack: American Babies

Fetta-zuc-hinni Alfredo with Chicken and Kalamatas
Total Time: 30 minutes Serves: 2 (or double for 4!)

2 chicken breasts, cleaned and cut into slightly-larger-than-bite-sized pieces (scientific, I know)
3 medium zucchini
1/2 c. chicken stock, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. 2% milk
1/2 c. grated (freshly if possible!) Parmesan cheese (or similar), plus more to sprinkle
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
about 10 kalamata olives, halved
cooking spray
salt and pepper

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Spray saute pan with a layer of cooking spray and add chicken. Cook through, until no pink remains.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1/4 c. of chicken stock over medium heat. Add zucchini, lightly season with salt and pepper and cook just until it begins to soften, tossing often with tongs. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Once chicken is finished, move to a bowl and cover. In the same saute pan, heat the remaining 1/4 c. of chicken stock and add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and flour, making sure to eliminate any lumps. Add milk to chicken stock and stir until combined. Bring mixture to a boil, using a rubber spatula to scrap the bottom to avoid burning. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until thickened. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Add cheese and stir until incorporated. Remove from heat.

Using tongs, move zucchini to the saute pan, making sure to leave behind any liquid in the frying pan. Add chicken and olives and toss. Serve!

Little pieces of chicken.. creative caption huh?

Technique demo - cutting the zucchini into ribbons. Or pasta!

Must be hot in there!

Sauce ingredients... man I suck at this part tonight.

Look at you, all healthy and stuff...

Wednesday, June 22

Raspberry Sweet Potato Muffins

Let's just be honest with ourselves for a minute. Most muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. That's right. I said it. Because, let's just consider the difference between muffins and cake for a minute: ....wait... does anyone know what it is? I would expect that cupcakes should be sweeter and lighter, while muffins are slightly denser and fruity. But who here has never had a chocolate chip muffin? Strawberry cupcake? Certainly a cupcake will always have frosting right? Wrong. C'monnnn!.

Breakfast anyone?
But, all that confusion aside, this recipe makes it easy to say with certainty, "I am eating a muffin, not a personal cake for breakfast." Because these muffins are actually healthy and a great way to start the day. Promise! (PS I can't say muffin this many times and keep a straight face, thanks to this video right here). They are made with healthy grains (oat bran and wheat flour) and plain yogurt. The raspberries and sweet potato are great antioxidants and have many other great health benefits as well.

PS again, that Photoshop program I downloaded about 6 months ago... finally learning to use it! Go me! Go me! I've really recently been realizing that my camera just doesn't do some things justice, so my plan is to just learn to retouch the colors, do some background work, etc and really make you guys drool! And, if that means I can make sure I look great in every picture I have of myself, then so be it! That's a side effect I am just willing to live with. Check out my first attempt here:

Radioactive muffins! Eat one, and you could become.... THIS!
In which case, I'll have six!
So, for example, doesn't this look amazing:

Relax, your screen isn't growing raspberries
So, great things to come I promise! Like I said, it's only getting better from here, people!

And so, we are back to muffins. Let's get baking! This recipe was adapted from an original I found here, which also happens to be amazing (I like to add craisins to these). So give it a try as well! Maybe in the fall...

Soundtrack: Yacht - Shangri-La (interesting, I know)

Raspberry Sweet Potato Muffins 
Makes approximately 20 small muffins.

3/4 c oat bran
3/4 c whole wheat flour
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2/3 c plain Greek yogurt
3 tbs vegetable oil
3/4 c fresh whole raspberries 

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 20 muffin cups in trays and spray the bottoms with cooking spray.

Combine oat bran, wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine sweet potatoes, eggs, oil and yogurt in a large bowl, using a whisk. (This will look really gross for quite some time. I'm sorry - tough it out.) Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet until a batter is formed. Add in the raspberries, crushing them with the spatula as you stir.

Spoon 1/4 c of batter into each cup. Bake for 20-25 mins or until done (check with a toothpick!).

You will need to boil/mash a potato about this size!

I warned you... this part is gross!
Ok, I actually did this the opposite way that I instructed you.
I don't lead by example.

Batter up!
PS, I love this picture and had to share. From Cakespy

Monday, June 20

Smoked Mozzarella, Fruit and Almond Couscous

Ok, with tomorrow being the first day of summer my post of this recipe is probably totally inappropriate. It's totally off-season. "Apples?" you're asking, "You want us to eat apples? With dried fruit? Should I don a sweater and sip on some hot cider as well?" I mean, if ya want. It's a free country, but let's not really push it here. This recipe is really just about all the fall I can take right now.. anyone can take right now. If it makes you feel better, I made some sauteed zucchini to go right along with this. And drank iced tea. And looked at pictures of Jeremy's fabuloso vegetable garden that is about 8 months pregnant. Sha lalalalalalalala la la-ti-da! Every day can't be a cookout people. So let's be happy we live in a time and place where we can import all the off-season foods we want. Buy fresh and local. Most of the time. 

Fall? NO!
This couscous dish is more of a salad. It's supposed to be served cold; mine was served warm. But I think that played into the flavors of the cheese very nicely. So if you are eating right away, I suggest keeping the couscous warm. I suppose if you are preparing ahead of time, this would be delicious served cold as well. Served warm, this dish has great complexity. The sweetness of the fruit, the smokey and salty flavors from the cheese, and the fresh taste of parsley combine with a nutty flavor in a very balanced way. The original recipe, from this book was for a farro salad, but I subbed the couscous to be frugal. It was a great success. One more note: I live with 2 boys. They like to eat meat. I didn't make any with this; they didn't complain. Another great success.

Soundtrack: ON REPEAT. Not really. Ok, I mean, it has 217 plays as of right now. I am at least 50 of them. Did I just admit that? Oof.

Smoked Mozzarella, Fruit and Almond Couscous

10 garlic cloves (I suggest skipping to step one with these puppies before prepping the rest)
1 tbs honey
white wine
1/4 c. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
6 oz smoked mozzarella, chopped
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
2 red delicious apples
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 c. couscous (to prepare according to package directions)
1/2 c. craisins
2 tbs EVOO
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Peel the garlic cloves. Lay on a square sheet of aluminum foil (large enough to create a sealed pocket in which to roast the garlic) and drizzle with honey and a splash of white white. The garlic will roast in the oven for around 40 minutes. (This will smell amazing!)

Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients. Chop your cheese, parsley, and almonds. Chop the apples and toss in a small bowl with lemon juice, then fill the bowl with enough water to soak the apple pieces.

Then, heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add chopped almonds and cooked until toasted, stirring often. This will take between 5-10 minutes, depending on the coarseness of your chop. While the almonds are toasting, prepare the cup of couscous, according to package directions. 

Once both are finished, in a large bowl, combine the vinegar and EVOO with a whisk. Add the couscous (make sure to get to the "fluffed" stage first!!), almonds, apples (drain first), parsley, craisins and mozzarella and stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve (or refrigerate to serve as a cold salad later). 

Honey bear = still one of my favorite things ever.

Great breath all around!

Just had to take the opportunity to show off my chopper here...


Bun's like parsley too!

Delicious cheese

Everything prepped.. and then pretend you're on TV!


Wednesday, June 15

Cilantro Lime Pork Chops

Mmm. Cilantro. Mmm. Citrus. Mmm. PORK.

Serving Suggestion: STARCH!
Actually, I just keep conveniently forgetting that corn is NOT a vegetable
Jer keeps reminding me... damn him!
See here's the thing. Pork chops can be tough to cook. Because they get tough. (har har har) There is literally nothing worse than chewing on a tough pork chop, trying to cover it up with barbecue sauce, hanging your head in shame.. (yea that's what bbq sauce reminds me of... sad) So how can you make this not happen? Honestly, I have no idea. Was that a huge let down? I'm sorry. Things that I do know: every time I've ever baked pork chops they've been tough, I've had lots of luck with grilling them, bone-in pork chops are tougher to make tough (that's not going to get old for me, I'm sorry... not). It's also my theory that because I buy cheaper pork chops, they are fattier, and therefore more forgiving (like sweatpants! or Joey's thanksgiving pants). I think that's probably accurate. Anyway, I cooked the boneless chops I used in this recipe over the grill and they came out perfectly. No marinade. No sauce. If that makes you nervous, you're normal. But it worked. I shrug my shoulders. Anyway, tried and true, just don't overcook and you'll get the perfect chop. Mmm pork.

Speaking of Joey's Thanksgiving pants, it's been coming to my attention more and more that not everyone in the world has seen every episode of Friends ever. This boggles my mind and makes me feel sad for you all. BEST. SHOW. EVER. I've actually been watching some re-re-re-re-runs on TV lately... gets me every time. I love cheesy jokes though, in case you hadn't noticed. One liners, silly puns, etc. Oooooh, the great American sitcom. I miss you. Snookie: "the poof" will never be as cool as "the Rachel".

Wait, were we making something? Oh yea. Cilantro Lime Pork Chops. Tender pork. The citrus-y sauce compliments the taste of the grilled meat well (definitely cook over a grill flame where possible!). And then cilantro. Great weeknight summer dish; easy and not a lot of time spent in a hot kitchen. So let's get started! (Original recipe from Epicurious)

Just a side note about my side dishes in the picture above: 1) Brown rice and wild rice tossed with salt, pepper, scallions and juice from 1/2 an orange (meh, should've used more orange, but it had potential) 2) Corn, rolled in a little bit of butter and seasoned with chili powder (good! try this!). I'd definitely suggest making some sort of grain (rice, couscous, what have you) to drizzle extra sauce on. 

Soundtrack: Eliza Newman (catchy! adorable! ukulele!) 

Cilantro Lime Pork Chops

1/4 c fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c EVOO
2 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
boneless pork chops
salt and pepper (to season)

Combine lime juice, garlic, pepper flakes, salt, EVOO and cilantro in a bowl. Stir with a whisk.

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat (depending on thickness, check cooking times!) until cooked through.

To serve, pour 1/4 of the cilantro-lime sauce over each chop.


Chop! Chop! Chop! Pork Chop!

Finished sauce


Sunday, June 12

Chocolate Cupcakes with Banana Buttercream

Happy birthday to the most important person in my life. Besides myself, of course. No, not Jagger, I said person! Adam you win! And you win cupcakes! I hope that your birthday was as special and as much fun as it could be, since that I could not be there with you. (omg boys weekend!)

Happy Birthday to you!!
Chocolate. Pretzels. Bananas. Three things that don't really stay stocked very well around here. Some of Adam's favorites. So I combined them into the ultimate birthday cupcake. He got them a few days early since I was shipping up to Boston (to see NKOTBSB OMGOMGOMGOMG!!! and relive my childhood, but wasted this time around). Speaking of that song.. they PLAYED IT DURING THE NKOTBSB concert. And if I wasn't freaking out enough already, this was the icing on the cake.

Speaking of the icing on the cake, this frosting is damn good. Definitely my most favorite part. And there was extra. And it was glorious. Please note, that's the best part. Now go make this.

Having extra frosting reminds me of a story my grandparents love to tell about me. At probably around 11/12, I was staying at their house for a week during the summer. I decided to make a funfetti cake (doesn't funfetti just remind you of childhood?), which came out of the oven and was set out to cool. We were all spending some time under the house (think beach house, built on stilts) and I asked to go frost it. They let me go upstairs alone (first mistake) with a tub of frosting to do just that. I don't remember eating that much of it. Honestly. But they came up to check on me at some point after I had finished. They describe a pretty much naked cake with some frosting here and there in spotty areas, huge holes in the cake, etc. Empty tub in the trash. Yep, I love me some frosting. Like I said, embracing my inner fat kid in a healthier way. 

Anyway, let's begin here. Before I go grab another one.

Soundtrack: SBTRKT

Chocolate Cupackes with Banana Buttercream (and Pretzels!)

Chocolate Cupcakes (recipe from Joy of Baking)
Yield: 16 cupcakes

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup boiling hot water (just a tip - boil more water then you will need, don't boil exactly 1 cup. Seems obvious, but I gotta admit I would do it.)
1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature (check here for a tip on how to do this quickly!)
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 and fill 2 muffin tins with 16 cupcake cups. Spray with cooking spray to ensure they will peel easily. Combine cocoa power and boiling water in a small bowl; set this aside to cool completely to room temp. (I stuck it in the freezer). Meanwhile, in another small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set this aside as well. In a larger bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. This requires a minimum of 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the sides. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture, slowly. You will get a thick batter, this will seem weird. Don't over-mix. Using a spoon, stir in the cocoa until mixed though. Pour into cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean! Cool the cupcakes on a rack, then frost and decorate!

Banana Buttercream Frosting

1 large, very ripe banana
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 c butter, at room temperature
4 c powdered sugar
6 drops yellow food coloring

In a small bowl, mash the banana and stir in lemon juice; set aside. Cream together the butter and 1 c powdered sugar. Beat in the banana mixture. Then add the rest of the sugar, slowly. Once combined, add food coloring.

Add boiling water to the cocoa power. Penzy's is the best!
And yea, those are chocolate chips in the background. I needed a snack..
Dry ingredients
Batter up!

Finished little cuppycakes!

Thursday, June 9

Caramelized Onion & BBQ Chicken Pizza

Let's talk Philadelphia. It's not known for it's pizza. While it has its merits, cheesesteaks, water ice, pretzels, I don't find many of them very enticing. Fortunately we've got one really go to pizza spot, but other than I'll make my own. Thank you very much.

Oh, hello. Yum!
One of the fun things about homemade pizza is that depending on how much time you have to spare (or are willing to spare) you can vary which components you spend time making (dough, sauce, toppings) to make it just as homemade as you'd like. If you're like me and you go home early from work on a day when it's 100 degrees outside (but feels like 1,000,000), then you make everything from the crust to the caramelized onions. Or you can buy everything (Trader Joe's has a great pizza dough and sauce) and it's just simple assembly from there. Or something in between, which is normally more my style.

I must confess, this caramelized onion and bbq chicken pizza comes from the menu of an ex-employer of mine. I used to eat it on the reg until we went our separate ways. The combo of sweet and spicy on this pizza is lit-er-a-ly to die for. The balance is really... um... magical? Can I say that without sounding really ostentatious? (Can I also just go off on a tangent here and mention that ostentatious is on of my favorite words, because it's well... ostentatious?) And then cheese. And cheese is good.

One note about the chicken: I used a breast because that's what I had sitting in the fridge. You could use leftover chicken or anything else you like. As long as it's cooked and tossed in Stubb's spicy bbq sauce and shredded. Ok fine, you can use whatever bbq sauce you like. One more note about the pictures: I didn't get that many of the actual pizza (ok, just one). Sorry, I was hungry. I hope you are still enticed. You should be.

So, let's begin.

Soundtrack: Gigawatt

Caramelized Onion & BBQ Chicken Pizza

1 med. onion, sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/2 c bbq sauce (I suggest Stubb's Hickory Bourbon spicy or sweet)
1 pizza dough (store bought &prepper according to package directions or make your own! I used this recipe here and it was really good; chewy and soft, great flavor)
1 jar or 2 c. Pizza Sauce (see recipe below)
1-2 c. mozzarella cheese (depending on the size of your dough)
6 oz. ricotta cheese
salt & pepper

To make the onions: Heat EVOO in a frying pan over med heat. Add onions. Cook onions at med heat for about 15 mins, stirring every so often. The goal is to let them sit, so that they caramelize, but not long enough so that they burn. (Here is a good tutorial if you need it!) Lower the heat to low, add salt and pepper and the sugar. Cook another 20 mins, stirring every so often. Toss with balsamic vinegar and set aside.

To make the chicken: If you are starting with a raw chicken breast then cube, salt and pepper, and cook in a frying pan in some EVOO. Cook just until no pink remains. Take cooked chicken and toss in the bbq sauce. Use 2 forks to shred chicken. Set aside

The rest is just assembly! Preheat oven according to the directions on or with your dough. Flattened out the dough to make a large circle (or semicircle..). (Depending on your method of baking, you may want to bake the crust for 10 minutes before adding toppings so that the cheese doesn't burn. I use a cookie sheet and would highly recommend this. If using a preheated pizza stone, I don't believe it's necessary, but don't quote me) Cover in sauce, then sprinkle on mozzarella. Add ricotta in blobs, spreading them fairly evenly. Add chicken and onions. Bake for 20 minutes or until dough is cooked through. 

I was literally sobbing right about now!

Starting to cook...

So good. Literally a challenge not to eat them all RIGHT. NOW.

Best. BBQ. Sauce EVAAA. Except when I make my own,
then I win.

Oooo sauceeyy


Pizza Sauce (use fresh herbs where possible)

1 can tomato paste
2 c. water
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp rosemary
1 tsp  ground fennel seed
2 cloves garlic

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer until thickened. Yep, that easy. :)

Pieceout ya'll!! (get eat... b/c it's pizza!? heeheehee)