14 December, 2012

Smoked Paprika Kale Crisps

I have tried several variations of kale chip recipes and this one is by far my favorite. There are a couple things that make it stand out from the rest:

- The author bakes the chips at 300 degrees. A majority of the recipes I have tried are 350 degrees or above in which the chips tend to brown too fast and unevenly.
- The author "had me" at smoked paprika. If you don't know how I feel about smoked paprika you can read about it here.

Smoked Paprika Kale Crisps
2 bunches of kale
1 Tbsp olive oil
Smoked Paprika and salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the kale and tear into large chip size pieces. In a bowl, toss the kale with olive oil and use your hands to rub the oil onto the kale leaves. Sprinkle generously with smoked paprika and less generously with salt. On a baking sheet, bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges of the kale raise slightly and start to brown and are crisp to the touch. Watch it closely and check often because they will go from perfect to overdone in a second. The crisps are best when served immediately as a snack or appetizer.

03 December, 2012

Bagel Sandwich

Anybody out there have excess cream cheese laying around their house due to the holidays? I do. My husband found cream cheese on deep discount when he was shopping ingredients for his Thanksgiving cheesecake. Now I am not your "eat cream cheese everyday in every dip or every casserole you can pin on Pinterest" kinda girl. But when something is in my fridge, I do feel a certain obligation to use it. Enter the bagel sandwich weekend phenomenon. There are so many variations of this sandwich it makes my head spin and the corners of my mouth turn into a smile.
I would love to hear your creative bagel sandwich ideas. Send them to me.

Salmon & Arugula Sandwich (serves 2)
2- Nature's Own 100% Wheat Thin Sliced Bagels
4-5 oz leftover grilled salmon
cream cheese
red onion, thinly sliced
handful of arugula tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
Toast bagel and spread with a generous amount of cream cheese, add salmon, top with red onion and arugula.

Roast Chicken, Cranberry & Arugula Sandwich (serves 2)
2- Nature's Own 100% Wheat Thin Sliced Bagels
4-5 oz leftover roasted chicken (or turkey)
cream cheese
cranberry sauce (yep, straight out the can is how Mr. SP likes it)
handful of arugula tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
Toast bagel and spread with a generous amount of cream cheese, top with cranberry sauce, roast chicken, and arugula.

29 November, 2012

Simple Salmon Grilling Marinade

All I want for Christmas is a simple "go to" salmon marinade for grilling.  Every time I decide on salmon for dinner I end up spending too much time looking up my favorite food blogs, browsing Pinterest, and searching Google. What did I do last time? Why can't I remember and why didn't I write it down? Well, no more! I am going to blog about it for all the world (or a handful of readers) to see. Now next time I grill salmon I can search my own blog. And wasn't that the reason I started this blog in the first place? Oh, you thought it was for fame and fortune. Nah, that just happened.

Grilled Salmon Marinade
(marinates about 1.5 pounds salmon)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Marinade salmon for at least 30 minutes and then put on grill (estimate 350-400 degrees) for 20 minutes. It's the right blend of salt and garlic with a small hint of maple.

I failed to get a picture of the salmon.

So instead I will share a picture of the adult "Elf on The Shelf" that Mr. SP and I call "Wino on The Counter". Last year our nephew gave us a Santa suit to dress up our wine. We are waiting to wake up and find him hanging from the chandelier.

14 November, 2012

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Matchstick Sweet Potatoes and Red Onion

Before I started this blog I was hung up for quite some time on what to use for a name. I came up with Simple Plates very early on and kept tossing it around but didn't completely love it.  In hindsight, there is no other name that would have described how I cook, how I write, and how I live. And sometimes I think I need to remind my readers of why I named my blog as such.  Perhaps I should designate the difference between "Very Simple Plates" and "Simple Plates"; however, that would not be simple and so I will refrain.

I like my roasted veggies when they start getting that brown look to them. The red onion brings a suprise sweetness to this dish and smells amazing. The bit of time it takes to cut the potato into matchsticks is completely worth it and such a fun treat that can be eaten with your fingers right out of the bowl.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Matchstick Sweet Potatoes and Red Onion
(serves 2 as a side)
1/2 lb brussel sprouts
2 small sweet potatoes (one medium)
1/4 red onion

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim the ends off of your sprouts. Pull the outer leaves off and slice in half. Wash and peel your sweet potatoes and cut into very thin long matchsticks. Slice the red onion in thin long slivers. Toss all veggies with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 25-30 minutes. Eat.

02 November, 2012

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

SP Rule: When entertaining others, never serve a recipe that you haven't taste tested previously.

After I nervously committed to making a black bean and sweet potato chili for my guests, that voice in my head kept repeating the SP rule.  I am so thankful that some rules are made to be broken. The original recipe is by Real Simple Magazine adapted by Cookie and Kate and then adapted further by Simple Plates. As skeptical as I was, I am so thankful that I didn't leave out the cinnamon or the cocoa powder the recipe calls for. It was delicious!

I loved this chili almost as much as I love Halloween. I will make this chili every year for anyone who shows up to help hand out candy to adorable ghouls, goblins, skeletons and princesses. Hopefully none of the trick or treater's can identify which house slipped in some boxes of nature's candy (raisins) or they may not return. Mwahhahahahah! I'm so evil!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
(Serves 12-16)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 purple onion, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
6-7 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 heaping tsp cayenne* (gradually add more if you like it really spicy)
3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2- 28 oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
2-14 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2-14 oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken broth

Add 1-2 tbsp olive oil to a large soup pot on medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes, add bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes, add sweet potatoes and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir in spices and let saute for one minute. Add diced tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a low boil. Turn to low and let simmer for one hour. Add beans and let simmer on low for another hour. Sweet potatoes should be cooked through and chili ready to serve.
You can visit Cookie and Kate to get a beautiful picture of the chili.
Trick or Treat!

18 October, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul

Funk. I recently got caught in one. It lasted only a few days, but that was a few days longer than normal. Usually my funks go out as quickly as they come in. But this one had a hold on me and I couldn't shake it. I think we all go through these moments in our life where we are down, frustrated, irritable or sad. Regardless of how long your funk lasts or the reason for it, I think the best thing to do is acknowledge it and just let it be. Try getting some fresh air, exercising, eating healthy, but most of all go easy on yourself. You are normal. Funks happen. "This too shall pass."

It just so happened this recent funk of mine ended when I made my first ever homemade chicken soup. Coincidence? I think not.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes about 7-8 servings
6 cups chicken broth *
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, diced
1-2 cups carrots, chopped
1-2 cups celery, chopped
1 tsp salt and more to taste**
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cubed
2-3 cups small pasta
1.5-2 cups water

Add 2 tbsp butter to a soup pot on medium heat and saute onion for about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant then add carrots and celery and saute for a few minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme and saute for a few minutes. Add two cups of broth at a time to the pot and let it come to a simmer before you add the additional cups of broth. Once all broth is added, let simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes. Taste the broth and add another teaspoon of salt if needed. Add chicken and let it simmer for about five minutes or until cooked thouroughly. Bring soup to a low boil and add pasta until cooked al dente.  If your pasta expands and you need more broth add water and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and salt again if necessary. Turn off heat and serve.

*The secret to my chicken soup was the broth. My dad grilled a whole chicken the weekend before and I used the carcass (what a gross word) to make the broth. You can use a grilled or roasted chicken or even a rotissere chicken from the grocery. Once you remove the chicken from the bones, (we had already eaten the chicken but you could reserve it to add to the soup) place the carcass in a pot, cover with water and let it boil for an hour.  Remove from heat and strain through a colander. Discard bones and use broth for soup. I will never ever ever discard of the carcass again! This broth was amazing!

**Salting a soup is tricky. An under salted soup is fixable ; an over salted soup is a disaster. I started with 1 teaspoon of salt while sauteing the veggies, added a second teaspoon once all the broth was added and then a third teaspoon after the chicken and pasta was added. It could probably have used a tad bit more but I stopped there and added a pinch to the bowl after served.

03 October, 2012

Stuffed Tomatoes

Alright, Alright! I realize this is not really a seasonal post but in our neck of the woods if we are really lucky we can get a fall tomato crop. And I found these big, red, beautiful tomatoes at the flea market the other day. Get a load of that! The flea market has great produce along with the following random items I saw available for purchase:

puppies (that are so cute you almost decide to buy one, then you wise up)
chickens & pigs (that are so cute you almost decide to buy one, then you smell them)
an antique telephone (that is so cool you almost decide to buy it, then you hear the price is $100)
a beautiful parrot (that is so pretty you almost decide to buy it, nah not really)
boiled peanuts (that smells so good you almost decide to buy them, and then you do)

Enough about that, onto the stuffed tomatoes. I would use them as a side dish or a main vegetarian dish with a side of pasta or light lunch with a salad.
Stuffed Tomatoes
4 tomatoes (big and somewhat firm)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1-2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Core tomatoes. Remove the insides with a spoon and set aside. Salt the tomatoes and leave them upside down to drain while making the stuffing. Combine insides of tomato with quinoa, cheese, basil, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine olive oil and breadcrumbs. Stuff the tomatoes with quinoa mixture and then top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes on 400 degrees until breadcrumbs are browned and you can fork the tomato.

19 September, 2012

Tomato and Feta Dip

This fresh and flavorful dip is a stray from the everyday creamy, cheesy concoctions that make an appearance for pregame appetizers. Not that there is anything wrong with creamy or cheesy but sometimes we are looking for something different. A friend served us the original recipe as an appetizer with bread and we were hooked. I tweaked it a tiny bit and served it with pita chips. I believe this dip will probably attend game day at our house frequently.

If (and that is a big IF) there are any leftovers, you can throw the rest on top of pasta or chicken for a tasty lunch or dinner.

Tomato and Feta Dip
(serves 2-4 as an appetizer)
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
6 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
handful of chopped fresh basil
salt, pepper, oregano

10 September, 2012

Simple Product Review

I was recently contacted to do my first product review and I was a bit hesitant. Rounding up 10+ friends to have a tasting party seemed like a challenge to me.  And then a light bulb went off (flash) and the wheels started turning (squeak). And I realized my perfect participants were right at my fingertips everyday. I do know a group of highly motivated women who are focused on balanced intake and having fun while they sweat. Thank you to the ladies of Studio Fitness for helping me out with the review.
And while they were all willing to taste the product, very few were willing to pose for pictures. (Thank you Cindy for being my model and a great one at that!)


Frush is the product my fellow adrenaline addicted friends helped me review. Frush is a yogurt and fruit drink being marketed for its health benefits and great taste. Overall the tasting was a success with ten out of seventeen reviewers claiming they would purchase this product. My testers loved the 9 grams of protein the drink provided but about 1/3 of them were concerned with the 36 grams of sugar in the serving. (It is unclear how much of the sugar is added and how much is from the natural fruit.) The overall favorite flavor was strawberry and the least favorite flavor was peach. Many of the testers commented that it would be a good option for a quick breakfast or a before or after workout snack. While I love the 9 grams of protein provided, I personally thought the product was too sweet for my taste buds.
And in Simple Plate style I will keep my review short and simple. I enjoyed it and look forward to many more. The one thing I re-learned from this experience is how different we all are, how different our opinions are, how different our thought processes are, and how awesome that makes the world go round.

05 September, 2012

Tailgate Chicken

Regardless if your team color is purple, or red, or orange; it is that time again.
Dust off your mini Weber grill, lay down the tailgate, and paint your face.
It's football season, y'all!

And while overly passionate and nasty fans that talk too much trash bum me out; fans who welcome any team to pull up a chair and enjoy the game make me smile.  I have the perfect recipe for grilled chicken that can be enjoyed on sandwiches or cut up in bite size pieces and shared with a hungry vivacious crowd.

The best recipes are the ones where you don't dirty your measuring cups. So just go with the flow and feel the freedom of less dishes to wash. After all, we are tailgating!

Tailgate Chicken
Chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and pepper
smoked paprika*

Salt and pepper the chicken, generously sprinkle with smoked paprika, drizzle with olive oil and Worcestershire. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Throw on the grill for about 20-25 minutes.

*My brillant cousin introduced me to smoked paprika recently and it changed my life. Do not try to substitute paprika for smoked paprika. They are extremely different. Go ahead and add smoked paprika to your spice cabinet. It will change your life also.

30 August, 2012

Quinoa (keen-wah) Bites

I almost always have leftover quinoa. Extra quinoa makes a super healthy and quick lunch the next day thrown on top of greens, wrapped in a tortilla, topped with beans or stirred into a frittata or quiche. And if you are looking for fun, you could always try "quinoa patties" or "quinoa bites".

I have tried several variations but I really like the recipe below written by Squash Blossom Babies . The recipe is just my style: simple and versatile. The author puts her mixture into a mini muffin tin to bake and the quinoa comes out in these cute little crunchy bites of goodness. This recipe would work well with any veggie, herb, and cheese on hand. You could use them as appetizers, snacks, or a side dish with dinner. You could also get crazy with some type of sauce for dipping.
Have fun!

Quinoa Bites
barely adapted by SP

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped mushrooms*
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
Combine ingredients, divide into a 6 cup muffin tin or a 12 cup mini muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

*original recipe uses grated carrots

13 August, 2012

Leftovers? Throw Some Eggs On It!

Original Baked Eggs
A year or so ago I shared a recipe for Baked Eggs that I use often for weekend brunch or week night dinner. One weekend my brilliant husband suggested we use our restaurant leftovers from the night before to make the baked eggs. These leftovers just so happened to be Mexican. The brunch just so happened to be spectacular.
What evolved from there was a very tasty experiment. We love to "throw some eggs on it" and taste what happens. We have used leftover burritos and tortilla chips, pizza and french fries, Cuban sandwiches in Key Largo, fried okra in Alabama.  I will admit there are times when I doubt the outcome. And it turns out great. Every. Single. Time.
Some friends of mine recently sent me a picture of their "Greek Baked Eggs".
We are starting a frenzy!
Don't be scared.
"Throw some eggs on it" and send me a picture!
Leftover Baked Eggs
Serves 2-3 (add eggs and leftovers to serve more)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom of a casserole dish. Add and layer your leftovers.
Crack 2-3 eggs on top and break the yolk. Splash a bit of milk on the eggs to keep it from drying out. Top with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes until eggs are done.
Fried Okra Baked Eggs
Mexican Baked Eggs

06 August, 2012

Greek Pizza

SP Tip: Never ever leave a restaurant without your leftovers in a box. You can always, always  make another meal out of those leftovers. I promise!

Chops before they were turned into pizza.
I was recently treated to a night out with some friends at their favorite local restaurant. They recommended the lamb chops and while I would normally go for fish, I went for the lamb. I tell you this story not to brag, but to highlight the pizza that we made the next night with our leftover lamb chops. The recipe calls for sun dried tomato pesto and I am proud to say I followed this recipe and am so glad I did. The pesto was perfect for this pizza and its ingredients. If you are not in the fortunate position to be taken out to a fabulous dinner with lamb chops on the menu, don't fret. I think chicken would work really well on this pizza. (normally I am not a fan of chicken on pizza). I also think it would be a very tasty pizza with just veggies.

Lamb Chop Greek Pizza
No picture attached because this pizza was literally devoured.

Stay tuned this month for more even more restaurant leftover makeovers.

01 August, 2012

August: Leftover Month

Yay! It is August and I have personally just declared August as "Leftover Month." This is my way of focusing my energies on sharing with you all the fun things you can do with leftovers. I absolutely HATE (I rarely use this word) wasting food. So I have become a self proclaimed expert of turning leftovers into a tasty new dish. So let's get started on dressing up last night's dinner!

Now, I don't know about you but I don't particularly enjoy leftover seafood. When seafood is reheated it tends to give off a slight fishy taste. However, a simple solution is to eat it cold and this seafood salad is the answer. I used leftover salmon and it came out wonderful but I immediately thought this recipe would be good with shrimp, crab, or any type of white fish. You can serve the salad on top of greens for a meal or use it as an appetizer piled on a tasty baguette or fancy cracker.

Seafood Salad
(adapted from Simply Recipes with a few minor SP tweaks)
Serves 2-3 as a salad. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1.5 cups seafood
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 splash vinegar (champagne, white wine or red wine)
1 tbsp dried dill *
salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
*The dill went really well with the salmon but I would imagine other herbs like parsley, oregano, curry powder, or basil doing the job also. Play around with it and see what you get.

16 July, 2012

Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad

Simple Tip:
If the radar shows rain showers in the area, immediately head to your local farmers market.
Crowds will be slim and farmers will be practically paying you to take their produce.
My recent rainy day haul included:
12 Serrano peppers, 6 poblano peppers,
3 bell peppers, 6 ears of corn,
3 tomatoes, 2 eggplants,
1 spaghetti squash
1 butternut squash
Grand Total = $10

Now I know this seems like a random hefty haul and a dish doesn't just come to mind but that is what makes it stressful fun. The first dish that emerged is a corn and poblano quinoa salad that initially sounds like a snooze fest but turned into what I might consider my new "go to" quinoa salad. This salad can be served warm or made ahead and served at room temperature making it a great potluck dish.  Add black beans and you got yourself a healthy protein packed lunch.
Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
3 ears of corn, cut off cob
3 small poblano, diced
1/2 white onion, chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 cup quinoa, cooked
salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro (to taste)*
Combine corn, poblano, and onion in a baking dish with olive oil and cook for 20-30 minutes on 350 degrees. Add vegetables to cooked quinoa with salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro to taste. *My taste ended with about 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro.

12 July, 2012

Dance: Two years of Simple Plates

A few years ago I decided to celebrate birthdays by stepping out of my comfort zone. Two years ago I started this blog on my birthday. One year ago I moved across country so everything was uncomfortable. And this year I chose Zumba.  Zumba is a fitness class that involves dance moves and the ability to make a normally confident person feel awkward. Zumba is also a fitness class that taught me a couple life lessons:

When you miss a step, improvise until you can catch up.
If you try something that makes you smile and laugh and sweat;  do that something again.

Here are a few favorites from SP year two with promises of more to come:
Best Holiday or Group Recipe: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Most searched on Google: Creative Leftovers
Family Favorite: Grilled Pork Chops
My Favorite: Stuffed Peppers
Best Picture: Mango Salsa

Thank you to everyone for all of your support and feedback. Do you have a favorite Simple Plate?
Leave us a comment, share it on Facebook or post to your Pinterest board.

28 June, 2012

Active Refrigerator Oatmeal


June has been active. I have NOT been writing, trying new recipes, creating new recipes or blogging. However; I have been gardening, spending time with my niece, traveling, attending family weddings, volunteering my time and enjoying myself. So today I will share someone else's recipe and the lessons I have learned from 7 days with my 6 year old niece.

Refrigerator Oatmeal
A super easy, healthy, convenient breakfast that my husband has decided he cannot start his day without. The fruit and ingredient combinations can be varied. I have not tried the chia seeds that the blogger adds but she does note that they make the consistency a little thicker. I have played around with adding a little more oats and a bit less milk to alter the consistency. I make about 2-3 batches at a time as the oatmeal needs at least 24 hours in the fridge to thicken. Do NOT use instant or quick oats.

Combine 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup milk, two large spoonfuls of greek yogurt, and 3-4 diced strawberries. Shake and set in fridge overnight.

Lessons from 7 days with a 6 year old:
-If a child enjoys reading, you can buy yourself 30+ minutes of silence.
-If a child really wants a bedtime snack; even the harshest, healthiest, fiber filled cereal you have will become "delicious" to them.
-If a child likes animals, they will not spare you your fear of pit bulls when they want to pet a dog at the Farmer's Market.
-If a child has an imagination, no toys are needed. One can ride around on an imaginary horse for hours and break a sweat doing it.
And oh so many more...

31 May, 2012

Mango Almond Rice

I have diagnosed myself with "cooking fright". On those nights when it is just myself and Mr. SP I will easily knock dinner out of the park with a tasty dish we both enjoy. However, as soon as I invite a friend over for dinner or I am in charge of bringing a side dish to dinner, I freeze. My mind goes blank and I second guess myself every step of the way. What if my guests don't like seafood (broccoli, asparagus, cilantro, mango, etc). So I am currently treating this diagnosis by taking two chill pills a day (i.e. dark chocolate) and drinking plenty of water. And I think my treatment is working so today I will share a successful side dish I created for dinner at a friend's house. 

I prefer this dish served at room temperature so it is perfect for warm summer night cook outs.

 Mango Almond Rice
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice*
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
4 tsp lemon juice
1 cup sliced almonds
1 mango, diced

Heat olive oil on medium and cook onions for 3-4 minutes. Add rice and stir for minute until mixed with oil and onions. Add broth, water, and lemon juice. Allow rice to come to a boil then turn to simmer on low for about 18-20 minutes until done. Remove rice from heat and once at room temperature add almonds and mango. Serve.

*Jasmine_rice is a long grain rice that is more flavorful and less sticky than white rice. This dish can be made with white or brown rice also.

18 May, 2012

Salsa Friday!

Happy Friday friends! Today we dance. And we make salsa.
The variations of salsa are endless and the uses are infinite.
Brighten up fajitas.
Pile on top of burgers.
Stir into pasta salads.
Scoop up with a chip.
Spice up your eggs.
Somebody stop me! No, Don't.

Corn and Black Bean Salsa
(makes about 6-8 cups)
7 Roma tomatoes
4 ears of corn, cut off of cob
2 green bellpeppers
1/4 red onion
1/4 white onion
2 jalapeno's
1 14 oz can black beans
1/4 cup cilantro
juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic

Dice veggies*, add beans, cilantro, lime juice, salt, cumin and garlic. Add more salt, cumin and garlic to taste if necessary. Refrigerate for about an hour and let flavors fuse before serving.

*I cheated and used this nifty little dicer thingy at the bottom of the picture. I got it from Williams-Sonoma and rarely use it except for salsa. It saves alot of time and the uniform dice is beautiful as you can see in the top picture. I apologize I do not have a picture of the salsa and my excuse is that we ate it too fast. Believe it.

07 May, 2012

Chill Out With Chicken Pasta Salad

When it starts warming up, I start to crave cool, light and refreshing plates. Seems natural, right?
I think so; however, some of my family members don't think like this. I have been at the beach sweating it out in the sun with my family when a conversation ensued about someone craving some type of stew (gumbo, chili). And most everyone else there agreed and chimed in with "yum". So I suppose I was the odd man out because that sounded like the last thing I wanted to eat. But that is okay. I love them and they love me and we are different. That is a fact.

Lately I have been making a chicken pasta salad served chilled. It works well for big groups and leftovers are even better the next day. Below is the recipe for the ingredients I found in my fridge/pantry.  This one seems to be Italian but you could do a Southwest version with corn, black beans, and cumin or an Asian version with snow peas, carrots, almonds and sesame oil. You can go around the world with this. Create!

And report back.
What do you put in your pasta salad?

Chilled Chicken Pasta Salad
Serves 4-5 as a meal
1 lb tri color rotini, cooked
1 lb chicken breast, poached
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
14 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp oregano
14 oz can of kidney beans
1 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
14 oz can black olives, sliced

Let pasta and chicken come to room temperature or cool in fridge. Cut chicken into bite size pieces or shred. Combine pasta, chicken, and veggies. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar on top, add salt, garlic powder, oregano and parsley and toss. Top with shredded cheese if desired. Serve room temperature or out of the fridge.

19 April, 2012

Free Your Mind

Sometimes when I feel stressed or weighed down I have to take a minute to declutter. Sometimes the clutter is physical objects hanging around my home. Sometimes the clutter is negative noise from internet social sites, relationships and media. And sometimes that clutter is the internal thoughts flowing through my mind. Whether your clutter happens to be tangible or intangible, it is worth taking a minute to sift through, process, file, and discard making way for a more peaceful daily life.

After all that decluttering, you might find yourself hungry so here's a simple yet filling sandwich to recharge. It's like a Philly Cheesesteak but with chicken and made in Alabama so I could call it the Bama Cheesechicken. Enjoy.

Sourdough Bread (or bread of choice)
Red and green peppers sliced thin
Onion sliced thin
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
poached, baked,or grilled chicken sliced thinly

Marinate veggies in olive oil and vinegar and then saute for a couple minutes in a skillet. Warm thinly sliced chicken in same skillet. Build your sandwich with condiments of your choice, cheese of choice and top with lots of veggies and chicken.

26 March, 2012

Regional Differences and Spring Salads

It has been a blur of a year since we packed up our bags and moved from San Francisco, California to Mobile, Alabama. I am not surprising anyone including myself when I say these two places are different. I have thought about this post for awhile and I could write a book on the differences but I have decided on a short list for now.

1. Rain (or more specifically thunderstorms)
In Mobile we find ourselves under a tornado or thunderstorm watch on an average of twice a month. In 4+ years we witnessed thunder and lightening one time while living in San Francisco. And then there was the occasional misty drizzle that would result in delays at SFO.
2. Formality
In Mobile, when scheduling a service such as gutter installation, furniture delivery, etc., you will speak with a friendly voice on the phone who gives you their "word". If you scheduled the same service in San Francisco you likely would receive an email confirmation immediately, a text confirmation the day before and probably a phone call on the day of service.

3. Weekend Activities
In California we spent our weekends like those "visit California" commericals. Hiking, biking, running, skiing, etc. In Alabama we own a spacious home with a yard and grass. So we spend our weekends mowing, planting, cleaning, grilling, building things, and tooling around at our local Lowe Depot (a combination of Home Depot and Lowe's because to me there is no difference).
4. Space
Our previous home in California was a very cozy 599 square feet. Every single item we owned had a place where it belonged. There have been times in our new home in Mobile that I have lost my coffee and my husband and it has taken me over five minutes to find either of them. I am not joking.

5. Pace
I get it. It's hot in the South. It slows people down. Alot. Restaurants, grocery store check out lines, walkers at the park, email responses, phone call responses all come in at a much slower pace than "the city". When I was in San Francisco I didn't particularly notice that it was a faster way of life. I suppose I just fell into it and adapted. If you sent me an email it would have been returned within the hour; now you are lucky if I respond in  24 hours. Hey, it is hot here. And I am probably hanging out at a hardware store.
Spring Salads
I know I have not posted for awhile and that is partly due to home projects (see above) and partly due to technical difficulties. Below are a couple ideas for salads as I know everyone is welcoming spring which means turning off the oven, stepping outside and most importantly wearing less clothes.
Italian Salad
Iceberg lettuce mix
Green peppers
Black Olives
Artichoke hearts
Parmesan Cheese
Dried Parsley, Dried Oregano, salt and pepper
Olive oil and Red Wine Vinegar
Combine all vegetables, add cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar and toss.
MG Salad w/ Chicken & Wedges
Mixed Greens
Almond slices
Dijon Mustard 1 tbsp
Red Wine Vinegar 1 tbsp
Olive Oil 2 tbsp
Whisk mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Combine mixed greens, almonds, and dressing. Top with potatoes and chicken.

22 February, 2012

Photogenic Grilled Pork Chops

If there is one thing I have learned about photography during my blogging experience it is that meat dishes do not photograph well. Veggies are bright and colorful and have great texture. Meat usually comes out looking like a big lump of darkness. Until now. Enter the grilled pork chop.

Oh yeah. Beautiful. And they were that good. Juicy and flavorful and SO SIMPLE. And a welcome change from ground beef and chicken. They even made me do the food dance.

Grilled Pork Chops
2 thin center cut pork chops*
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 pinches of salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary**

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and rosemary in a bowl. Pour over pork chops and marinate for about one or two hours. Put pork chops on high heat grill (400 degrees) for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from direct heat and let sit for about 3-5 minutes. Serve.

*Pork chops with the bone are MUCH jucier than boneless. If you use thick cut make sure to adjust cooking time to about 20 minutes. ** The rosemary was amazing but if you don't have it or don't like it replace with either basil or oregano.

09 February, 2012

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

I love bell peppers.
I love them in all colors, shapes and sizes.
(I also love the shadows in this picture which is why I super sized it.)

Peppers are so versatile and can turn a boring plate into a colorful creation. They can also serve as the main dish. I am a true sucker for any kind of stuffed pepper but rarely find recipes that I enjoy. I recently tried a recipe from Real Simple magazine that after a tiny bit of tweaking (replaced rice with quinoa and added more spices) I consider it a keeper. I think this dish makes an impressive presentation but don't be afraid to cut it open and let the goodness escape. Do not try to keep it all in tact while eating.

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers from Real Simple February 2012
(tweaked by SP)
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup frozen corn
1 4.5 can chopped green chilies
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup cheese (your choice)
3 large bell peppers, halved lenghwise, ribs and seeds removed

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat and cook ground beef for a couple minutes. Add onion and cook until beef is no longer pink. Stir in corn, chilies, and spices. Remove from heat and add quinoa and 3/4 cup cheese. Stuff the beef mixture into the peppers and lay cut side up in a baking dish. Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, top with remaining cheese and bake until browned. Top with sour cream (or greek yogurt), salsa and avocado.

01 February, 2012

Crunchy Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad. I don't make it often. I usually wait to stumble across it on a deli menu and then I am highly disappointed in the overly mayo, celery lacking excuse for a chicken salad being served. Oh yeah. I like mine crunchy with big chunks of chicken and only slightly moist. No offense to the chicken salad my Grandmother used to make in which you couldn't identify the chicken, there was little crunch and it was very moist. I liked that one as well but this is more of a grown up chicken salad. When I asked my husband to taste test the salad his comment was "it is good but it could use a little more mayo". Yep, if my Grandmother were still alive she would likely have agreed. And I also think she would like this man I chose to spend the rest of my life with. He definitely would have liked her chicken salad.

Crunchy Chicken Salad
-Makes 4-5 wraps or sandwiches
2 chicken breasts, poached*
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
2 big spoonfuls of mayo
2 big spoonfuls of Greek yogurt
1 tbsp of champagne vinegar (or white vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

*Instead of the normal way I cook chicken for recipes I tried poaching and am in love with the results. It's so easy to do and the chicken is not dried out like it is when I put it in the oven. Also, you are left with about 4 cups of chicken broth that you can use in another recipe. It's a win/win situation for me. Give it a try! I used these instructions on Cookography to learn  how to poach a chicken breast.

25 January, 2012

Return of the Taco Salad

One of my favorite meals growing up was what my family called "taco salad".  The way we served it was more of a taco and less of a salad. We cooked ground beef in taco seasoning and served it on top of Doritos (yep you heard me) with toppings such as lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and salsa. I am pretty sure the reason behind this meal was that chips were less expensive than buying the prepackaged taco shells that other families were eating. At the time I secretly wished we had the shells. In hindsight, I am glad we didn't.

Recently I have returned to this childhood favorite but I have tweaked it for more of an adult taste.  The best thing about this dish is that everyone can fix their salad to their preference. In need of a lighter version, serve with more lettuce, less meat, and tweak your toppings. In need of a more hearty version, pile on the beef and cheese. You see where I am going with this. Go.

What is your favorite childhood meal?

Taco Salad Serves 3-4
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
couple pinches of cayenne pepper
1 can pinto beans, rinsed
Yellow Corn tortilla chips
Romaine lettuce, chopped
cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream

In a medium sized skillet, brown ground beef on medium-high heat. (Drain if necessary and return to stove). Add onion and green pepper and saute for a few minutes. Add seasonings and a tbsp or two of water if there is no liquid left in your skillet. Turn heat to low, add beans and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve in a bowl with lettuce on the bottom, crush a small handful of tortilla chips on top, add ground beef, and top with cheese, salsa and sour cream.

10 January, 2012

Blue Cheese Apple Crostini

There are many decisions to make in life. Some are superficial but then some affect our health and our future. And usually for a while we will question ourselves on whether we got it right. Doubting our decision is a very unhealthy thing to do to our minds and bodies causing undue stress. We want to use our heads but sometimes there are two many scenarios to analyze and too many uncontrollable variables. So instead we must trust our heart and our faith and go forward. Make the decision and then just keep swimming. Thank you Dory for your encouraging words and motivation.

For those superficial decisions like what to serve at a party for an appetizer, I am including an idea that came from my usual inspiration of lingering fridge contents. These little crostinis are super easy and likely to be a big hit at your next gathering. I would imagine feta would work if you are not a blue cheese fan. Superbowl party anyone?

Blue Cheese Apple Crostini
blue cheese
apple (honey crisp, fuji or gala)
olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice baguette, brush olive oil onto slices and top with a spoonful of cheese. Heat in oven for about 8 minutes and then turn to broil for about 2 minutes. Remove from oven, top with sliced apple and serve.


06 January, 2012

Spinach Turkey Goddess Wrap

2011. Yep, it's a wrap. By now we have all celebrated it or have bid it good riddance and started focusing on 2012. We love a new year. It makes us feel so fresh, so clean, so positive. Something about turning that calendar to January makes us feel like we can start our whole lives over if we wanted to. Or perhaps just clean up some things and set some new goals. As you might remember from my January 2011 post, I am passionately against setting New Year's resolutions with the word diet involved, the phrase "lose 20 pounds", or the promise to work out until exhaustion every day. However, I am a huge supporter of making new goals and aiming to add healthy habits into our everyday lives.

If I had to guess, I am sure alot of us are aiming to eat "healthier" in 2012 so I am posting an idea for an easy lunch to take to work. The easiest way to eat healthier is to take control of your ingredients. The wrap is a very simple and versatile lunch in which you can mix and match your favorite greens, salad dressing or condiment, protein and veggies into a mobile meal. The wrap below happened because of what was in my fridge and was really basic but ended up being very enjoyable. I can think of so many yummy combinations. What would you put in your wrap?

Spinach Turkey Goddess Wrap
spinach wrap
thinly sliced turkey
handful of spinach
baby Swiss cheese