Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Southwest Chicken Salad

About a month ago I had a baby! She is sweet and precious and I've been told she looks just like me which just makes me so happy.

As a new mom (again) I forgot how much your body abandons you for other functions. From providing breast milk to recovering from child birth sometimes I feel like I have lost control of my own body and think to myself, "will my nipples ever feel normal again?". With late night feedings and early morning wake up calls from our baby Mary I have found myself snacking or grabbing a bite of food from the kitchen when I can. Cookies and pringles are some of the top contenders. Hell, as I am typing this I am snacking on cheetos! While these foods may be convenient, they are definitely not going to help me get my pre baby body back. I've decided I will take baby steps (no pun intended) in getting back into making better food choices. 

So when I wanted to visit my husband at work I decided I would take us lunch and make it something that would set us on the path to getting our beach bodies back. Ha! I knew I wanted to make us a chicken salad but my husband despises mustard and mayo. So I knew typical chicken salad wasn't going to be an option. I wanted something light and full of veggies, and we LOVE cilantro and lime together so a southwest style chicken salad immediately came to mind. Let me just tell you, this is going to be our new go-to meal. It is so incredibly light and packed and I mean PACKED full of things that are good for you! This is perfect for a picnic, lunch at the pool, weeknight dinner or even an afternoon snack. 

Let me tell you how to create yummy healthy dish....

First prep your chicken by cutting and pulling it into bite size pieces. I used a whole rotisserie chicken for this recipe, but if you prefer to just use breasts or tenderloins then by all do you boo. Place the prepped chicken in a medium bowl and set aside. Now grab a skillet and drizzle the bottom with a little oil, I used extra virgin olive oil, but use what makes you happy (canola, vegetable, coconut, grape seed, sunflower...did you know there are so many dang oils to choose from?) and into the hot skillet add zucchini, spinach, carrots and fresh garlic. With a toddler in our house who doesn't always love eating veggies I always buy my carrots shredded and then sometimes I'll even give the shredded carrots a rough chop to be able to hide them in the food even more. Being a mom has made me into a magician with vegetables, I'm constantly trying to figure out how to sneak them into our food.  The great thing about any salad is it can be kind of a "catch all" for many ingredients. So if you have other veggies on hand you can use those, never let a veggie go to waste! I  let these veggies cook for about 5-7 minutes then I added in my onion, jalapeƱos, and bell pepper and cook those for about 3-5 more minutes then turn it off to let cool. I added these veggies later because I wanted the salad to still have some crunch and texture without having the strong flavor of a raw onion. Now to your bowl of chicken add your corn, cilantro, black beans and lime juice. Now you can add your slightly cooled veggies to your chicken bowl and stir to combine. So at this point you've got yourself a pretty tasty chicken salad, but we aren't done yet. I want to add cheese, tomato and avocado. My suggestion is to add those ingredients just before you serve them. So if you are only serving a couple portions for lunch, then only portion out what you need then add them. The lime juice will help your avocado from turning brown, but its not a miracle worker, it will leave you with extra soft slightly brown avocado if you wait to eat it the next day. Same with the cherry tomatoes, their juice will make your salad a little soggy. So, I suggest saving these for a last minute addition. 

Guys. It's amazing. Light and healthy with a yummy salty and savory flavor. Creamy decadence from the avocado and a crisp freshness from the cilantro and lime...not to mention protein packed with your black beans and chicken! This was a huge hit! I made a batch to take to my husbands work and we both fell in love. I had intended to make garlic chili-toasted pita chips to go with it, but I ran out of time (you know, because of the baby) and my husband thought that tortilla chips would be better anyway. Well we had it the next night for dinner and had it with some tortilla chips and it was soooo good, husbands can be right sometimes I guess. They were perfect to scoop it up with. Kid tip, my 3 year old loved picking out things she was familiar with in the salad. She likes black beans, cheese and tomatoes so those were the first for her to gobble up, then we gave her a few chips and she happily scooped up the rest! Feeding kids is hard and sometimes you have to try all the tricks to convince them its either fun or their idea (tortilla chips for the win in her case!). The options for this endless. Serve it in mini corn tortillas, on a croissant, spread it on a bagel, eat it out of roasted bell pepper, or eat it simply by itself. I'm not saying I am Picasso and created a masterpiece, but ok, maybe I am a little bit. This is worth a try and will be a great summer staple for us while swim suit season is approaching. Now if I could just stop eating pastries and start working out a bit...but you know, baby steps right? 

Here is a recipe for you to have, hope you enjoy this as much as we did! 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bacon Cheddar Twists

I've often been asked what my favorite foods are since I like to cook so much. I think people are expecting me to stay something "fancy" like roasted garlic brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze, or zucchini goat cheese tart, or meyer lemon bars with homemade lemon point is they expect something with a bit of pizzazz. Though, my answer is, mac and cheese, potatoes, onions, garlic and...BACON. I love bacon. I love a nice piece of crispy bacon. I love the thick hickory smoked bacon just as much as that cheap Corn King brand bacon too. To me, if you cook it right, then it never tastes wrong. When I gave my daughter her first piece of bacon and she tried a bite and handed it back to me. I was shocked, I didn't know what to do! I pondered a DNA test. I tried explaining to her what bacon is and how delicious it can be. She wasn't interested. Well I gave it to her again several months later and she ended up asking for more. Now we have to set a limit to her pieces of bacon cause she'll just keep asking for more! On the weekends I'll ask her "you want a yogurt for breakfast?" and sometimes she responds "no, bacon". The girl would choose bacon over pancakes and waffles any day, a girl after my own heart.

I love taking food to parties or get togethers to share, and the dishes with bacon are by far some of my (and my friends) favorite. This particular yummy treat is so easy and fast that I couldn't resist sharing it. I cook all of my bacon in the oven now and I am the impatient one constantly checking the oven to see if it is done and crispy yet, but these bacon cheddar twists just take about 15 minutes to cook, that's it!

I will walk you through the recipe now. So to get started get a large baking sheet and line it with parchment paper and spray it with non-stick spray then set aside. Preheat your oven to 375. Then in a small bowl whisk your eggs, mustard and just a splash of water. Season that egg mixture with salt and pepper and set aside.

Any pastry chef with tell you the secret to shiny and golden brown pastry is to brush it with an egg wash. It is well worth it trust me. Also, my husband hates mustard. I try to sneak it in on him when I can in homemade salad dressings or marinades and I've done it so much he gets paranoid before eating certain things, stopping with the fork almost to his mouth "did you put mustard in this?". Half the time I just lie to  him and say no, thus only furthering the paranoia because he knows I lie about it. Ha! Anyway, I was honest with him about putting mustard in this egg wash and when I approached him I had worked on my defense:

The mustard with give it so much flavor!
It's only a teaspoon!
It with go so well with the cheddar and bacon!

And that's what did it, reason #3. So to anyone out there who doesn't like mustard, give it a try with this. It is a light flavorful note that pairs so well with the smoky bacon and creamy cheddar. It also tastes great with the crunch of the poppy/sesame seed topping and slightly caramelizes the tops of your puff pastry.

Back to the task at, you'll roll out your puff pastry. All you need is one sheet (which only costs about $2.25 what a deal!). I take mine from the freezer, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge till I am ready for it. They typically thaw out pretty quickly, but thawing it out in the fridge with thaw it out nice and evenly. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out your puff pastry.

Then sprinkle your shredded cheddar over half of the puff pastry.

Then fold the pastry without cheese on top of the half with cheese and roll out again. This step helps press the cheese into the pastry.

 A lot of the times when people work with puff pastry they usually brush on melted butter at some point, but with these we don't have to. The bacon grease does all the work for us and just stop for a second and imagine puff pastry that has been flavored with cheese and bacon grease, my mouth is watering as I type this! Now grab a pizza cutter and cut your dough into strips. If I am taking these to a party and I want to make a lot then I cut small strips 22-26 and I also cut my bacon strips in half lengthwise. However, if you aren't serving a larger crowd you can cut these into 12-16 strips (about less than an inch thick each) and leave your bacon in whole strips.

 You'll place your bacon on top off your strips of dough and twist.

 Place your twists on your prepared baking sheet and press the edges down to keep them from untwisting while baking.

Then you'll brush your egg mixture on the tops of your twists and sprinkle with sesame/poppy seeds.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the bacon is crispy.

Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. When we first made ours I ended up storing the left overs in a Ziploc bag.

I'll be honest we snacked on those things like crazy! Even 4 or 5 days later they still tasted yummy! They taste great by themselves but you could also serve with a honey mustard dipping sauce or marinara sauce. For most, bacon is a crowd pleaser. Dip these in your broccoli cheddar soup or take these to your next football watch party or be like me and take them to your book club and people will thank you for it, I promise. Enjoy!

For the recipe for bacon cheddar twists, click here.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Lavendar lemonade cocktail

Spring and summer make me think bright, fresh and crisp flavors. I love lemonade and the tart, sour notes that tingle your tongue as you drink it. Why not add a little lavender to balance out that tartness by adding a floral element to the drink? And if we are going to the trouble of getting lemon and lavender to party together then we might as well grab some gin and make this thing official.

I had thought of this cocktail because I have a lavender plant in my front flower bed that I have managed to keep alive for 3 years now. It's a record! Anytime I walk by it I catch a whiff of it and it always smells so amazing! I love using it in body scrubs or trimming some down for a vase and wanted to see how I could use it in the kitchen.  That's when the idea of this drink came to me.

I made this drink in a cocktail shaker for a single drink portion, although, you could easily make a pitcher of this for a party or get together.  Just add 1-1/2 ounces of gin for every 6-8 ounces of lemonade. Just think of it like salt to can always add more if it needs it, but you can't take it away if it's too much.

Alright, lets do this...

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add a pinch of lavender leaves, bruising them first. Have you seen Love Actually and the scene where the husband is buying that necklace for his secretary? (so shady!) Mr. Bean is wrapping it and he takes something off the stem (rosemary maybe?) and rubs it between his hands and places it in the jewelry gift wrap bag. Same idea, except I find just bending it with your fingers a couple times works just as well. Bruising herbs helps release their natural oils, which is perfect for getting the flavor of the herb, (in this case lavender) without actually having to eat it.

Next, add 4 ounces of lemonade. I made my own lemonade (see recipe here) or just use your favorite store bought lemonade. Then add the gin. Just like any other spirit there are so many brands to choose from, and I am just throwing this out there...when it comes to gin it seems the more it costs the smoother it is. So if you are paying less than $15 for a bottle, don't come crying to me when you sip the drink and all you taste is gin.

OK, now you are ready to put the lid on your cocktail shaker and find your inner Tom Cruise and shake that bad boy like he did in Cocktail. There are people that are going to tell you there is a proper way to shake a cocktail shaker (hold it horizontally with the bottom of the shaker facing your chest and shake away from your body), but what I do is shake it until my hand starts to get cold. Because after all I'm just a girl, standing in front of a cocktail shaker, asking my Monday to feel a little more like a Friday.

Remove the lid of your shaker and strain into a glass filled with ice. You'll want to strain it otherwise you'll have lavender floating in your drink. Now if you want, before you put ice in your glass you can rim the glass with lavender sugar. It is super easy to make and if this is for an event/party, it's an awfully pretty way to present it. You can garnish with a lemon wedge and/or a sprig of lavender.

I'm telling you, when I tried this I was surprised how delicious it tasted. I had a feeling it would be good, but I didn't know it would be THIS good. I love the floral hint the lavender gives the lemonade. I splurged on the gin and it became one of those drinks where "you can't even taste the alcohol". What is so fun is that this can easily be enjoyed as a mocktail too, great for a Mother's day brunch, a baby shower, or something to take to work to share with your coworkers! Hope you like it as much as I did!

So good you'll throw your hands in the air!

To get the cocktail recipe, click here . Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lemon poppy seed scones

I've been doing some real thinking (not the fake kind), and I decided I should call this blog "the blog of good intentions". You should see all my little notes in random kitchen drawers, in my planner and on our fridge. I have all these ideas I want to blog and share with you and yet...nothing. Thus, a blog of good intentions. I know you'll forgive me as I think it might just be my mom who reads this. :)

So a few years ago I wanted to make scones. I had never made them before and from my years of working at Starbucks I always thought they were just ok and kind of dry. Making them myself was a game changer. I got to play around with different flavor combinations and glazes and really became interested in it. Last Thanksgiving I made scones to take to a friend's house and fell back in love with them all over again. Plus, they are pretty darn easy to make! Next thing I knew I was trying out a new scone flavor every couple weeks...and still do to this day. I have made pumpkin, maple bacon, dark chocolate with an espresso chocolate ganache glaze, cranberry orange, blackberry sesame seed, blueberry and also lemon poppy seed. Now, me and my family haven't really met a scone we didn't like, but lemon poppy seed is a favorite. I take them to work to share or snack on them at home. I wake up pretty early for my job and take a few vitamins before leaving for work. When it's that early and you have an empty stomach, a nibble of a scone is the perfect way to start your day. I especially love them paired with coffee or tea.

So one Sunday morning I was the first one to wake up and decided I wanted to make some scones (go figure). So I threw on my Grandma's apron and started to get things set up...and then Evelyn woke up. She got dressed and came out to the kitchen and was very interested in what I was doing. So I let her be my helper. I told Chuck to go grab the camera and take some photos of us making scones together...and here we are.  My scone obsession has come to life in a post. Now enough about me, lets make some scones:

In a large bowl add your dry ingredients. Whisk well to avoid any clumps.

Next, cut your butter into your dry ingredients. This task is easiest with a pastry cutter but if you don't have one you could use a whisk or even a fork. Your goal here is just to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture to make the butter into small pebbles.




Stir the cream, lemon juice and egg and into your flour/butter mixture. Keep an eye out for the used lemon or Evelyn will eat it...rind and all! Stir gently until it just comes together to form a dough.

Now for the fun part. Put your dough on a floured work surface and knead it into a flat round, then roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut it into triangles and place on a lined baking sheet.

See what I mean? Lemon thief!

Bake for about 13-15 minutes, until the edges turn slightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. When cooled, drizzle with glaze.

I try not to make too much glaze so I work in stages with the powdered sugar, a little lemon juice and half and half. Add a tiny bit more powdered sugar if needed, then maybe a bit more half and half. Once I get a nice thick glaze, I use a fork or a whisk and drizzle it on the cooled scones.

Summer is just around the corner and making me think of all kinds of new flavors I want to try. Strawberry lime, tomato basil, zucchini and cheddar...YUM! I've attached a recipe for your convenience. Thanks for reading!

Get the recipe here: Lemon Poppy Seed Scones