Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Pesto Chicken

This week's Minted food post was created by yours truly in an attempt to create something familiar while still striking some unique notes. We've been keeping Greta busy since her arrival last month and this dish was no exception. A bounty of fresh herbs makes a fresh pesto to be grilled on chicken (or salmon) and a balsamic marinade transforms strawberries into the perfect salad topper. Get the full recipe here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mexican Style Dinner Bowls

This heat wave is showing no signs of ending (come on, September!), so I've given in and decided to start fighting fire with fire. There's only so much ice cream a girl can take to try to cool down before even that sticky mess becomes too much.  I read a few articles on eating spicy foods being a good way to beat the heat, so I've been increasing our intake of chiles and cayenne and a little bit of spice. 

D loves tacos--possibly more than any other food, and is always asking when we're having taco night around the house. I love a good taco too, but can't get past the calories contained in just the tortilla itself. We ditched the tortilla (and 120 calories per taco), cooked some brown rice and bulked our ground beef with some black beans, corn and bell peppers. Topped with tomatoes, onions, light cheese and sour cream-- these bowls are packed with fiber and all the flavors of taco night. 

Mexican Style Bowls  * This is a loose recipe--meaning there's lots of wiggle room based on personal taste. It's not so much a recipe but a concept for whatever you have on hand. Quantities for the following can be adjusted for taste, including leaving out the meat for a vegetarian friendly meal.
  • ground meat (beef or chicken works best)
  • black beans, drained and rinsed
  • brown or white rice (~ 1/3 c per person)  
  • thawed frozen corn
  • bell pepper
  • onion
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
*whatever taco toppings you like! 

  • seasoning, 1 tsp salt, 1tsp black pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tbsp paprika, 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1/8-1/2 tsp cayenne. *this is a base that I start with and adjust as I cook depending on how much meat and/or beans I'm making.
In a large skillet brown ground meat and season with seasoning mix. Add in the black beans to heat through and add 1 - 2 tbsp water to loosen the seasoning and get everything combined.  Right before serving, stir in cilantro.

Meanwhile, in a smaller skillet over medium heat combine corn, bell pepper and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook out about 5 minutes until softened and heated through. 

Assemble bowls with rice, bean and meat mixture, corn mixture and taco toppings.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Staying refreshed...

It's been hot. Really hot. Wring-out your bra at the end of the day hot. Am I the only one ready for the very first signs of fall? Maybe that's just because I've been driving around essentially in an oven. Literally. In an effort to reward myself for keeping a smile on my face, deodorant well stocked and a tightly attached filter to my mouth, I've been finding simple ways to stay refreshed  and keeping my cranky pants packed away this summer.

First, keep it lazy. Okay, not totally lazy because those dog hair tumble weeds aren't going to sweep themselves and the grass isn't going to recede on its own either maybe I should invest in some livestock to keep the blades at a minimum. Ranger had the idea this weekend...

Eat some fresh fruit. Dress up your melons with some citrus and honey to keep cool and to stay hydrated. I dressed this up with a drizzle of honey, juice and zest of one lime, and a tablespoon of chopped mint.

 Speaking of hydrated--are you guys hooked on Starbucks' new Refreshers drinks? Even available in Via form, these puppies kept me hydrated at the pool while giving me that kick of caffeine I needed to keep me from teaching some kids a lesson in public pool etiquette. (Ps. this cool lime has a hint of mint to it, add a fresh lime and some rum and call it a <100 calorie mojito). 

D stocked up on some Izze drinks this week and my fridge has never looked better with the bright cans and perfect summer flavors. 
If you're feeling more adult, opt for a summer shandy. Part beer, part lemonade--mostly just awesome. 
And this is pretty much the most country that I get-- Waffle cones and pick up trucks after an impossibly long afternoon of work. Seriously, these things should come with lobster bibs and badge of shame. 

How have you ladies been fighting the heat?  In addition to these ways of staying refreshed, I've been fighting fire with fire--literally. Up tomorrow, an easy Mexican bowl. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Black Bean and Bell Pepper Quesadillas

 A few of you have asked me recently what are some items I always keep on hand in the pantry and the fridge--this recipe highlights a few of these things (some a little more in concept) that I always try to replace before we run out because I can find so many things to do with them. Canned black beans are always stocked in our pantry and can be added to just about anything--Salads, tacos, rice bowls, soups, or just as a side dish. I also tend to have a wide variety of cheeses stocked in the fridge--goat, parm, american, some sort of cheddar/mexican blend--the basics that can be used in a variety of ways as well. Other things I always try to have on hand, frozen corn, a few boxes of pasta, a few fresh vegetables depending on what looks good at the store (recently it's been a lot of squash and peppers), onions and a variety of basic condiments. 

To break up a marathon day of cleaning, I whipped up this lunch quesadilla in a matter of minutes with some of my kitchen staples to keep me fueled for the rest of the day. 

Black Bean and bell pepper quesadillas
  • 2 8" flour tortillas
  • ~ 2 tbsp diced bell pepper
  • ~2 tbsp diced onion
  • ~2 tbsp drained and rinsed black beans
  • ~4 tbsp shredded cheddar or mexican blend cheese
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt, pepper, cumin, paprika & chili powder
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • zest of 1/2 lime
In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pepper and onion and season. Cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Then stir in black beans until heated through. 

Remove the vegetables from the heat and wipe out the pan. Over medium low heat melt the butter. Place a tortilla in the pan, add half the vegetable mixture and 2 tbsp of cheese. 

Fold the tortilla in half and press with a spatula so it sticks closed when the cheese melts. Flip after 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan after another 2-3 minutes. And repeat making the second quesadilla. 

For serving, add the sour cream to the plate. Grate the lime zest over the sour cream and enjoy the freshness of the dipping 'sauce'. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

I scream, you scream, almost ice cream!

I've been promising you guys this post all week but alas, life again, got a little bit in the way. But it's finally here and you won't be sorry you checked back for a few days.  I don't know if you guys have figured this out yet but I have a major sweet tooth. MAJOR. To the point that almost every day after dinner I'm looking for just a little indulgence to satisfy that last lingering craving on the tip of my tongue. This wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't trying so hard to wein myself off of sugar...maybe not completely--but I have been trying to cut back drastically on the added sugars in my diet (don't judge me for that bowl of frosted flakes I may or may not have had for breakfast 30 minutes ago). 

Enter--almost ice cream.

On numerous occasions here at Dressing on the Side we've discussed the quantities of bananas we purchase every week. Well, every now and then a few get ripe  before we're ready and we're faced with the options of eating 3 bananas a day, actually getting a pet monkey..OR making almost ice cream.

Peel those bananas, throw them in a ziploc bag and when a sweet tooth comes on (or you're looking for a dessert or breakfast, or cool snack) throw those bananas into a food processor and pulse to break them up. Switch to 'on' for about 30 seconds to smooth everything out and voila! You've got instant soft serve, no guit, 'ice cream'. 

We top ours with some melted peanut butter and chocolate chips. Two bananas have about 160 calories, plus the few from peanut butter and chocolate chips. You're looking at a heaping bowl of ice cream for right around 200 calories. Try to beat that!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If you can't take the heat...

Hey strangers! Sorry for the silence around here lately. It's been so hot, too hot around here--and well you know what they say about not being able to take the heat.  Extreme heat waves don't exactly make for the best conditions to be hanging out and experimenting in the kitchen. We've eaten out more than I care to admit in the past week and have been keeping Greta hard at work when we are dining in.  

I'm working on some fun and innovative posts both for Dressing on the Side and Minted but with the newness of Greta I wanted to make sure I had this grilling thing down (I think I do!). 

Despite the heat I stumbled on this blog that focuses on one MUG desserts that you can whip up in just a few minutes in a microwave. (No more missing baked treats because it's just too hot!)

Greta hard at work with Italian style burgers and Greek marinaded chicken. I've been focusing my marinades on red wine vinegars, olive oil, garlic and herbs like oregano and basil.

Our friend the albino alligator is chillin' out, pretty much the only thing you want to do in this heat.

Check back tomorrow for a low-cal, super indulgent way we found to beat the heat!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pantry Pickin's Pasta

Things this weekend didn't quite go as planned. D and I found ourselves at work more than at home (and quite relieved to be forced to spend so much time indoors as the heat index rose to 110 degrees +).  Saturday night I caved and requested a late night restaurant run for a less than healthy dinner--and a totally regretful Sunday morning of tummy troubles. Sometimes it's these little reminders that I need to kick start some inspirations in the kitchen and remember why I do what I do so well--improvise around the house. 

I'm planning to kick off a series that focuses on pantry (and fridge/freezer) staples that I always keep on hand to transform into any week night (or in this case, weekend) dinner for two or for twenty in a reasonable amount of time.  Sure you can buy those prepackaged frozen skillet meals, but for a fraction of the cost, fat and sodium, you can get at least double the quantity, flavor and nutrients in the same amount of time.

Pantry Pickin's pasta is a quick nod to an alfredo sauce using skim milk, just a little butter some deli sliced ham and some frozen peas. 

Pantry Pickin's Pasta  
(serves 2 with leftovers)

  • 1/2 box of pasta (any kind on hand will do)
  • ~1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • ~1 cup diced/sliced ham (or bacon or even part of a ham steak)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (any kind will do here, too)
  • ~2 cups shredded parmesean cheese
* most of these are closely estimated measurements because I literally threw this together in the kitchen before realizing it would make a great post. "Just abouts" work fine for this recipe, just go slow with liquid to make sure it's not too thin of a sauce!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Chop your ham (or bacon) and add it to a dry, medium sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes to crisp it up, stirring occasionally. Remove the meat from the pan and reserve for later. 

Grate the garlic cloves into the pan, still over medium heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Whisk in the flour and allow to bubble and cook for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk until all combined. Allow the milk to heat and lightly bubble while occasionally whisking (it should start to thicken at this point). 

Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cheese (reserve about a tablespoon for garnish) until it's all melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

In the last 2 minutes of your cooking pasta, add in the peas. Reserve a mug of pasta water before draining, to thin your sauce if needed. Then lightly drain your pasta, return it to the pot and add the sauce. Stir together and mix in the ham.