Monday, April 30, 2012

Simple lemon chicken

It's absolutely gorgeous outside today -- 78 degrees and sunny with a just barely there breeze.  And, I won't lie, I'd rather be out there than in here typing about what you should make for dinner this week.  But I want to share this with you.  Because it's awesome.  And will give your week such a fresh start.

A lemony fresh start.

And what could be better than that?

So, we're going to compromise.  I'm going to type a little and play in the sun a lot.  Sound good? :)

This is the best lemon chicken I've ever had!  So seasoned with citrus and herbs and salt and pepper.  Incredibly moist.  And practically laughable how easy it was.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fast Friday: Sausage with tomatoes and goat cheese

As an amateur food blogger (even that seems too fancy to describe my hobby), I'm constantly learning new tricks each time I chronicle my adventures with food.  For example, the most flattering lighting is natural afternoon light.  And the best plates to showcase foods of all kinds are white.  Even better, sometimes a dish is best showcased when shot in its cooking vessel -- I love me some cast iron skillet pictures.

While the adventures are fun, they certainly don't represent every single snack, meal, or baked good that comes out of my kitchen and is devoured by yours truly.  There are recipe repeats and dishes so simple that calling it a recipe would be a crime that don't merit sharing.  Even more probable is that I consciously chose not to photograph the meal our of sheer laziness.

I'm only human, after all.

But, sometimes, in my lazy rebellion, I curse myself for not having my camera within reach.  For not planning ahead.  For not having faith in what turned out to be the best non-recipe I've made for as long as I can remember.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini cheddar, spinach & broccoli quinoa cups

I've been known to make things that are so darn cute that I literally giggle as I'm plating them.  But I make it a point to never let a food's good looks get in the way of my appetite.

Have you ever heard someone say, "Ohmygosh, that's too cute to eat!"  Just typing that out makes me twitch.  Food is meant to look at, briefly, and then eat.  Get it right.

I'm reminded of my mom who never ate two truffles I bought her one random day; they were decorated to look like a milk chocolate dog and a white chocolate cat.  Sure, they were cute.  My sweet mom was so taken with the adorable confections that she kept them in the box and never got around to eating them before it was too late.  I love ya, Mom, but I learned a valuable lesson from that experience -- I should only buy my mom ugly chocolates.

(I bet she's really excited for Mother's Day this year.  What a prize daughter I am.)

...where was I?

Cute food!  The opposite of ugly food.  Tiny little cups flecked with green vegetables and orange sharp cheddar cheese, laced with fluffy eggs and chewy quinoa.

Mean green mini quinoa cups!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fast Friday: Two ingredient ice cream


Have you heard of it?  I define reshopping as the phenomenon that takes place when one returns home from a shopping trip and unpacks the bags of new goodies.  Depending on how long the trip lasted, you may discover items you'd forgotten about by the end of the day.  You'll be all "Yessssssssssss!  I'm so glad I got [insert items here]!"

One look at my counter, and I was all, "Eww... there's nothing fun in there."  Then, after some thought, I was all, "Well, that's a lot of food, and it's really healthy."

But wait!  There was one more bag.  What could be in it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Peanut butter cup fluffernutter blondies

I'd like to take a moment to thank my loving parents for such a wonderful childhood -- I love you both.  Thank you!

I'd also like to take a moment to ask my parents a question that's been plaguing me for years: Why did you never make me a fluffernutter sandwich?

Until I reached college, the concept of this quirky-sounding sandwich had never been introduced to me.  I can remember the first time I heard the word "fluffernutter" my freshman year at Pitt.  I turned, confused by both the sound and meaning of the word, and uttered one of those priceless, "Hm what now?" with a deer in the headlights expression on my face.

"You know, a fluffernutter sandwich."

"No... I don't know.  What is it?"

Amidst gasps and guffaws, my new friends explained that a fluffernutter is made by spreading peanut butter on one slice of bread and an equally decadent amount of marshmallow fluff on another slice of bread, finally combining the two to create the most delightful sandwich you've ever met.

Can we just pause and take a moment to recognize what a gloriously American treat the fluffernutter is? Simply outstanding.

Anyway, shortly thereafter, we boarded a city bus and ventured to a local grocery store to buy fluff since bread and peanut butter were crucial college dorm staples that we already had.  Once we returned, it only took about 30 seconds before I witnessed a fluffernutter come to life for the first time.

Holy ----!  Best.sandwich.ever.  It's really a wonder that I didn't attempt to live on them alone that year.  I think it's only due to the incredibly shady and suspect nature of the local grocery store we visited that kept me away from my beloved fluff.

(Mom & Dad, it wasn't that shady.  It's not like there were flies hovering around the produce or dirt on the floors...)

Fact: We never returned to that store, not so fondly called the Dirty Bird by students campus-wide, and it closed shortly thereafter.

Instead, we hiked rode a bus even further to another grocery store to buy fluff.  And refrigerated tubes of cookie dough.  That we opened and ate on the return bus ride.

I know there's photographic evidence of those events, but I can't seem to find it.  Knowing my friends, they are sad, rather than relieved, about this.  That's why we're friends.

And because I love my friends dearly, I saved this recipe for a time when I knew many of us would be together.  Are you ready for this one?  It's a mouthful, but it's worth the stumbling and mumbling: peanut butter cup fluffernutter blondies!

Break that down.  Peanut butter cups.  Peanut butter.  Marshmallow fluff.  Cookie base.  All groovin' together to form this amazingly chewy and intensely peanut butter cookie, laced with chocolate and marshmallow fluff.

It's like a fluffernutter magically transformed into a how-could-it-possibly-be-more-delicious treat that will make people the world 'round happy.  Grateful.  In fact, making these blondies will earn you new friends.  Friends with whom you can share love of fluffernutters.

Maybe even friends who will eat a tube of cookie dough on a bus with you.

Or friends who will see a box of marshmallow Peeps nearby and join forces with you to create the most mind-boggling ultimate fluffernutter: a blondie, cut in half, with a microwaved neon Peep sandwiched between the halves.

Whether they stay on their own or are literally stuck in one place because of sugar everywhere, those are friends worth keeping.

One year ago: Crab cakes

Peanut Butter Cup Fluffernutter Blondies
(adapted from Cookies & Cups)
-makes 24 two-and-a-half-inch square bar cookies

A few notes: The original recipe called for 3/4 cup fluff, but, as you can see, I increased it to 1 cup.  Could've used even more, frankly.  Maybe try pouring half of the batter into the pan, adding some fluff, finishing with batter and more fluff.  The fluffier the better, I say.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups coarse chopped peanut butter cups or eggs (10.5 oz bag)
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Cream butter and peanut butter together. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  On medium speed add in eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Stir in your baking soda, salt and flour until just combined. Fold in your chopped peanut butter cups.  Spread the batter in your prepared pan.  Drop fluff randomly on top of the batter and swirl in with a knife.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick placed 1 inch from side comes out clean.  Don’t over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.  Cut into squares when cooled.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Portobello & Swiss cheese burgers

Because it's spring.  Because the snowflakes Pittsburgh got last week didn't last.  Because it's almost officially grilling season.  And because it's always Griddling season :)

Enough stalling.  I'd like to formally introduce you to my new favorite burger: the portobello and Swiss beef burger, au naturale

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Make your own art for under $10 and 10 minutes

Have you ever known exactly what you want but can't seem to find it anywhere?  Thus is the story of my quest to find a piece of art for our bedroom wall.

Our bedroom colors are mostly soft neutrals with one exception.  Last summer, I found the most adorable accent pillow with embroidered birds and flowers.  I fell so head over heels for it that I decided to make it the inspiration for the rest of the room's decor: I have two little silver birds perched on our nightstand.  Sheet sets for the bed are in various colors found in the pillow's design.  All that was missing was something for the wall.

I'd scoped out pictures and prints for months, but everything was too... meh.  They either looked cheap or generic or way too girly or just totally wrong.  Do you know how much ugly artwork there is out there?  Way too much, if you ask me.

Unimpressed with what I'd seen, I got the idea to find a printed fabric that I loved and stretch it out over a canvas to make my own art.  One Saturday night I was browsing at JoAnn Fabrics -- yes, Saturday night -- and I found it!  The perfect print!  Just what I'd imagined but couldn't design myself:

In two color schemes, one decidedly more appropriate for the neutral bedroom.  After a very fortunate run-in with a fellow customer who knew French and informed me that Le Jardin meant "the garden", I bought a yard of each.  I don't have a plan for the more brighter print yet.  TBD.

Anyway, this little project of mine was unbelievably fast and easy to make!  Once you find fabric and a canvas (or frame, or heck, a piece of cardboard or box lid) in the desired shape and size you like, here's the rundown:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

17 Bright brunch recipes for Easter weekend

Easter weekend is almost here, and that means most of us are expecting a house full of family and friends.  Time to relax, maybe have a little egg hunt or two, and revel in the sugar overload bound to happen on Sunday morning.

While dinner may be the hallmark meal of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think that Easter has brunch written all over it.  After all, you've gotta squeeze in some real food between the appetizer of Cadbury creme eggs and second course of Reese's eggs.

Whether you have a full house to entertain, or you're traveling and bringing something sweet with you, here are some of my favorite breakfast and brunch-friendly recipes sure to please everyone.  Plus, most of these can be assembled or even made ahead of time, so you can sit bounce around in a sugar-induced fit ... uh, enjoy your weekend to the fullest, too. :)  Happy Easter to you and yours!

Breads/Yeasted Goods:


Baked dishes:

Savory dishes:

And, to wash it all down, try my very own breakfast mocktail creation: the famosa!  Happy Easter to you and yours!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Almond pound cake

Would you believe me if I told you that sometimes even I haven't the slightest idea what I'm going to bake when I head into the kitchen?

True story, folks.

The other day, I yelled sweetly called to Matt, "Could you put two sticks of butter out on the counter to soften, please?"

Hours later, when I remembered there was softened butter waiting to party with sugar and some yet-to-be-determined friends, I searched deep within my soul to figure out what I wanted.

Sweet.  Chewy.  Almonds.  Must have almonds.

And that blessed amaretto-almond smell.  I love it so dearly.

Cookies or cake or pie?  I wanted minimal prep, so cake was an easy decision.  A little research here and there, some scribbling, erasing, and rewriting, and the most grown-up cake I've ever made was born.  Nary a chocolate chip in sight, and I was a-okay with it.

Light as air almond pound cake, to be exact!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado salad

I've noticed that Matt and I have been dining out much more often lately, namely on the weekends.  Maybe it's because, at the end of a long work week, we want a little time out of the apartment to enjoy each other's company and take a break from cooking.  Remember our Friday pizza tradition?  It's gotten a facelift in recent weeks.

This is how it goes down: On my walk home from the gym, I'll notice how pleasant it is outside -- birds chirping, a light breeze, and so much sun that a mental note of "find your sunglasses" gets posted in the forefront of my mind.  As soon as I get home, stomach growling, I'll test the dinner waters with Matt.

me: "So, what do you want to do for dinner?"
Matt: "Doesn't matter to me.  What do you have planned?"
me: "Well, nothing, really."
Matt: "Oh, I can find something to eat then.  Don't worry about it."
me: "Yeah, or... I was thinking we could go stroll for food since it's so nice outside."
Matt: "Yep, we're doing that.  You put the idea in my head.  Let's go."

An hour later, we're perched on a bench in the park, he with McDonald's or Szechuan Express, and her with sushi or Panera.  Two hours later, we're home, on the couch watching some bad Friday TV, and regretting said dinners juuuuuuust a bit. 

We finally got to the bottom of our complex of craving restaurant food on Fridays.  It's because I've used up all of the new and exciting dinner recipes earlier in the week, and Friday's menu is usually something a little less exciting like a piece of roasted salmon and vegetables or chicken tenders and broccoli.  Delicious but hardly a celebratory beginning-of-the-weekend kind of meal.

Last week we played food psychologists and nipped that burgeoning complex of ours right in the bud with a yummy and wallet-friendly Friday night dinner that was anything but boring: BLTA salads!

Monday, April 2, 2012

French onion soup with quinoa & mushrooms

Who doesn't love a big bowl of light yet comforting French onion soup on a rainy April day?  (I can't believe we're into April already!)

I love love looooooooove F.O.S. but manage to be hungry about an hour after eating it.  Soups always fill me up quickly but don't quite satisfy like a more substantial bowl of chili would.  Kinda makes sense if you think about what's in it: broth, onions, maybe a slice of bread and cheese. As yummy as it is, that's hardly enough to constitute an entire meal... even after multiple bowls of the stuff.  Trust me, I've tried.

Until now, that is.

Yesterday, I played Dr. Frankenstein in the kitchen and updated the classic French onion soup into a protein-boasting, muscle-building, will-absolutely-keep-you-full-for-hours one pot meal that still has the same great flavors as the original.

Presenting -- for the first time ever -- quinoa and mushroom French onion soup!

Colorful it is not, but delicious it damn sure is!