Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Broccoli Salad with Basil-Mint Pesto

 Continuing in our effort to food detox from our too indulgent weekend (without sacrificing taste) has been a fun challenge that's resulted in some new seasonal 'go to' recipes. Growing up our dinners were always served with a protein (usually chicken, pork, or beef) a starch, and a vegetable of sorts. While I've never quite been my 'ideal weight' I've continued to use this formula while preparing meals into my adulthood, as it's part routine and part makes sense--to touch on everything in moderation. With my basil and mint plants overflowing on my windowsill, I whipped up a small batch of summer pesto and cut the starch portion of our dinner with a pound of broccoli. The result? A new summer side dish/salad to enjoy by itself as a light snack or along side fish or chicken. It's equally delicious warm or room temp making it an easy go to for wherever the days of summer might take you.

Broccoli Salad & Mint-Basil Pesto
(serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side)
  • 1 lb broccoli florets
  • 1/4 c sundried tomatoes, julienned 
  • 1/4 box short cut pasta (I used rigatoni)
  • 1/4-1/3 c loosely packed basil and mint leaves mixed
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it begins boiling salt the water, then add the broccoli and pasta at the same time to cook (about 10 minutes). Drain the broccoli and pasta and set in a large serving bowl.

In a blender or small food processor combine the mint and basil, cheese and garlic. While turned on, stream in olive oil until everything is smooth and cohesive.

Add the sundried tomatoes and pesto to the broccoli and pasta bowl. Mix thoroughly coating everything with the pesto.  If desired, top with more grated cheese.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mustard Crusted Tilapia

 I know I've been slacking a little around here guys, and I miss you all quite a bit. Things have been crazy this month and I haven't been spending nearly as much time as I'd like in the kitchen. Holiday weekends, weather I've truly celebrated or not, always make me feel quite gluttonous. There always seems to be an excuse to justify a little too much fun on the food front. With my sister and her husband in town for the weekend, this Memorial Day was no exception. Now, we're detoxing around my house--filling up on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and lots and lots of water. 

There was no sacrificing of flavor when I made this mustard crusted tilapia for dinner last night--it was tangy and crunchy and will definitely become a staple for lighter nights in our house.

Mustard Crusted Tilapia
(serves 2)
  • 2 6oz tilapia filets 
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesean cheese
  • 1 tbsp Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a shallow baking pan with cooking spray and place your fish into the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mustard, cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, oregano, lemon juice and butter until they form a cohesive paste. 

Remove the fish from the oven and turn on the broiler. Add a layer of the mustard paste to each fish filet. Broil the fish for about 5 minutes on a center rack (or until bubbly and golden brown). 

This recipe is delicious and the perfect recovery meal after an indulgent weekend. The mustard packs enough flavor punch to make the meal not seem as healthy as it is (under 200 calories per filet!)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hidden Secrets

Hey readers! I've been eaten by the swamp monster this week with lots of work and getting ready for my sister and brother in-law to come visit for the weekend. I did, however, finally try out this trick that mixes a kitchen standby with one of my favorite things, nail polish. Let me tell you--the results were way too good not to share them with you. It's so simple it seems impossible that it would work, but it does--I promise.

Step 1: Paint your nails (even without top coat this works!)
Step 2: Wait 5 minutes
Step 3: Spray your nails with cooking spray (I used PAM original)
Step 4: Wait 2 minutes, then wash your hands. 

Perfect manicure! with minimal patience!

(I used Essie's Peach Daiquiri, a fun pink-coral color)

I hope to be back with great new recipes soon!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Sparkler

 In my opinion there's no greater feeling than having a group of friends over and knowing that you totally would win 'most gracious hostess' award (you know, because I may or may not give acceptance speeches while doing ordinary things--like 'most efficient dish washer' or 'hottest housewife on the block'). There's just something about taking a step back and knowing that all of your guests are comfortable and happy and having an unforgettable time. An event, no matter how big or small, that appears effortless is key to making everyone feel right at home. Greeting your guests with this summer sparkler is sure to get the party going right away. It features fresh strawberries & lime, plus the unexpected flavor of fresh basil. It gets some bubble from some sparkling water and of course, stars a shot of vodka. If you prefer something a little bit sweeter add just a touch of simple syrup.  I was inspired by this recipe, but added the simple syrup and touch of lime.

Summer Sparkler
  • fresh strawberries sliced (about 2 per cocktail)
  • 1/4 of a lime, juiced
  • 1 ounce high quality vodka
  • 5 ounces sparkling water
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tsp simple syrup*
*the syrup is totally optional, but worth it if your prefer a slightly sweeter drink. Or you could try a flavored sparkling water (like strawberry or lime) to enhance the fruit flavors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Toasted Caprese Bites

 By now most of you know I get on a kick of some ingredients and rework them in a couple different ways over the period of a week---both to not waste an opportunity to discover something new and not to waste ingredients (and money). I think it works out pretty great for both of us.  D and were desperate for a snack but didn't have a whole lot in the house ready to eat. Luckily for him I think great on the spot in the kitchen. I made these toasted caprese bites (flavors I am consistently drawn to and craving) and they were the perfect, fresh afternoon snack. They'd do double duty as a light lunch with a side salad, or a starter for a dinner party. Assemble a bunch and toast them up and have them ready to go for snacks and sips with friends...the possibilities for these babies are endless...and require very little skill, time or patience.

Toasted Caprese Bites
(I only had about 1/4 of a baguette leftover, so adjust accordingly)
  • french or Italian baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • on the vine tomatoes, sliced to 1/8-1/4 inch slices (no one's judging your knife skills and they get covered in cheese)
  • fresh basil (one leaf per slice of baguette)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper 
  • balsamic vinegar
First preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then slice your bread and arrange them on a baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Slice your tomatoes and place a slice on each piece of bread. Add a basil leaf on top of each slice of tomato. Slice your cheese and add a piece (fit it to size) on top of the basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. On a center rack, bake for 3-4 minutes until cheese starts to melt. Then turn your oven to broil for another 3-4 minutes, keeping a close eye that your toast and cheese doesn't burn. When the cheese looks shiny and melted take them out of the oven, arrange them on a dish and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  YUM!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ready, Set, Summer...

In just 10 short days, American's everywhere will be kicking off the unofficial first weekend of summer. Now, as a 'local' in a beach town, I can say for certain that almost everyone heads for the beach to kick off the summer during Memorial Day weekend. That being said--many of you beach (or lake, or pool...) goers will be trying to find the perfect outfit for beach to dinner or pool to party events. This season there's no shortage of incredible finds out there... a round up of some of my faves:

J Crew nailed it with swimsuits...
the obvious choice of patriotic stripes

or the trendier pool party friendly blouson

top it off with this gorgeous cover up from Piperlime

and this earth inspired Geode necklace from The Limited  
Sparkle with your bag
gold sequins to carry your life all day from Target's Resort Collection

and don't forget the sunscreen...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Bounty Bruschetta

a not pretty snap-wear bowl...

I've mentioned before the tastes and smells of summer in Jersey when I made this soup in the middle of winter. Now that summer is (almost) here it's time to go old school on these flavors. For a Mother's Day appetizer I made a bruschetta that stole the show. It's delicious and garlicky to eat and incredibly simple to can even be prepared two days in advance if needed. On a personal note, I preferred 12-24 hours ahead to allow the juices to marinade and come out of the tomatoes a bit. There's nothing to spoil so you could even leave it out at a barbecue this summer without putting it on ice. Sometimes the simple, obvious ideas are the most successful.

 Garden Bruschetta 
(serves 6-8 as an appetizer)
  • 5-6 on-the-vine tomatoes, diced 
  • 4-5 medium cloves of garlic, grated
  • 8-10 leaves of basil, chiffonade 
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4c grated Parmesan cheese (optional), sprinkle on top or mix it right on in (before salting).
  • French loaf, Italian Loaf, Ciabatta bread..etc.   
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice your bread to about 1/2 inch thick slices and place them on a single layer on a baking sheet. I used 6 ciabatta rolls that I cut on the diagonal and used two baking sheets. Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the bread and bake until toasted (about 5-8 minutes but keep a close eye because bread can turn on you in a second---literally).
Dice the tomatoes and place them in a pretty (or not so pretty, whatever, I'm not judging you) bowl. Grate in the garlic --so no one ends up eating big chunks of raw garlic. Stir in the basil, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil. You're done! 

Go eat and be the star of your show! Drink some wine! The absolute best part of this dish--it can so easily be made in a double batch or more if needed. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fashion Friday--What to the kitchen...

In just a few days, most of us will be gathering with our families in a showing of thanks and appreciation for all the things the moms in our lives do. (Did you see Joanna's incredible brunch for the moms she knows on her blog, A Cup of Jo?) Our family was never an 'out to eat on holidays' family--with little patience for crowds and kids that could snap at the slightest drop in blood sugar, it was always safer to celebrate at home. As I've gotten older (and much more comfortable in the kitchen), I've come to enjoy having these moments at home--rather than with 150 of our not so close friends. 

If I were celebrating with my mom this year I'd get us some fun aprons for the kitchen (there's no need to settle for tacky, novelty 'the only thing I'm making for dinner is reservations' kitchen outfits ), a great bottle of wine and hang out in the kitchen preparing a meal worthy of such an occasion. 

(*This year we'll be celebrating with D's mom for a later dinner after we all are off from work). 

A few kitchen fashions for mom (and for you) that are equally adequate to entertain in...
1. Black & White Floral Pleated Apron, Pier 1, $19.95
2. Pachar Mix & Match Apron, Williams Sonoma, $24.00  
3. I Ad-Mayer Your Taste Apron, Mod Cloth, $34.99 
4. Bahia Apron, Anthropologie, $38.00
5. Tiered Multi-Colored Apron, Pier 1, $14.95 (I have this one!)
6. Rising Wings Apron, Anthropologie 

Aprons and a great cookbook are one of my favorite gifts for any lady in my life--especially those I know that love cooking or entertaining...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Italian Style Vegetable Ribbons

I'm always looking for new ways to get vegetables on our plates around dinner time. Sure, we have the old standbys of steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus, but after a while these become so routine that they just get lost on the plate and serve the purpose of filling the 'we have to have a vegetable with dinner--really, no excuses' void. These vegetable ribbons are so pretty to plate, quick cooking because they're so thin and can be tailored to anyone's preferred flavor profile. I made them along side of a balsamic chicken, so I opted for an Italian style version--but they'd be equally delicious with an Asian flare, or even raw and dressed as a summer salad. (I opted just for zucchini and bell peppers, but any firm, long vegetable would be ideal --think carrots and shredded cabbage!)

 Italian Style Vegetable Ribbons 
(serves 4 as a side dish)
  • 2 medium-large zucchinis (go for long ones!)
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
On a cutting board, or large, clean work area--break out your vegetable peeler. Wash and trim your vegetables. Using the vegetable peeler along the length of the vegetables make long, thin ribbons (I found it easiest to keep rotating the zucchini until I got down to the seeds--then I just chopped up the seeded middle and gave some to Ranger). With the bell pepper use an exposed side--so if you cut it in half use the cross section to peel your ribbons (my pepper was super juicey and made a huge mess, so I just sliced it super thin with a knife).
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Grate in 4 cloves of garlic until fragrant-about a minute. Add in your vegetable ribbons and mix in with the oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook 3-5 minutes until they become crisp tender. Sprinkle in the dried basil (a sprinkling of crushed red pepper would be delicious as well). Serve along side your favorite dinners. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

(The Last) Wedding Weekend...

D and I after the ceremony

arranging flowers...

the love of my life..(and flower girl)

the waterfall at the wedding site...

 My big sister got married this weekend (the last of the three of us), so D and I traveled to Jersey for all of the festivities--and for my weekend long job of Maid of Honor (along with housekeeper, florist, administrative assistant, breakfast cook and babysitter). I'm not complaining. I also ate more food than I care to even think about--but the dresses fit so no harm, no foul...

A few do's and don'ts I learned along the way::

  • when given a choice, order a meal that you'd NEVER make the chicken for your kitchen.
  • give flowers you think you hate a second chance--especially if you're doing your own arranging
  • pass on ordering your own dessert if there's a toddler ordering one herself--she'll never finish it and you don't have to be that person. 
  • keep granola bars on hand for little kids, and airplane bottles on hand for the big kids.
  • get a manicure 45 minutes before you have to leave for the airport (it takes all the fun from the pampering)
  • plan on doing your own hair if given the choice to have it done for you--the stress, regardless of practice, is not worth saving a few bucks
  • forget to laugh--because someone everyone else will and someone needs to find the humor in things

Old Favorites...

Hi my beloved Readers! I've missed you all so much (I'm still working on that posting while traveling thing---I'll practice extra hard so next time we don't have to spend so much time apart). The wedding weekend is over and reality hit us right in the face yesterday with mounds of dishes, laundry and a spunky, smelly little mutt ready to snuggle at 8am.

I know you've all been craving a new recipe and this was one of my favorite dishes my mom would make when we were growing up. She always used leftover chicken and the shortcut of a cream of mushroom soup (making leftovers new again! love that!)--but I went straight for the same idea without the leftover roasted chicken... instead I used a chicken breast and cremini mushrooms to make a friendly cousin of the dish I grew up on... 

I'll go ahead and say it--this isn't really a summer time dish--it's more of a fall/winter, but a rainy night would work just as well.

 Chicken with peas & homemade cream of mushroom
(serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are)

  • one chicken breast shredded, baked or grilled*
  • 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 c milk (I used skim and it was fine!)
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 cups brown rice 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
*if you have leftover chicken, this is the perfect place to use it, you can also substitute any cut of chicken--we just always have chicken breast in our freezer.

Bake a chicken breast if needed (I seasoned with salt and pepper and baked for 20 minutes at 400 degrees). Then shred with some forks.

Prepare the brown rice as directed by the packaging.

In a deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for about 5-7 minutes until they become soft and deepen in color (don't salt them yet!)  

Create a well in the skillet and melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk together, allowing the flour/butter to cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk until completely combined. Allow to simmer over low-medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens (this can take up to 10 minutes). The mixture should thicken to a consistency of gravy. Whisk in the chicken broth, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Allow the 'sauce' or 'soup' to bubble and thicken again (this time it should be the consistency of a creamy soup)  

Add in the peas (please add as many or as few as you like--we're peas people!) and the chicken and stir together until heated through. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust if needed. Serve ladled over brown rice.

D and I had a great weekend catching up with my family, seeing Liz & Steve get married and spending time with our niece and nephew. Check back for a post on our trip!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Happy Wednesday Dolls! I can't believe today already marks mid-week (and the second day in May..)I'm quite certain the month of March never actually happened. Is anyone else feeling like time is just escaping at an alarming rate? Someone should do something about this (maybe after this post I'll send a letter to my congressman asking to slow down time--that'll go over well.).  

Things will probably be quiet around here the rest of the week as D and I head to Jersey for my sister's wedding this weekend. I'll be tending to Maid of Honor duties, arranging flowers and filling in where needed for all the last minute details. I can't wait to spend some time with my niece and nephew, dance with D and drink a little too much champagne (I mean it is our six month wedding anniversary after all!)

*thank goodness Pintrest hadn't taken off before my wedding...I would've been on inspiration overload. all of the above images via Pintrest.