25 June, 2011

Grilled Chicken Pitas with Tzatziki Sauce

For most of our lives we settle into a routine and mill about in a very comfortable space. However, there are some situations we can expect to go through  that will cause us to become uncomfortable. If you ever move to a new place you have to go through a transition phase that can feel quite awkward. You may have to find a new job, new doctors, new friends, a new home. No one enjoys being uncomfortable but most often we come out on the other side with a different view of ourselves. A routine can rob us of a new favorite food, restaurant, workout, brand of shoes, best friend. If you have been comfortable for a considerable amount of time I urge you to do one thing to break out of this zone. Being challenged is what pushes us along on our journey and teaches us about ourselves and others.

Last week I tried making a dish I had never made before. I am in love with tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is a yogurt based dip or condiment served at Mediterranean restaurants with pita bread, veggies, or on top of skewers. Think of it as salsa to Mexican food. I tried it. It was uncomfortable. It was simple. It was great.
Herb marinated chicken- Serves 4
1.5 pounds chicken breast
olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
salt, pepper
pita bread
fresh spinach, sliced red pepper

2 medium cucumbers
1 clove garlic
3 cups of yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp dill
*This recipe makes way more than you need so you may want to cut it in half

Wash, peel, and scoop out seeds of two medium cucumbers. Chop and salt the cucumbers and let them drain for 30 minutes. (Seeding and salting the cucumbers is important to eliminate water so that you have a thick consistency). Add garlic, dill, and cucumbers to a food processor and chop finely. Add mixture to yogurt and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Cut chicken into one inch cubes and marinate with olive oil, thyme, oregano, cumin, and salt. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, skewer and then grill for 15 minutes or until done. Grill pita until warm then top with spinach, red pepper, chicken and tzatziki.

15 June, 2011

Slaw dogs with Mango

I do not get many requests from Mr. Simple Plates. He eats what he is served and hopes it's still hot after the photo shoot is done. However, the other day while we were in a checkout line at the grocery store he pointed to a magazine with three fabulous looking gourmet hotdogs on the cover. They each had a different colorful topping and I had to admit it was something I hadn't done before. I took some time searching for a sausage to use with the least amount of ingredients and the most natural ingredients. I also made an effort to serve a light salad topped with shrimp the night before and a vegetarian dish the night after. Balance. I topped the dogs with broccoli slaw and mango and served with a side of sweet potatoes. The sweetness of the mango with the salty sausage and the crispy slaw turned out to be a great combination. However, if I am going to recommend serving your family hot dogs I have to ask that you follow some rules:

*DO NOT use "wieners".
Yeah, you know the pink ones that are made up of the stuff that is left over in a meat packing plant. Do not use those.Try to find a good quality, natural sausage with as few ingredients as possible. A homemade deer or pork sausage would be perfect for you hunters out there. For you vegetarians, you can use a soy dog.

*Create a healthy topping.
Broccoli or cabbage slaw, mango, grilled pineapple, sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers. Use your imagination and use some color.

*Serve a vegetarian dish immediatly following the next night

Agreed? Great. This could be a really fun dish to serve for your Fourth of July cookout.

Natural Sausages (you promised!)
Whole wheat hot dog buns
Broccoli slaw
1-2 tbsp of Mayo
Mango, diced

Combine broccoli slaw or cabbage slaw (found in the produce section with the packaged greens) with 1-2 tbsp mayo, salt and pepper. Dice your mango into chunks. Grill your sausages and top with mango and slaw.

03 June, 2011

Surviving Summer with a Toaster Oven

For the last five years I have spent my summers rolling around in the San Francisco fog with my rain boots and down vests while enjoying a steaming bowl of oatmeal. All the while I was feeling sorry for my family as I read their cries for help on Facebook. This year I join them in their plight as I try to find creative ways to adjust to the humidity and keep my core temperature cool. You know you are in the South when you it's 90 degrees at 8pm, you drive around for ten minutes looking for a shady parking spot and you take a minimum of three showers a day.

In our frugal home we made a decision to take precautions to keep our apartment cool and keep our electricity bill low. When this decision involved purchasing a toaster oven to avoid heating up our space with the conventional oven I was definitely on board.  While half of my household expected this new bundle of joy to lower our electricity bill, the other half of our household expected  some wiggle room in the electricity budget to keep the AC lower at night. Whatever the reason, I have fallen in love with this new addition. I originally imagined that after a few uses it would be sitting in the corner growing dust and gathering keys, mail and anything else that needed a place to land. I was wrong. (You hear that happy husband, I was wrong. In writing. For all the world to see). This toaster oven has assisted me in roasted veggies, pizzas, open face sandwiches, toast, baked eggs, baked fish, chicken, meatballs and banana nut bread. I am constantly impressed at its abilities and five minute preheat regardless of the temperature. Below is an egg recipe and some pictures.

Wherever you may live, whatever the temps might be, I hope you enjoy your summer.

Baked Eggs-Serves 2
3 eggs
1 tbsp milk
3/4 cup diced potatoes, microwaved for 2 minutes
1/2 red pepper, diced
handful of cheese
salt, pepper
Grease a small casserole dish and layer your veggies of choice at the bottom. I used potatoes and red pepper but any of your favorites will do. Make three small wells to crack your eggs in and add salt and pepper. Pour a splash of milk on top each egg. This will keep them from drying out. Sprinkle the top with cheese. Cook for 35 minutes or until egg whites are done completely.

Action shot.
Homemade pizza fresh out the oven.

Yep, it even does meatballs.