To celebrate my husband's recent birthday, I made a special dinner for two followed by a big Golf cake so my kids could join in on the fun. I made Rigatoni with Lemony Kale and Pecorino Pesto and Butcher Chop Chicken which served as a token of my love for the birthday boy. The golf cake was also a huge hit.
With just a few weeks to go in my pregnancy, the only thing happening in my kitchen (other than burning everything I put into the oven) is simple and speedy meals with very little clean up. Tonight's dinner fit the bill with juicy Greek Chicken Burgers that I threw on toasted pita and topped with a dollop of store-bought tzatziki sauce (Cedar's brand). I also roasted some broccoli (which I burned) and tossed it into a bowl of prepared couscous. It was still a delightful meal that happens to be healthy.
I would definitely recommend this burger for entertaining. Serve it with a big Greek Salad and Bobby's Greek Potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. As my son Wyatt says, Bam!
My good friend Lauren (who brought us Breakfast Cookies) is at again as she introduced me to the most scrumptious and healthy morning muffins:
Flourless Peanut Butter Banana Blueberry Muffins
They're truly one of a kind boasting strong peanut butter, banana and blueberry flavors while delivering tons of nutrients and not packing in the fat. They're perfect for Breakfast or an afternoon snack. And best of all, your kids will love them,* they are a dream come true.
Leave it to Ottolenghi to create the world's best couscous dish... think layers of fresh (green) herb pesto, arugula, green chile, green onion, and even green pistachios. This couscous will leave you feeling (what else) green with envy for those who have been enjoying it for years. I don't think I'll ever look at another couscous dish again as it's truly the most perfect Summer side dish.
Looking for a perfect date night dish for you and your loved one? Try Nobu's Black Cod with Miso. It's sweet and silky and screams total date night dish. Like a blow out or manicure, don't forget to plan ahead as it's recommended to marinate the fish for at least 24 hours*. Serve it with sticky rice and bok choy and enjoy!
*if you're in Chicago, go to Dirk's because they already have it marinating.
My mother-in-law introduced me to these awesome Beef & Quinoa Meatballs over Passover and they're so good that I made them this past Friday with a kale caesar and Julia Child's Eggplant Pizzas. It was a match made in culinary & low carb heaven. If only I could eat this well seven nights a week.
I just developed a major crush on SIRIouslyDelicious, a food blog written by Carson Daly's other half, Siri Pinter. She's witty, funny, and says it like it is with awesome recipes for every occasion.
Tonight I made two versions of her Turkey Meatloaf with Chipotle Glaze, one with and without the adobo sauce so my kids could enjoy it as well. Both were seriously delicious and since they're packed with zucchini, onion, and sweet potato, they're healthy too. What more could a girl ask for? They will definitely become part of my weeknight staples.
If you can resist the heavenly picture above then you must have a problem. I took one look and ran to the market as fast as you can say 'snap' so I could sink my teeth into them ASAP.
After cutting a 'sliver' before whisking them to a dinner party, my husband caught me red-handed, literally and figuratively, since by sliver I mean 3, maybe 4 bars, and I was (on the verge of) licking my fingers clean in my nice party dress. HEY, you're only pregnant once and sometimes it ain't pretty. Whoever said "you can't have your cake and eat it too" was just plain wrong or obviously never pregnant. There are some things that are meant to be done in private. And this, my friends, is one of them.
Back to the bars... they taste exactly how they look- a buttery crust topped with a sweet blackberry filling, covered in the a delightful crumble mixture. They are as delicious as they look, especially paired with vanilla ice cream (low fat of course) because then you can have a larger scoop.
As a huge Batali fan, I had no doubt that his stuffed Herb and Cheese Filled Chicken Thigh recipe would fall nothing short of awesome. Sure enough, it's a definite crowd pleaser even for those who aren't the 'thigh' type, like yours truly. I served it with a Spicy Caesar Salad and Pizza with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto. It was divine. And best of all, unlike most of Batali's dishes, this chicken dish isn't that unhealthy (besides the fat in the thigh) but I don't think you should count that since it's protein. How else are you supposed to grow?
For those of you who like to entertain, here is the world's best mac n' cheese that will make you fall to your knees. It's rich and creamy, yet simple and divine with toasted bread cubes on top that make it worth your time. (I know, I'm a poet and I just didn't...)
This is it, your Happily Ever After. And thank you to my friend Olivia for the world's best kept secret.
While cucumber sandwiches usually just bring back memories of the bland tea party variety from my youth, I found that when you pair it with the right ingredients it makes you want to celebrate Meatless Mondays every day of the week. Here's the secret:
-Pair it with hearty whole grain bread, ripe avocado, and laughing cow cheese
-I'm talking good hearty bread, like the kind you find at a bakery (just buy a half loaf and use it for lunch)
It's healthy, filling, and totally satisfying. Perfect for a pregnant lady might I add. I served mine with carrots and hummus.
In an effort to clear out my pantry before moving in a few months, I made an oldie but goodie: Cranberry Meatballs. This dish is easy to prepare and versatile since you can substitute chicken if you don't have the time to make homemade meatballs (or can't find them pre-made at the store). I serve mine over brown rice sprinkled with sliced honey almonds. It's a family favorite.
Since pregnancy keeps me from eating my favorite deli meats, I came up with this super panini that doesn't make me miss the deli section for a minute. The trick is good quality bread (I used the twelve grain loaf from the Whole Foods bakery) and a panini maker (hopefully you got one off your wedding registry).
White Cheddar, Apple Butter, Spinach, & Honey Mustard Panini:
2 slices of whole grain bread
2 slices white cheddar
1 tbsp apple butter
1/2 tbsp honeycup mustard*
1/3 cup fresh spinach or arugula
Other: 1 tbsp EVOO for brushing the panini maker
Preheat the panini maker to medium-high heat.
Assemble the sandwich: spread the apple butter on one slice of bread and top with cheddar and spinach. Spread the honey mustard on the other slice of bread and place it face down, forming a sandwich. Brush the olive oil on both sides of the panini maker and place the sandwich on the grill. Close it and let it bake for 2-4 minutes or so, checking to see that the cheese is melted, the spinach is partly welted, and the bread is golden brown and crispy. Enjoy!
*if you don't have honeycup mustard, I suppose you can substitute horseradish mustard for a nice kick. And buy it the next time you're at the store because it is the best mustard out there!
After passing up countless edible cookie dough recipes on
Pinterest (because who in their right mind keeps edible cookie dough in their freezer?), my dessert prayers were answered with a
healthful version that actually delivers some nutrients. (I'm no nutritionist but its ingredients are better than cookie dough).
Cookie Dough Macaroons
While they don't look like normal
macaroons and aren't made from traditional cookie dough ingredients, they are
as satisfying and rich as the real thing. I've been popping them like
vitamins after dinner and I can't think of a better way to end my day.
Go ahead and try them and get creative already. I plan on trying almonds and
carob chips as well. Finally, I find that they taste best frozen, so store them in your freezer.
I love meat as much as the next girl, but lately I've been exploring the other side, the wonderful world of vegetarian dishes, and I have to say I'm smitten. Last night I made Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms from my favorite hometown cookbook, A Commemorative Celebration of Art & Food from the Toledo Museum of Art Aides, and I think I'll adopt Meatless Mondays because of it. Stay tuned for more delicious vegetarian dishes:
Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
-Serves 4 as a light appetizer, or 2 as a meal
4 whole portabella mushrooms
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing (I used low fat)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium zucchini, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp EVOO
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup herb-flavored croutons, crushed
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
3 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
Grated Parmesan to taste
Bottled Balsamic Glaze to taste (optional)
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and reserve. Chill, covered in the refrigerator. Combine the mushroom caps and salad dressing in a bowl and toss to coat. Marinate covered in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop the mushrooms stems. Saute the stems, onion, zucchini and red pepper in the olive oil in the skillet for about 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the croutons, 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, basil, and pine nuts and mix well.
Drain the mushrooms, discarding the marinade. Arrange stem side up on a greased baking sheet. Spoon a quarter of the crouton mixture on each mushroom cap. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.
For this year's Superbowl, I made homemade Pigs in a blanket that were every bit as delicious as they were a fan favorite. I used half mini chicken apple sausages from Whole Foods and half mini dogs so that the ladies and gents (and toddlers) could eat to their heart's content. For dipping sauce, I just stuck with yellow mustard because what’s a hot dog without it?
This recipe is easy-to-follow and best of all can be prepared it in advance as you pop them into the oven just 20 minutes before your guests arrive. Finally, don’t forget the parchment paper or else you’ll wind up with just pigs. Recipe after the jump:
No matter if your team wins or loses on Sunday, this dessert is sure to deliver a happy ending to your Superbowl party:
These brownies are exactly what they seem: a rich and fudgy chocolate brownie layered with graham crackers and topped with toasted marshmallows. It might be my favorite brownie of all time. I'll definitely be making it this weekend.
Spending Friday nights at home gives me the perfect reason to thin out the mile high recipe pile on my desk. It's also the best way to wind down from a long week and connect with my family over a good meal. This weekend I made the most awesome pizza and pasta that was a total home run.
Pizza with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto & Orecchiette with Squash, Chiles, and Hazelnuts
Believe it or not, this restaurant quality meal is easy to make. I honestly didn't spend more than 45 minutes in the kitchen which isn't usually the case for a gourmet meal. Pairing it with Breaking Bad episodes is priceless. (For adults, not kids).
Shape your pizza crust like a heart and call it Valentine's Day.
Today was Jack and Wyatt's turn to be 'chef of the week' at preschool, so I brought this awesome recipe that is healthy, easy to prepare, and well-received by toddlers:
Berry Banana Vanilla Jello Salad
What's so great about this jello pudding yogurt 'salad' is that you can doctor it up with all kinds of fun ingredients depending on what your child likes. I used strawberries, blueberries, and banana and threw in some Nilla wafers that served as spoons. The class went bananas over it! And to be honest, I'm pretty crazy about it too.
On a recent Friday I took the plunge and made Smitten Kitchen's Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. This delightful Jewish bread was by far the most gratifying recipe I've ever made since it turned out gorgeous, delicious, and special since I could break it with my family on a Friday night. It's not called Smitten by accident. My family is hooked.
It also makes for the best challah french toast on a Saturday morning.
I don't know how it's humanly possible that I haven't posted my favorite burger of all time given the fact that I make it at least once a week and I recommend it to anyone (and everyone) looking for an easy and tasty week night meal:
Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise
I serve mine like all my burgers: with baked sweet potato fries and roasted asparagus. It's by far my favorite weeknight meal.
Even if you're one 'those' who pretend to hate mayonnaise, I promise that this dish is still for you. You see, when mayo is mixed with rosemary, garlic, and ground chicken it results in a burger that is juicy, flavorful, and believe it or not healthy-if you use low fat mayo. Trust me, it'll become one of your staples.
If you're from the Midwest, I'd venture to guess that your favorite snack from your childhood is Puppy Chow. For those of you in the dark, I'm not talking about dog food but rather the most delicious snack imaginable made from chex mix, peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar. It's a party mix that literally melts in your mouth (and hand).
When I came across Puppy Chow Cookies on Pinterest I thought it was only fair to make them. (To my kids of course). To say that they were a hit would be an extreme understatement.
With temperatures dropping to an all-time low, it's the perfect time to heat things up in the kitchen. Here is a wonderful menu for a cozy night at home in front the fire or even Valentine's Day. Its cross-cultural flavors like curry, masala, cumin, coriander, and pistachio really keep things interesting while the cayenne pepper gives it the perfect amount of heat to make it memorable.
Don't let the fancy names deter you. This meal isn't as hard to prepare as it sounds. In fact, the lamb chops can be made in 15 minutes flat. I was feeling extra ambitious when I made this so I served it on a Friday night with a Fig, Olive oil, and Sea Salt Challah. Recipe to come. The meal was divine.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Pistachio Masala Lamb Chops with Cucumber Mint Raita
After trying dozens of chicken cutlet recipes over the years, I finally found the winner: Parmesan Crusted Chicken. This chicken is so good I've made it 4 times in the past two weeks. It's moist, crunchy, lemony, and tastes like a classier version of the the ones typically served in a bucket. I'm not even a huge fried chicken kind of girl and I'm hooked. I serve it with healthy mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower. Recipe after the jump.
Here is the perfect antidote to cure any rainy day blues: Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Bread from Healthfulleverafter. It's healthy, fun and easy to make, and your kids will love helping you in the kitchen. It's also a great way to use up ripe bananas. It definitely cures our cabin fever!
2 ripe bananas- mashed
1 cup shredded zucchini (about ½ a medium size zucchini)
½ cup plain 0% Greek Yogurt
½ cup applesauce
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a loaf pan with baking spray. Using the grating feature on your cuisinart, shred half of a zucchini. Combine it with all of the other ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate chips in a large bowl. Mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake for 32-40 minutes or until the center is cooked all the way through. Cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts sneaking vegetables into my kids' meals (think cauliflower mac n' cheese, berry and kale smoothies, buttered noodles with broccoli pesto, you name it), I finally found the golden ticket: Steak Seasoning. This overlooked pantry staple transforms a boring vegetable like cauliflower into a juicy and tender (dare I say 'meaty') steakhouse-worthy side or main. It's so good that my picky kids were popping it into their mouths like popcorn. It was one of the most enjoyable food moments of my life.
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets about 1 1/2" diameter
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp steak seasoning
1 shallot, thinly sliced
P.S. They make great leftovers as a topping to butternut squash soup.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Break up the cauliflower into florets. Try not to make them too small since they shrink while roasting. Place the cauliflower and sliced shallots in a single layer on a cooking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and steak seasoning and toss well. I don't measure out the EVOO or seasoning. I just give it a good drizzle and shake and call it a day. Bake for 25-35 minutes until tender, turning once with a metal spatula.
After hearing all the buzz about Jerusalem a Cookbook I finally received my coveted copy and I am madly in love. Its collection of 120 recipes explores the cross-cultural perspective of authors and friends Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi both born in the same year in Jerusalem, one from the Arab side and one from the Jewish West. Unlike most cookbooks, it includes the rich history of the city and its recipes along with visuals of mouthwatering dishes and the people of Jerusalem. And most importantly, its recipes turn out and taste better than they look, which is a feat in itself.
What a perfect gift for the holidays for any home cook.
Most of the recipes aren't exactly weeknight dishes, since their ingredient list sometimes takes up the entire page, but for those of you who like a challenge, try this meal:
Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin with Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce
Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants, Herbs, and Fried Onions
Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar
Since my best friend from growing up just moved back to Chicago, I decided to make her a Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern meal inspired by our favorite Lebanese restaurant in Ohio-the Beirut. If you've been to Toledo, Ohio, then you've definitely been to the Beirut since it's a place where everyone knows your name (and life story). And on top of its warm atmosphere, it has spectacular food to boot.
Some of the spices in these dishes are hard to find (like sumac and za'atar), but if you live in Chicago you can buy them at The Spice Market in Old Town. It's quite the destination for an avid cook if you haven't been there already.
Here is what I served:
Grillled Lamb Meatballs with Apricot, Pine Nut, and Feta Couscous and Fattoush Salad
There's nothing like Summer to bring out the picnic-goer and bbq-lover in all of us. Since it's always wise not to arrive empty-handed, bring along one of these sinful desserts to really get the party going:
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars and Key Lime Coconut Bars.
I brought both to a recent cooking club and my health-conscious friends made 'all gone' like they were fat free cookies. Pretty impressive considering it's bikini season.
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars:
Even if you don't think you like dulce de leche, give these a try. They're delightful and taste more like caramel. And don't forget the sea salt at the very end. It brings out all the sweet flavors.
Key Lime Coconut Pie Bars:
Just as good and if not better than any key lime pie I've tried in my life. If you don't like coconut, just omit it from the recipe all together.
Grilled Curry Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper, Japanese Eggplant, and Arugula Salad with Yogurt Dressing
After a few weeks of intense travel and heavy eating with my family (shame on me), I decided to lighten things up a bit with a low fat meal that tastes anything but light: Grilled Shrimp with Vietnamese Vinaigrette and Grilled Curry Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper, Japanese Eggplant, and Arugula Salad with Yogurt Dressing. The exotic flavors of the Vietnamese Vinaigrette and Yogurt Dressing are finger-licking good and it's by far one of the best meals I've ever prepared. I paired mine with simple couscous (just flavored with salt and pepper) and let the Vietnamese Vinaigrette do the talking. (Be sure to add an ample amount to finish off the dish before serving).
Last Sunday my husband and I had three families over for a relaxing and enjoyable Sunday night dinner. With Italian fare that was adult and kid-friendly and a group of well-behaved toddlers, the night went off with a hitch ending with a toddler dance party to Mumford & Son's and Skillet Almond Shortbread. (It's quite the combo I have to say). I can't think of a more perfect (or adorable) way to end the weekend.
Here's what I served:
Kale Caesar Salad
I used green kale and a mixture of two store-bought Caesar dressings. One that is creamy and the other that is more of a vinaigrette
Brussel Sprout, Caramelized Onion, and Pancetta Pizza:
Be sure to use store-bought pizza dough (like Whole Foods whole wheat version) and don't forget the lemon juice and hot chili oil at the end that really makes this pizza one-of-a-kind.