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Happy Halloween!

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Halloween is the beginning of the most festive time of year. It really marks the beginning of Fall and the descent into the holiday season.  What is so fun about Halloween is that you get to dress up and go to/host a party or two and act like a kid again.

This year, we hosted a party, and I had a field day making Halloween inspired snacks.  So many of what I found online were sweet snacks, and I am definitely more of a savory person. I found a few of these ideas online and created the others, and almost all of them only require assembly.

These are really fun to do with kids also, so if any of you are having a party tonight, you only need to make a quick trip to the groceries!

We started with black olive bat pizza bites! The frozen bagel pizza bites only require warming in the oven, and all you need to do is cut a few pitted black olives in half and slice one half leaving the other whole to make these little guys! They’re delicious and fun!

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We then went for the finger pigs in a blanket.  These are also in your frozen aisle at the  grocery store, and all we needed to do was attach a slivered almond to the front to make it look like finger nails! So creepy, but the perfect spooky snack! Feel free to use a little ketchup to make them look bloody!

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Halloween stores have so many fun little props, and we bought a few fake fingers and eye balls and different things to spread around the house. But first, we used them in our “human” meat platter with various salami, prosciutto, and other tasty meats. I did this meat platter on a cake dish so that we could have it hanging off the side a bit to make it even creepier!

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Cheese balls are also a great party snack, and can more or less be molded into anything.  This one is a little less scary, but really cute none the less.  I rolled goats cheese in black sesame seeds to make a large cheese spider! I didn’t have pipe cleaners for legs, so I took advantage of the fact that I had straws. It’s always great when you can utilize what you have to do these things, so you don’t have to make too many trips around town!

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And finally the pièce de résistance, were the devilishly deviled eggs! These are the only thing requiring any amount of cooking and the recipe will follow.  These are Sriracha deviled eggs with red pepper horns! Not only were they delicious, but once assembled I could not stop giggling at how cute they were!

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What you need:

  • 12 hard boiled eggs
  • 4 tsp of Sriracha
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 tsp mayonaise
  • 1 lime juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper

After you have hard boiled your eggs, let them cool, then peel and halve them. Remove the yolk and reserve the whites.

Smash your yolks in a bowl and mix in the Sriracha, dijon, mayo, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

Put the mixture in a plastic bag and cut the corner so you can squeeze it into each egg white half.

Take strips of your red pepper and cut out your devil horns and apply them to each egg.  It does take a few minutes to do this, but the result is so worth it!

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These eggs have a little kick to them, but were really tasty!

Needless to say, have fun with your Halloween plans.  We don’t get too many chances as adults to act like kids again, and it is so important we seize these opportunities when we get them! You and your whole family will enjoy these snacks, and this way you can keep your kids from eating too many sweet treats this Halloween season!

 

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Tzatziki

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As promised, today was going to be tzatziki day! Tzatziki is a super delicious Greek condiment of sorts.  It is predominantly strained Greek yogurt with seasoning and cucumber.

This is a really healthy snack, like hummus, and it is packed with protein with the added freshness of the cucumber and lemon juice. It’s great with fresh vegetables as a snack, or it can compliment chicken, fish, lamb, or beef really beautifully.

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What you need:

  • 1 cup of strained Greek yogurt (I used Fage, but there are a few brands out there)
  • 1/2 cucumber peeled
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Shred your cucumber on a box shredder over some paper towels.  It is important that you soak up some of the water in the cucumber or else your tzatziki will be really watery.

Pat the top of the cucumber with more paper towel and you will see it soak through.  I would do this a couple of times to get as much of the water out of the cucumber as possible.

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Mix together your yogurt, cucumber, minced garlic, and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

That is all you need.  Some people will tell you to add dill or other spices, but this is the perfect flavor balance without overpowering the tart yogurt and lemon juice or the sweet cucumber.

Enjoy!

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Marinated Chicken Pitas

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James and I have always had a soft spot for Greek food.  Our parents met for the first time over a decadent, booze filled night at a phenomenal Greek restaurant in NYC. My memories are fuzzy, but I am overcome with warmth when I remember that night. The food just kept coming, the drinks never stopped being poured, and everyone was in such a great mood!

Even before this epic evening, we had been visiting this Greek restaurant for at least a year, and it had become one of our favorites. What we love about Greek food is that it is full of flavor, but over all very healthy, so you don’t feel so guilty overeating! Like a lot of mediterranean food, it is fresh meats, fish, and veggies cooked lightly in olive oil and seasoned perfectly.

I wanted to re-create one of our favorites, which is the marinated chicken pita. This recipe is kind of a hybrid between Greek and Middle Eastern marinated chicken, but it was really delicious, and went perfectly with our homemade tzatziki.

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What you need:

  • 1 lemons, juiced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • pita bread
  • romain lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • tzatziki

Put your chicken into a large plastic bag and add in your seasoning and lemon juice and olive oil.  Let it marinate for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, and heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

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Cook for 5-6 minutes per side, then slice up your chicken on the diagonal.

Cook for a further 5 minutes to get slightly crispy edges.

Build your pitas with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and tzatziki as desired, and enjoy!

Feel free to squeeze over a little extra lemon when you finish.

Tomorrow we will feature our recipe for tzatziki, but until then, to quote the resident crazy person on tv, “I will keep you in suspense!”

Buen Provecho!

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Bacon Brussels Sprouts

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Because everything is better with bacon!

Growing up we all had pretty terrible experiences with brussels sprouts.  This is because most often our mom’s or grandma’s boiled them to kingdom come! An interesting fact about brussels sprouts is that when they are over cooked – they emit a sulfurous smell and taste – YUM!!!  This is the charming scent and flavor we all thought brussels sprouts tasted like.

Then sometime around 2014, a revolution in the world of cruciferous vegetables occurred and people tried sautéing and oven roasting sprouts and finding totally new, delicious results. I can now say that well cooked brussels sprouts are one of my favorite things.  They are really good for you, and when done right, really tasty! By adding bacon, well you can get just about anyone to agree to trying them!

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What you need:

  • 4-5 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 1 stalk of brussels sprouts or two cups
  • 2 tbsp sherry wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

Cut the base off of your sprouts and cut them in half.

Chop your bacon up into small pieces and sauté it in an oven safe pan.

When your bacon is nice and cooked, but just slightly before crispy, drain out some of your bacon grease, and add in your halved sprouts.

Toss in the sherry wine to deglaze the pan and scrape off any fond from the bottom and then put it in the oven for 15min.

Sprouts should still look quite green with some of the outer leaves slightly browned and crispy. They should still have a firm texture, but a fork should go through them easily.

Season with salt and pepper as you want and enjoy with our dijon wine pork chop or a simple grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

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Weekend Adventures

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Well it is officially fall here in New England, and we have been blessed with some really nice weather, if a little chilly.  One thing that is a fall favorite up here is apple picking and visiting pumpkin patches.  This is a VERY family oriented activity, and most people take their kids.  We haven’t started our extended family yet, so for now, our rescue pup Kuda gets to go on fun adventures!

We drove about half and hour Northeast of our home to visit Silverman’s Farm.  They have hay rides, apple picking, a pick your own pumpkin ride, and so many other fun things for you to enjoy. It was really great to get out of town see some of the beautiful Connecticut countryside.  We even bought about 15 different pumpkins and gourds to decorate our home with!

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Kuda really went crazy with all of the new smells and kids everywhere.  As evidenced in this photo, she had her nose to the ground for a good part of the time we were there. There was hay, corn, pumpkins, apples, kids, and all kinds of new smells for her!

This weekend was less about eating and more about activities, but I did manage to squeeze in a really tasty blacked salmon dinner.

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What you need:

  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I used more, but we love spice)
  • 1lb salmon
  • 1 package green beans
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Mix your spices together and rub them on your salmon.  Put salmon in the fridge and let it set for 3o min.

Put your rice in a small pot with the chicken stock and olive oil and bring to a boil.  Cover and lower heat to low/simmer and cook for 20min.

In a flat pan put 1/4 inch of water in the bottom of the pan below your green beans. Cover and cook for about 5-7 min to steam your green beans to desired level of doneness. Once cooked, drain and season.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Cook your fish in your heated oven for 10-15 minutes, to desired level of doneness.

Plate everything and enjoy!

This was so fresh and light after a long day of running around!

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Chicken Artichoke Cast Iron Skillet

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Well all things come to an end.  Our weather has begun to return to more appropriate fall temperatures, and we are even getting a little rain. This dreary weather puts you in the mood for delicious, warm foods.

Two of my favorite wedding presents were our cast iron pan and our Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven. These pans are heavy duty, and last a lifetime! They conduct heat beautifully, and man are they durable.  When I use them, the recipes turn out so well.

This cast iron chicken artichoke casserole is so fresh and light and is the perfect dish for those cold fall nights.

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What you need:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 pound of roasting potatoes, boiled for 10 minutes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and drain your artichokes.

Pre-heat your oven to 450F.

Heat your cast iron skillet to high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and sear your chicken thighs for 7 minutes.

Remove them from the pan onto a plate and reduce heat to medium.

Add in your second tablespoon of olive oil and your shallots, garlic, and capers and cook for 2 minutes.  Add in your champagne or white wine vinegar and the drained artichokes.

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Finally add your chicken back to the pan and top with lemon slices and your boiled potatoes.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove and sprinkle on the fresh oregano.  If you can’t find fresh oregano, you can use rosemary or thyme as a substitute.

This is so tasty and warm, and it’s a really healthy dinner option for the week.

Enjoy!

 

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Vietnamese Sliced Steak Salad

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We have had some seriously stunning weather this week, and sadly the warmth is getting ready to leave us, but as it is 82 degrees today, I made a really tasty salad for dinner. The fun part of salad is that you can add anything to it and really change the taste. We do lots of Mexican inspired salads, but I had a Vietnamese salad a few months ago that I really loved, so I decided to recreate it.

I’ve always approached salads in the “everything but the kitchen sink” method. Going back to that very tall man I feed every day, it is important that salads are heathy and filling. So I love loading salads with tons of veggies and extras to get that heartiness without adding too many calories.

I also love adding herbs like chives and mint to salads because it adds a fabulous dimension to an otherwise simple meal.

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What you need:

  • Lettuce
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Shredded Carrots
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 chopped chives
  • 1/2 package of vermicelli noodles
  • 1lb of steak seasoned (cut of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop up all of your veggies in cubes or however you like them in your salad.  Thinly slice your jalapeño, and add in your mint and chives.

Set a pot of water to boil and cook our vermicelli noodles for about 3 minutes.

Season your steak with salt and pepper and grill outside or on a grill pan for about 2 min per side if thinly cut like mine.

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Mix all of your dressing ingredients together in a small jar or something you can shake it in.  Taste it, and add vinegar or salt and pepper to get desired flavor.

Once your noodles are cooked, rinse them in cold water to keep them from sticking. Then using a knife or scissors, cut them into thin strips versus long noodles.

Remove your steak from the grill let it cool before slicing it up to put on top of your salad.

Add the noodles and steak to your salad then top with dressing and toss.

This salad is so refreshing and flavorful, and you will be nice and full without the guilt!

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Hot Italian Sausage Pasta

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So yesterday was #nationalpastaday, so obviously we had to celebrate! We have an amazing local butcher nearby that makes the most amazing sausages, so I thought I would buy a spicy Italian sausage to use as the base for this dish. This was a total culinary experiment, and it was delicious!

Families – again, this is a great dish to sneak in a leafy green!  I added kale to this because it had the flavor I was looking for, but if you want something a little lighter, you could add spinach, collards, or chard.

We love pasta, and I feel like I start every blog with an emphatic statement like this, but by now you can tell, we just love food! We don’t love cream sauces or creamy pastas, so in general our pasta dishes are pretty healthy and balanced, this being no exception.  You could sub in a veggie noodle here or a gluten free pasta, but for now we will leave the recipe as it is.

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What you need:

  • 1lb hot Italian sausage (removed from the casing)
  • 1-2 portobello mushrooms cubed
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 3 garlic gloves minced
  • 1/2 bunch of kale removed from the stems and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of white wine (chardonnay is a great option)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of pecorino Romano cheese
  • Pasta of your choice

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta. We used trotolle, but feel free to use any type of pasta you like.

In a large non-stick pan, add a small amount of olive oil and warm over medium-high heat.

Add in your shallot and garlic and cook for 2-3min until soft.  Add in your sausage meat removed from the casing and break it apart while cooking for about 10 minutes.

Add in your portobello mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add in your kale and wine and cook down for about 5 minutes.

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Finally stir in your pecorino.  If your pan is big enough add your cooked pasta to it, if not, mix your hot pasta with your hot sausage mixture in a large bowl.

Reserve some pecorino to sprinkle on top for serving.

It’s best to drink the same wine you added into the pasta to really bring out the flavors! It’s even better to drink this wine while cooking!

Enjoy!

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Miso Glazed Salmon

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Miso glazed anything is pretty tasty, but this delicious Japanese paste goes best with fish or in soups. We try to eat fish or shellfish twice a week in some form, and we are so lucky that we have a lot of great shops near by to get really delicious fresh fish. I try to learn lots of different ways to cook it to, so eating fish is always fresh and delicious.

Salmon is basically a super food.  Not really, but it is so good for you – full of healthy fats and omega 3s. One of my best friends welcomed her first child into the world recently, and healthy fats are so good for new mothers breast feeding. I made this dish for her, and it’s such a great option to pair back to rice, noodles, or our otsu noodles from the other day!

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What you need:

  • 14 oz skin-on salmon fillets

Marinade

  • 2 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 Tbsp sake
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil

Mix together your marinade in a bowl.

Put your salmon filets in the bowl or if you have a convenient little package like I did, you can use that to soak the filets in.

Let them marinate for 30min-1hr covered with plastic in the refrigerator, but not longer as miso is quite strong: you don’t want to overpower your fish.

Broil in the oven on a sheet of parchment paper for 7-12min depending on your desired level of doneness and thickness of your salmon filets to get a crispy glaze on top.

Garnish with sesame seeds and chives if you want, or leave them as they are.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday Taco Salad

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Well it is Tuesday, so we all know what that means… TACO TUESDAY!  This week it is a tortilla-less taco Tuesday! Say what?! That’s right, cut out the tortilla for a healthier option – taco salad!

This is a family favorite from childhood.  Mom used to make this probably once a month or so, and it was always a crowd pleaser. There are so many ways to make it and so many ways to eat it, but this one is an ode to my mom’s version.

You may have already guessed, but James also enjoys this a lot! I am sure by now, for those of you that don’t know him, you have figured out he likes pretty much everything! I am so lucky I can make anything I want and he is likely to love it!

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What you need:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • package of taco seasoning
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 small tomatoes or 2 large
  • 1 romaine lettuce head
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeño (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop up your lettuce and two of the three tomatoes for your salad.  Top the salad with the black beans.  If you want, you can also add corn, but we didn’t this time.

Slice half of your onion thinly, saving the other half for another day. Slice your bell pepper thinly. Slice the final tomato into strips, and finally slice your jalapeño thinly.

In a medium pan, put about a teaspoon of canola oil and warm over medium heat.  When the oil is hot add in your onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).

Add in your sliced tomato and then your ground beef.  Make sure the break the beef apart. I then add in about half of the package of taco seasoning and season with salt and pepper.  I find the whole package to be overwhelming and too salty. If you want to add more flavor, add in some garlic powder and cumin, that way you don’t have too much salt.

Cook your beef through and remove from the heat.

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Serve your salad with your beef and sliced jalapeños on top.  We like to add in some Mexican rice, but this is optional.

Our family tradition is to dress it with thousand island dressing, and as odd as it may sound, it is seriously delicious! You can use salsa as dressing, lime juice and olive oil, or just about anything else you like, but at least give the thousand island dressing a chance 🙂

Enjoy!

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Chicken Tomatillo Chili

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It is officially chili season.  We have been very lucky to have some beautiful weather in the 70s during the day and 50s in the morning, but slowly but surely the temp is dropping. This weekend we had a ton of rain and a cold front that blew in, so I decided it was time to make my first chili of the season.

Chili is such a fun dish.  You can make it anyway you want.  You pick your protein, your base, your liquid, your veggies, and any combination of things can work! Traditional chili is beef based, but you see it now with turkey, all beans, chicken, etc…

Enchiladas Verdes with chicken are probably James and my favorite thing! We love burgers and a lot of other foods, but Enchiladas Verdes are number one! This chili is inspired by our favorite dish made into a soup. Oh and for you parents out there, chili is an awesome way to sneak in some leafy greens!

What you will need:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, cubed and seasoned (ancho chili, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper)
  • 1 white onion finely chopped
  • 1 can white beans drained and rinsed
  • 12-16 oz tomatillo salsa (homemade or store-bought)
  • 2-3 cups of chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven heat a tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat.  Add your chopped onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add in your minced garlic and cook for a further minute until fragrant.

Add your seasoned chicken cubes to the pot and cook through. It is very important your chicken is fully cooked before you get to the next steps.

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Add your white beans, your tomatillo salsa, and your chicken stock and stir to mix them all together.

Now you can relax, let the chili stew on low for about an hour stirring every now and again so the flavors can merge and really come together.

Just before you take it off the heat, remove the chard from the stems and chop the leaves roughly.  Add them to the pot and stir. The fresh green adds some brightness and freshness to the chili.

Finally top your chili with whatever you want!  We did some shredded Oaxaca cheese, chopped avocado, Mexican crema, and tortilla chips.

We were warmed from the inside out! This dish was so delicious, and this recipe is enough for 4 people, so if you have a smaller family, you get leftovers!!!

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Traditional Potato Salad

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Potato salad is kind of a Southern staple at any barbecue, and there are probably a million ways to make it.  This version is definitely more on the traditional side, but another day I will show you another version I make without mayo.

Potato salad is a great side to make for a lot of different things.  It’s perfect for potlucks, picnics, and week night dinners.  It does not need to be heavy, and if you want to sneak in some chopped spinach, kale, or chard, it’s a great way to sneak in those veggies your kids think they don’t like!

We had this version the night I made bbq kale, and it was a great pairing. I am not the biggest fan of celery, so I left this out, but if you love it, go ahead and add it in!

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You will need:

  • 1 lb mini yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • paprika to sprinkle over

Wash your potatoes carefully before cutting them up.  Put them in a large pot of warm, salted water and bring to a boil until done and you can stick with a fork easily.

While the potatoes boil, mix your mayo, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper in another bowl. If you find this a little bit sharp, add some honey or agave to cut the acidity from the vinegar and mustard.

Drain the potatoes and put them into a large bowl.

Add the mayo mixture to the bowl and toss thoroughly to coat.

Sprinkle with paprika and enjoy!

If you are adding any veggies to this just add them in with the mayo mixture before you toss together.