August 29, 2012

Eating Out vs Home Cooked

After this weekend, I've put some thought into eating out vs home cooked meals.  On Friday night Michael and I went out to dinner.  Then we were in NYC for the weekend, living the city life and eating out breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We were there to run in a 5k Color Run with some friends, which was definitely not your traditional race.  It was more like a 9am rave of paint, music, and good memories!

While in the city we ate out at some amazingly good restaurants.  I'd have to say my favorite was a Mexican taco bar.  I had shrimp tacos, which got me thinking of duplicating the recipe myself.  Since Michael decided on salmon for dinner on Monday night, I thought it was the perfect time to recreate the tacos that I had on Saturday since they were still fresh on my taste buds.  Although I didn't prepare the dish as a taco, next time I made it, I will serve it with some shredded lettuce and a whole wheat soft taco shell.

Shrimp Tacos
  • 10 large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1/4 red pepper
  • 1/4 cup mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  1. In a large bowl or freezer zip-lock bag, combine all ingredients and mix so vegetables and shrimp are evenly coated
  2. Cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring a couple of times
  3. Preheat grill for medium heat
  4. Thread shrimp and vegetables onto skewers
  5. Lightly oil grill grate
  6. Cook skewers on preheated grill for 2/3 minutes per side, until shrimp is opaque

For tonight's dinner, it was all about cleaning out the refrigerator.  We had some zucchini and tomatoes that I wanted to use.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided it'd be a great way to use my veggies and pair with a nice piece of grilled chicken.  I was skeptical about getting the approval from Michael because he's not a huge fan of zucchini and tomatoes, but I knew that I could make up for it with the rich, potato gnocchi.  I was right!

Gnocchi with Zucchini and Tomatoes
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen gnocchi
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2  medium shallots, chopped
  • 1 pound zucchini (about 3 small), very thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook gnocchi according to package instructions until they float, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add shallots and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes, salt, nutmeg and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the tomatoes are just starting to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and parsley. Add gnocchi and toss to coat. Serve immediately. 
Adapted from: Delish 
Don't get me wrong, I love eating out and having somebody else do the cooking and dishes, but after having every meal out for 2 days, I realized how lethargic it made me feel.  It was nice to come home and get back into the kitchen where I can control the ingredients.

August 24, 2012

First Post!

So I've shared with a few people that I was working on creating a food blog, so here it is! Keep in mind that it's a work in progress and I know that the posts and photographs will be getting better, but for now,I want to start sharing my life through my food experiences!

I recently moved into an apartment with my boyfriend Michael.  To thank our families for helping us with our move, we decided to host a dinner party for them.  I spent all day slaving over the meal, but it was well worth it because everybody enjoyed everything! 

I'm always all about fancy new drinks to accompany a meal.  This was my first time making this Peach Sangria and, let me tell you, I will be making much more of this drink! Give me a good book, the beach, and a pitcher of this sangria and I'm golden!

Sparkling Mango Peach Sangria
1 pitcher makes enough for 4 full glasses

  • 1 bottle sparkling white wine (I use Prosecco)
  • 1/2 32 oz bottle of Mango/Peach Nectar
  • 1 cup frozen peaches or mango
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries  
  1. Pour all ingredients into a pitcher and serve
  • I use fresh fruit and keep the drink refrigerated.  I like when the alcohol has time to be absorbed by the fruit.
Adapted from Baked Perfection

Served with this fabulous sangria, I made guacamole, which was a huge hit with everybody! I served it on my DIY three-tiered-stand with carrots and celery sticks and my version of my mom's dill dip.

Guacamole Dip
  • 3 Haas avocados (halved, seeded, and peeled)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used cherry tomatoes and didn't seed them because I bought in bulk for another recipe)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat
  2. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated
  3. Using a potato masher, add salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash
  4. Then fold in the onions, tomatoes, and garlic
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice
  6. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour then serve with chips
Adapted from Food Network

Creamy Dill Dressing 
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (any brand will do)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half cream
  • 3/4 tablespoon dill weed (original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon but I love the flavor so I add more)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, stir until smooth
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use 
For a while, I had a tub of this dill dip in my refrigerator.  I use it with fresh veggies, on salads, and most recently, on spicy sweet potato chips that I made.  The longer the dip sits, the more the flavors mold together and the better it gets!

But enough rambling, back to my family dinner.  For the main course I made blackened chicken with avocado sauce, southwest quinoa salad, and fresh corn on the cob.  Since I never made the chicken recipe before, Michael and I did a "test run" about a week before.  I'm very glad we did that because I defiantly made some modifications to the original recipe.  Strangely, we do not have a fan above our stove in our apartment.  The poor ventilation, mixed with the strong spices, caused our kitchen to become a peppery inferno!  We didn't want that to happen when we were cooking for our families, so I modified the recipe and decided to bake the chicken instead of cooking it on the skillet for the whole time.  Feel free to skip the baking and cook it on the stove top if you want to true blackened chicken effect.  Just make sure you have good ventilation!

Blackened Chicken 

Serves 4
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 avocado flesh
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Mix all the dry seasonings in a small bowl, and then season both sides of the chicken breasts
  3. Add the teaspoon of olive oil to a large pan or skillet.  Heat the olive oil for a minute over medium/high heat.  Add the chicken breasts to the pan.  Cook for 1 minute on each side (just enough for the seasonings to stick to the chicken)
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and place in a baking dish.  Bake chicken in oven for about 30 to 35 minutes or until juices run clear
  5. While chicken is baking, place the avocado flesh along with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt in a food processor and puree until smooth.

 Southwest Quinoa Salad
Serves 4
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed (2 cobs fresh corn)
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, drained
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  1. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, salt, and pepper then set aside
  2. In a saucepan, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and lightly cook red onions (about 4/5 minutes).  Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Add quinoa and cumin.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Uncover, fluff with a fork, and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, corn kernels, black beans, tomato, and zucchini.  Pour lemon-cilantro dressing over quinoa and toss to combine.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
I absolutely loved the chicken! The combination of the warm chicken mixed with the cool avocado sauce was perfect because as the sauce warmed up it became very creamy.  It was also good for those who don't like very spicy foods.  It took away from some of the spiciness.

If you think everything up to this point looks delicious, wait until you see the best part - DESSERT!  The peanut butter pudding cookies I made were a huge hit - not only with our families, but with our coworkers and friends.  I doubled the recipe so Michael and I could bring some to work with us and to another party we went to later in the weekend.    They stored perfectly over the weekend refrigerated at work and only needed 5 minutes to soften up.

Peanut Butter Pudding Cookies
  •  3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small box of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup reeses pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix and set aside
  3. In a large mixing bowl cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars until fluffy
  4. Add the eggs, vanilla, and honey and beat again
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients, do not over mix
  6. Stir in chocolate chips and reeses by hand
  7. Drop by tablespoon, 2 inches apart, onto a baking sheet
  8. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F
  9. Cook on baking sheet for 3/4 minutes then transfer to a wire rack
  10. Store in an airtight container
Adapted from insidebrucrewlife  

Key Lime Yogurt Pie
  • 1 graham cracker ready-made pie crust
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 4 oz (half of an 8 oz package) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 containers (6 oz each) Key Lime pie yogurt (I used Greek Yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup frozen (thawed) whipped topping
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime peel
  • whipped topping (if desired)
  • grated lime peel (if desired for garnishing)
  1. In a 1 quart saucepan, mix 2 tablespoons of cold water and lime juice.  Sprinkle gelatin on lime juice mixture and let stand about 1 minute.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until all of the gelatin has dissolved.  Cool slightly for about 2 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add yogurt and lime juice mixture and beat again on low speed until well blended.
  3. Fold in whipped topping and lime peel.  Pour into pie crust.  Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.  Garnish with additional whipped topping and grated lime peel.
  4. Keep pie refrigerated.
Adapted from Gluten Freely (Although adopted from this site, I did not make the crust from scratch so it is not gluten free.)

As you can see it was quite the meal! Overall it was a great first dinner party in our new place!  A great way to show off our new place to our families and a great way to introduce my cooking to the blog world.  If you enjoy this meal, you'll be sure to enjoy my future creations!!