Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad News :(

Ugh, this couldn't come at a worse time. This weekend, the husband and I decided to play some games together on our respective computers (we have two, and they're right next to each other, monitors facing the opposite ways. Cute. In a nerdy, absurd way.). Things were going swimmingly until I started getting a keyboard malfunction. So I restarted my pc, it froze, restarted again, doesn't turn on :(. Long story short, after panicking, taking apart my computer, checking everything, and calling friends, the consensus is that my motherboard is dead. I love when things of this nature occur right around Christmas. It's the perfect time. Money's tight, things have to be saved for, etc. Needless to say, I won't be posting many pictures. I can't  transfer pictures from my camera to my work pc, and my husband's has so little memory available left that I'm not sure I can even install any of my photo editing software. However, I am going to give it a shot. I can guarantee that my updates (or at least my photos) will be more sparse, because of this. But our tax returns will be here hopefully by early February (possibly earlier if we decide to go to H and R block and get the money on the spot. I have no idea what that costs, though.), and then we are each building new PCs. I would just replace the motherboard, but my computer is so old, and I can replace it for a newer, more reliable pc for roughly 200-300 more than it would cost to inspect the computer and then replace the motherboard.

The good news is that my hard drive should be fine, and I should be able to transfer all my programs and stuff directly on, so hopefully when I get the machine, I won't have to dilly dally around. But I do apologize for this, because I truly want to be able to share the photos and stuff that I take. It's devastating to me that I almost lost everything I've ever had on there. I was looking at external hard drives online on black Friday, and I found none that were worth the price. But looking back on things, I'm so lucky my hard drive should be safe and sound. Wedding pictures, pictures from when I was little, graduation, programs and games, ugh. So many things. Guess the lesson here is that you can never be too careful.

I have a few recipes to share (we made the mozzarella in carrozza last night!!! Goodness it is delicious), and some photos, but I'll have to see if I can transfer the pictures to the hubbys computer tonight or tomorrow. If not, I'll just share the recipe and update the pictures as soon as I can.

Sorry for the inconvenience :(

Eat Well!
Melissa

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Web Design

I needed to change my layout so badly, I've been messing with logos on and off for weeks, and I finally settled on a very simplistic page. Also, now that I've shrunk the side bars, my images can be huge. And that's all that really matters in the end, isn't it? Hopefully you find this layout way less blinding :)

Eat Well!
Melissa

Copy Cat Recipe of Zuppa Toscana



This black Friday I had thoughts of being smashed in crowds, or having my eyes glued open while I stalked amazon.com for extreme deals that I just HAD to have. I thought I'd spend copious amounts of money on Christmas presents, or knife sets for myself, or buying DVDs that were only $5. Nope. Not this year. Instead, I woke up feeling ill, but next to an even ill-er husband. He had a terrible cold, and actually slept until 3 in the afternoon. Poor thing. I had to make do with my stomach bug. After a nap, however, I felt much better. But my poor husband was feeling terrible. He requested I make chicken noodle soup, and I told him that would be fine.

I left to go to the store, and as I was walking around, I realized I was just not in the mood for chicken noodle. Brandon loves the zuppa toscana at the Olive Garden. I know how many people despise the Olive Garden. It's not authentic, it's got boring food, it's not home made, whatever. I really don't care if they take this soup out of a can, I love it. It's spicy, it's got sausage, it's creamy, and there are potatoes in it. Oh, and cheese. Works for me, and definitely works for him too. So I decided to go for it. I knew the essentials of what was in the soup, and I looked up a few knock off recipes (love smart phones.). In all honesty, it's a very easy soup to make, and most of the recipes were very similar. Kale, cream, chicken broth, sausage, potatoes. It's not really much more than that. I added a lot of red pepper (he loves it spicy) and bacon. It was a perfect meld of flavors, and it made so much soup. It keeps very well. The creaminess of the broth and the softness of the potatoes was just lovely. My husband couldn't taste most things that day, but he said he certainly tasted the spice and the sausage :) The next day he could taste and he raved about it, but that just goes to show you, it's got some kick. So if you don't care for it being that spicy, just cut back on the red pepper, or use only sweet Italian sausage, with a little red pepper, instead of the mix of hot and sweet. I served it garnished with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a hunk of roasted garlic and olive oil bread.

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Time from start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:

1 lb. mix Hot and Sweet Italian Sausage, out of the casing/ground
10 cups Chicken Broth (or bullion cubes with water)
1 head Kale, rinsed and chopped well
4 cloves Garlic, minced or grated
6 strips Bacon, cubed
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Vidalia Onion, chopped
1/4 cup of Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
3 large Russet Potatoes, sliced 1/4 of an inch thick
1 Tbsp Oil
3 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano for topping the soup

Put your oil in a large skillet and heat to medium. Cook your sausage with 1 Tbsp red pepper, salt and pepper until it's no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Transfer your sausage to a bowl and cover and refrigerate. In the same skillet, put in your bacon. If necessary, add another splash of oil to the pan. Once your bacon starts to render a little bit (about 2 minutes), add your onion. Saute until the onion is almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Once it is close to translucent, add your garlic and mix everything together for about 30 seconds. Your bacon won't be crispy. Transfer the mixture to a high stock pot*. Turn the pot on medium high heat and add in your stock, salt and pepper, and remaining red pepper. Let the mixture come to a boil, then add your potatoes. Let cook until your potatoes are almost fork tender, roughly 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and add in your kale and chilled sausage and half your parsley. Cook the soup for another 10 minutes and add the cream. Stir it in, and heat until the cream has just warmed through, and serve topped with remaining parsley and cheese.

*If you don't mind your soup being a little discolored, you could do this whole process in your pot that you'll be cooking your soup in. Sausage is very greasy, so you'll already have a little bit of grease in your soup. I just didn't want the whole soup greasy. But if you don't mind, go for it. All the more flavor!

Eat Well!
Melissa

Thanksgiving

Oh it's back to reality I see. After my long (but never long enough) weekend of turkey, family, Christmas decorating, and caring for a sick husband, I am back at work (and the technology world!). This time of year is always so busy, and this is my first real session on a computer longer than a half hour or so, since before the break. That doesn't mean that I haven't cooked, however. I actually have a few recipes that I will be able to share with you this week.

I am hoping to start up my cookie baking in the next week or two, give or take, as well. So I'm on the hunt for cookie recipes! I'll be attempting to tackle several kinds that I've never made, so hopefully soon you can read about my trials and tribulations there, as well.

I do want to apologize in advance, however. When I first started this blog, I was writing nearly every day. Since the beginning of November, I have been swamped with other things going on. Catching up with friends, lots of family gatherings, and trying to keep up to date with this as well. I can only predict that I will continue the trend through December. So hopefully you can find it easy to be patient :) The holidays are always my busiest time of year, but I will do my best to post at least twice a week. I do have a feeling that I will be sharing a lot of pasta recipes, however! At our latest trek to Wegmans (our more high end grocery store), we recently discovered their pastas that are more or less unavailable at our local grocery store. So we purchased a few bags, and I'm feeling the need for it. It's almost winter! A lot of people love stew to keep warm. I like carbs :)

Along with pasta, I'm hoping to test out new cookies, like I mentioned, and I am having a serious desire to make my own Mozzarella in Carrozza. I've never made it, but I can't see HOW on earth it could not just be the best thing ever. I'm also planning on whipping up some wasabi smashed potatoes and some teriyaki chicken this week, too! So hopefully we'll have a bit of an adventure, and a tad bit of indulgence before the holiday season is over. Lord knows once January hits, I'll be back to my normal self, and most likely posting nothing but belt looseners. But for the month of December... hopefully I'll convince the husband to let me make a few treats out of the norm, but good for the soul.

I do hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving (if you're from the US! If not, a good weekend then!).

Eat Well!
Melissa

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cameron Estate Inn: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Back in July, my mother had her big 50th birthday. Instead of a huge party, we took her out for dinner to a place called the Cameron Estate Inn. It's nestled in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania and truly is a gem. Before we stopped over here, we had a picnic at a local winery. We probably shouldn't have eaten at all, because while the portions don't look over-the-top large, you basically had to roll all of us out of there. The one thing that I love about small places is that they don't spread themselves too thin. They have one, maybe two seasonal vegetables, one or two starches, and then you get your entree paired with it. I always tend to find that you're never disappointed by what you get. My entire family was absolutely raving about the potatoes that were paired with all of our entrees. They were so garlicky and buttery. We actually were begging the waitress to tell us what on earth they put in them, but to no alas. The biggest shocker was the Brussels sprouts. I genuinely never liked them. Ever. No matter how they were made, I'd shove them aside and turn my nose up at them. That's even including eating them with bacon, butter, you name it. However, I honestly have no idea what they did with these, but they were fantastic. I literally cleaned my entire plate. So, goes to show that a small bed and breakfast might only give you a few options, but here at Cameron Estate Inn, you're going to be pleased no matter what the side dish. So without further adieu, I'll show you some of the meals we ate, and give my take on them.

Cocoa Rubbed Lamb Chops
This was my 11 year old brother's meal. Champagne tastes, eh? Gotta love him. Being in central Pennsylvania has its perks. We are extremely close to Hershey, PA. Well, Cameron Estate Inn doesn't let their closeness go to waste. They use fresh Hershey cocoa in a rub for a gorgeous lamb chop. It tastes of chocolate and herbs, and is simply divine. The lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare and is so incredibly juicy. They give you a very generous portion, as well. Even my mother who doesn't like lamb, thought it was amazing.

Petite Filet with Crab Cake
This was mine. I got to devour all of it, and I was so happy with every bite. They paired a tender filet of beef with a no-filler crab cake. My perfect kind of surf and turf. The filet was topped with a large mound of shallot butter, and the crab cake was topped with their signature rémoulade sauce. My favorite part was the very first bite of crab cake. I have had crab cakes in many restaurants; I am a gigantic fan. But I absolutely despise spending large amounts of money on crab cakes that have a ton of filler. If you're not familiar with crab cakes (they are very popular in the Chesapeake area, however I have friends in the mid-west that don't have access to them), jumbo lump crab meat can be pretty pricey. So some restaurants use bread crumbs, or other ingredients similar to 'fill' their crab cake. My ideal crab cake is just jumbo lump, a little seasoning, hint of lemon, and maybe a little egg or mayo to bind it all together. Go figure, my ideal crab cake is few and far between. However, here it was spectacular. I tasted no filler, just pure sweet crab and that fantastic rémoulade. I would go back simply for this crab cake.

Crème Brûlée
The dessert. A simple Crème brûlée. Truly delicious and gorgeous. I can always appreciate a good Crème brûlée. I seem to order it out more and more, and it's no wonder why. I love the crispy texture of the caramelized sugar, mixed in with the cool creamy custard. Cameron Estate Inn made theirs exactly on point. Very traditional, no frills. They just paired it with a little chocolate raspberry drizzle on the side, and it was a delightful, sweet end to a very lovely meal.

We will definitely be going back to try out more of their menu. If you're ever in central PA, I hope you have a desire to stop by and try them out. You won't be disappointed!

Eat Well!
Melissa

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lemon Parmigiana Pasta


My ultimate form of comfort food. Pasta. It's so filling and incredibly versatile. I can serve it with tons of cheese, tomato sauce, alfredo sauce, e olio, you name it, you got it. One of my favorite ways to have it, is just tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, basil, mushrooms and wine. It's so warm, hearty, and really explains why I love Italian food. It takes so little for such a great tasting meal. This is no different.

Growing up, my mom constantly would whip up pasta dishes on a whim. They always burst with flavor and she rarely spent more than 20-30 minutes on them. It's funny because most people think lasagna or baked ziti or manicotti is the most comforting form of Italian (or Americanized Italian) food. But for me it's something like this. Don't misunderstand me. Gnocchi and eggplant parm are actually my two favorite foods. And they are incredibly comforting. But a simple pasta takes so little time to make, with so little labor involved. That's pretty comforting to me. Hopefully some weeknight when you're feeling a nice warm bowl of pasta, you'll try this version! Enjoy!

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Time from start to finish: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:
1/2 box Cavatappi pasta
1 Lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Basil, cut into a chiffonade
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
2 Tbsp Parsley, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped thickly
3 cloves Garlic, minced or grated
1/2 medium Onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter
1-2 Tbsp Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste

Salt your pasta water. While you wait for your water to boil, melt one tablespoon of butter with the oil over medium heat. Once melted, add mushrooms and onion and saute until onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Turn heat to medium high and add the wine. Bring to a boil then reduce to low. Add the crushed red pepper, garlic, chicken stock, flour, remainder of the butter, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper, 1/2 of the basil and all of the parsley. Cook at least 3-4 minutes, then add the pasta and the cheese. Toss and top with remainder of the basil. Serve with pesto topped crusty Italian bread and salad.

Eat Well!
Melissa

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Frills Steak Salad


Some week nights call for the easiest, quick meals. No crazy clean up, just good old fashioned simplicity. This is one of my favorite 20 minute meals. It is so crazy versatile that if you're in the mood to spruce it up, you can do it quite easily. But if you come home, exhausted, and needing to get dinner on the table fast - and still make it well balanced - you can leave it just as it is. I make mine Pittsburgh-style, meaning I put fries on top. Growing up, my dad would make this and he always did it that way, so I do too! This salad is really great with a creamy dressing. I love blue cheese dressing, or Parmesan peppercorn.  So get yourself a nice big bowl, a fork, and get ready to eat!
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Time from start to finish: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1-2 packages Stir fry Steak
1 bag or head of Romaine Lettuce
1 package Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Red Onion, sliced thinly
1 bag Steak Fries*
1 Cucumber, diced
1-2 cups Cheddar, shredded
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1-2 Tbsp Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper

Drizzle 1 Tbsp of the oil over the steak. toss with the cajun seasoning and a little salt and pepper so the steak is coated. If using the fries, coat with the remaining oil, and the chili powder. Cook to instructions on the bag. Put everything else in a big salad bowl while the fries cook. When there is about 4 minutes left on the fries, heat a pan over medium high. Cook the steak, flipping with tongs, until cooked to medium - about 2 minutes. Top the salad with the steak and fries and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Eat Well,
Melissa

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lebanese Delight


Ok. so it's not all Lebanese. But I didn't think the title should say "Greek + Arabic + Lebanese = Love". People might mistake it for some crazy movie. But in all honesty, I have all three cuisines to thank for the fantastic meal we chowed down on tonight. It was partially inspired by a Lebanese shop, Shab's Pita Stroller, by our house, and partially inspired by a friend who gave me her grandmothers recipe for Arabic potato salad. Coincidentally, the friend who gave me the potato salad recipe is actually cousins to the owners of Shab's! So I'll just throw inspiration at the family in general :) This afternoon I was trying to think about what on earth I would make for dinner. I had planned the beginning of the week, but sorta didn't think as far ahead as Wednesday. Lucky me, because if I had - this meal wouldn't have been on our table tonight. It was an easy meal, but totally out of the norm for my typical dishes. The whole thing was an experience and recipe test. I made my first batch of home made tzatziki! I made the Arabic potato salad! I made chicken pitas! Alright, so the pitas aren't the most exciting thing ever, but truth be told - I wanted to remake one of my favorite meals that I get at Shab's (I wish they had a website, but here's the yelp link!). Whenever I go, I get the simple chicken pita stroller. Basically just grilled chicken cubes, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and onion, all rolled up into an awesome pita. I had a little time to wait on the tzatziki sauce to come together in the fridge, so I marinated the chicken. I marinated it in lemon juice, garlic, zahtar (a middle eastern spice blend of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds), extra virgin olive oil, oregano and vinegar, and then grilled them so they were nice and brown with grill marks. Then we stuffed them into warmed pitas (make sure if you heat your pitas up, if they have pockets to open the pita before you warm it in the oven. If you don't, you might have a hard time opening them after!) with a big slather of the tzatziki sauce, parsley and tomatoes. Then on the side was the delicious potato salad!

So the real fun tonight was in making the tzatziki (and thinking I botched it!). I looked at a few recipes, and as I seem to do EVERY time I read one, I sorta just used it as a guideline. My husband actually was SO delighted with this sauce, it was the craziest thing I ever saw. My husband, Brandon, does not ever use copious amounts of condiments. And VERY rarely will he eat anything that looks even the slightest bit cream based or potentially mayo based, etc. So no ranch dressing, no blue cheese dressing, no mayo usually. And he doesn't care for dips, unless it's salsa. He's a tad crazy. But this tzatziki... the man blew me away. I had left it in the kitchen, and he actually asked me to bring it out so he could put more on his pita. He was basically slathering it all over everything. When you cook dinner, you take this as the biggest compliment there is (unless of course they're slathering something you DIDN'T make all over your food!!!). Like I said, I looked at a billion recipes, and I basically ignored so many rules that I read. And you know what? It was delicious. I didn't have a day to strain yogurt, so I bought Greek yogurt. I still read you should strain that - tough. I had an hour to get dinner on the table, and I threw the rulebook out. I don't doubt that you should follow the rules laid out by all of the fantastic grandmas everywhere, but in a pinch - this recipe will do. And that is putting it mildly. We were in love with it. A quick note though, it HAS to sit in the fridge at least an hour. It tasted weird when I did the quick taste test after mixing everything together. After the hour, it was pure bliss. The potato salad was absolutely delicious! Bright and lemony and was a perfect accompaniment to this meal!!! A home run all around with tonight's dinner!


Tzatziki Sauce
Time from start to finish: about 1 hour, give or take

Ingredients:
1 16-ounce package Greek Yogurt
2 cloves Garlic
1 Hot House Cucumber - peeled, deseeded and chopped roughly
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1 big Lemon
1 cup Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp fresh Dill

Pulse your cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the food processor, until fully blended. Pour it into a thin sieve or strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. I found this much easier than salting the cucumbers, waiting for the water to drain, etc. The liquid comes out much faster, but is pure water. Mix cucumber mixture into yogurt and top with more fresh dill. Allow to refrigerate 1 hour.
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Arabic Potato Salad 
Time from start to finish: about 30 minutes

Ingredients: 
3-4 boiling Potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parsley

Put the potatoes in a salted pot, cover, bring to a boil. While the potatoes cook, make the dressing. Combine rest of ingredients (except parsley) and whisk until emulsified. When the potatoes are fork tender (anywhere from 10-20 minutes), drain, put back in hot pot and allow water to dissipate. Pour dressing over potatoes and top with fresh parsley. 

Hopefully you enjoy these recipes!

Eat Well!
Melissa

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken Francaise with Roasted Asparagus


This weekend, the husband and I went out to my grandparents house in Toms River, New Jersey (Yes. It's near the jersey shore). It was a quite a lovely visit. My grandparents are both Italian, and they very much prove that fact within 3 minutes of talking to them. Their favorite subject is food. My grandpa loves to rave about my grandmothers cooking, and my grandmother loves to talk about how little she likes most others cooking, but loves her own. In New Jersey, there are delis everywhere. Butchers ready to give you their own soppressata, prosciutto, or pancetta. It's a luxury that we don't have here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, after our visit, all we wanted to do was make a soppressata, roasted red pepper and mozzarella sandwich (please pronounce that as "soop-re-sod and mootz a dell"), have home made "gravy", and eat copious amounts of Italian bread. But one recipe in particular was begging me to cook it at home. That was chicken francaise. My grandma made it the first night we were there, however she made hers with a pre-made sauce. This is absolutely unheard of for her, so we knew it had to be tasty. She used Victoria's Chicken Francese sauce. It was definitely delicious. She said she prefers to make her own, but at 4 dollars at her local grocery store, and making it as an entertainment dish, it pays for itself. When you figure in the wine, lemons, capers, etc. (not to mention the time you'll be spending away from your guests), it will definitely be over 4 dollars. But as with all jarred sauces, when I try them, I think of ways to make it better. This obviously runs in the family, because my grandma hardly just used a jar of sauce. She sauteed up some lemons, added fresh parsley, and had her cutlets already tasting like perfection. The sauce was really quite good. She served it to us with Italian bread, roasted potatoes and a fresh veggie medley. Not to mention, she was only away from us for all of 20 minutes. It really hit the spot.

Honestly though, I rarely like to use jarred sauces. I tend to find that when it comes to anything acidic, it just tastes...fake. I don't mean that it's not good, I just don't get the same brightness as you typically do when it's freshly made. My husband actually made that notice tonight, and I completely agree with him. That is not to say there's anything wrong with using them, I'd just rather make my own. So that's what I did! I paired it with roasted asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes. I do hope that I'd make my grandma proud. After all, she rarely eats anything not made by herself :). Oh us crazy Italians. Enjoy!

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Chicken Francaise
Time from start to finish: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Cutlets (or breasts) pounded to about 1/4 inch thickness
1/2 Lemon, sliced thinly
1 cup Chicken Stock
3 Tbsp Butter
About 1 cup Flour
2 tsps Capers
2 Eggs
3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup dry White Wine (I used Chardonnay)
4 cloves Garlic, minced or grated
1 Shallot, diced finely
Chopped Parsley for garnish (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare your chicken. Trim it, use your meat tenderizer (or the bottom of a heavy glass, as I like to use!), and set it aside. Take your two eggs and beat them together in a shallow bowl. Make a little assembly line: chicken, a piece of foil with flour, salt and pepper mixed together, and then your egg wash. Over medium high heat, melt 1 Tbsp of butter into the 2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. When your oil is hot, dip your chicken in the flour, then the egg, and then fry until golden on one side - about 2 minutes. Continue frying until the chicken is cooked the whole way through, another 2-3 minutes total . Repeat this in batches until your chicken is all cooked, and place on a paper towel lined dish. Cover with foil to keep warm. I actually cleaned my pan after this. I just didn't want my sauce looking brown from all the chicken browning. Lowering the pan to medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp butter into 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add in the lemon slices. Cook on one side about a minute, flip, and cook the other side another minute. Add the garlic and shallot and cook about 30 seconds until tender. Add the wine, chicken stock, capers and the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter. I coated the butter in flour so it would thicken the sauce. Bring this up to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Taste before salting, as the capers are salty. Salt and pepper the sauce. Chop up your parsley if using. Once your sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, add your chicken back to the sauce, add half of your parsley and stir and flip your chicken so it's got a nice coating. Serve it topped with the sauce, lemon slices and the remaining parsley. Eat right away.

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Roasted Asparagus
Time from start to finish: About 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 bundle fresh Asparagus
1 Lemon, halved. One half sliced thinly, the other half for juicing
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take one asparagus spear and lightly bend it until it snaps. Discard the bottom and use the top with the spear as a measuring guide. Trim your asparagus to roughly the same length. Get a cookie sheet, and lay the lemon slices down. In a medium mixing bowl, put asparagus spears, salt, pepper, oil and squeeze the remaining half of lemon on top. Toss to coat, and lay in a line on the baking sheet, on top of the lemon slices. Roast about 20-25 minutes, until the asparagus is fork tender.

Eat Well!
Melissa

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bakefest Weekend!


This past weekend, my mama, the hubs and I had a mini bake-a-thon. It started with cranberry orange scones, and ended with pound cake. We had pizza, beer, and lots and lots of sugar. It couldn't have been a more fun day. The next day, we hand delivered treats to some of our favorite family members and friends, as sort of our way of doing trick or treat :) We surprised some friends, others knew we were coming, and we all in all just had a GREAT time.

I'm going away for the weekend, but I wanted to leave you with a few of the recipes we followed. Maybe you'll find yourself baking up a storm! We did little to no substitutions. The only one I can think where I changed anything up was the pumpkin whoopie pies. I added about 4 tsps pumpkin pie spice instead of all the spices that are called for :) Turned out divinely! Oh also, Brandon didn't dip the biscotti. Anyway, enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Scones - Ina Garten
Lemon Almond Biscotti - Giada De Laurentiis
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies -Martha Stewart

Have a safe and fun weekend, and EAT WELL!
Melissa

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Devilish Chicken


Brr. It was INSANELY cold today. This morning the hubs and I woke up and left for work around 6:30 am. Aside from looking like midnight outside, it felt like we were at the north pole. According to the weather channel, it was 27 degrees out. I swear they were lying. In case you are unaware, I live in Pennsylvania. If you're not from the states, that's right below New York :). It should NOT be 27 degrees. Sigh. Anyway, we trekked to work as always. The frost was all over the windshield, so we put the windows down and ran the windshield wipers. This is a common occurrence in the early winter months. We never know if it'll be frosty or not, and we certainly didn't expect it this morning. Good thing we live a block from work. Or else we'd actually have to warm up the car :(
So after the scramble in the frigid cold, I finally settled at my desk, got my heating pad out, and started to think about dinner. Monday evening I was flipping through food network and cooking channel. Rachael Ray was on and she was making what she called "Deviled Skillet Chicken". It looked quite tasty, aside from the fact that the top of the chicken looked a tad too smothered in mustard to me. The basis of this dish was browned chicken, with a large smear of dijon (mixed with red pepper and spices), and a sauce made from the pan drippings and wine. Pretty easy, and I figured I'd adapt it to my tastes. Last week I had a mess with dijon pork chops (BOO!), but I loved the sauce. So this sauce is pretty similar to that. It's a little healthier, though! As per the norm, I used boneless skinless breasts, and instead of smearing the top with a large dollop of mustard, I coated the chicken in it, and allowed it to be the sauce. It was fantastic! On her show, Rachael Ray paired it with a vinegar slaw and giardiniera. We bought hot pepper rings instead and had a salad. Surprisingly, the nice bite from the vinegar in the pickled peppers really did go well with the Dijon. I highly recommend having something vinegary. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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Time from start to finish: About 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
1 big sprig Rosemary, chopped finely
2 cloves Garlic, minced or grated
2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 - 1 cup Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter

Heat your olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Mix the mustard, red pepper, garlic and rosemary together. Salt and pepper your chicken, then slather with the mustard mixture. Brown your chicken on one side. Flip and add the onions. Once the other side is browned, add the wine and chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium to medium low. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

Eat Well!
Melissa

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Photography Bliss

I know this is a food blog, but I have to say how much I love my new camera. I am in no way a great photographer. And I'm certainly no professional editor. However, jumping from my point and shoot to my DSLR has really got me into learning as much as I can about this fantastic hobby.

In high school, I took photography. I just messed around with it, and did the whole pinhole camera/black and white photography thing. It was a small class offered, and I really enjoyed it. When I got out of school, I sort of dropped the hobby because I started working full time and didn't have much money (what a shocker!). My then-boyfriend, now husband, and I got an apartment shortly after, and we still weren't exactly rolling in dough. I got my good point and shoot in 2008, and it started me getting back into photoshopping and editing. It wasn't until we got our engagement shots done (summer 09) that I really got hardcore back into it. There was something about seeing professional pictures of US that really just sparked my interest. It's sort of funny, since I tend to prefer to photograph nature and still life, not portraits (portraits of my cat don't count!). Anyway, I just want to post a few of my favorite photos and show why I love my new baby. Some are serious edits, and some (like the first) have practically zero editing, and are just the result of the camera being awesome, not me. In fact, most of it is the camera, haha. I'm working on getting into doing all manual shooting, but mostly everything on auto. It's a darn smart piece of machinery.

In case you are interested, it's a Canon Rebel XSI. A fantastic beginner DSLR. I highly recommend it :)

I love this because I literally spent a minute editing the lighting on this slightly. No tripod needed!




Honestly not much editing was done here either. The day was so gorgeous.

My attempt at a tri-photo of wind chimes
This was a huge edit. So you can probably see a lot of the flaws if you look close. But I'm still pretty proud of it!



This was actually with no tripod. See why I love my camera!


I know most of these are just blah photos to most, but I have to just say how much fun I'm having. So I think that's all that matters. I'm just using the kit lens, too. Someday when I get better, I'll invest in a few lesser expensive lenses :). It's just nice to have something really spark my interest. This blog in general has been a great stepping stone for me to get REALLY into cooking new recipes and working on my photography. So even if only a few people read it, it's great for me. And I've found so many great sites to read and draw inspiration from. So thank you all for that :). I've already picked 2 or 3 recipes from fellow bloggers sites! Check out the links to the right of my page, they're all fantastic writers. Highly recommend them!

Thanks for watching me post my mediocre photos!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage and Honey


So believe it or not, I had never actually had butternut squash. I've had practically every other kind of squash, but never butternut. It is literally EVERYWHERE this time of year, and finally I decided to make it. Why not? I'm so glad I did! It tasted completely different than I expected. I followed no recipe, I sorta just winged it, tasted, seasoned as I went. The result was pure sweet heaven. Contrary to my namesake, I don't generally like sweet savory side dishes (I KNOW, I KNOW.). The exception to this is candied yams on Thanksgiving. Also, apparently I also love sweet butternut squash. I'd be very interested in actually making my own butternut squash soup, or to use onions or leeks with them next time.

So first things first. In the case that you're a butternut squash novice, such as myself, make sure that when you cut your squash you cut it half lengthwise. There are seeds inside the bulbous bottom (technical term!), and you need to remove them. Also prepare to hate your life while you peel and cut it into cubes. At least I did. I see so many people roasting them whole and cutting them after (I wonder why...!?). You might want to try that, or just buy them pre-cut if you don't feel like messing with them. I never buy produce this way, though. I don't even buy pre-sliced mushrooms. I like to do the work myself, so I understand if you decide to tackle it on your own, without roasting it first! High five, we are in the same annoyed boat! But once that baby is peeled and the seeds are removed, and you've cut it in 1 inch cubes...the fun begins! Like I said, I didn't look at any recipes. I sort of picked through my pantry and went with what I assumed would work. The only thing I knew in advance was that people love brown sugar on the squash. And go figure, I didn't even add that until it was halfway done cooking and I tasted it to see what it needed. Low and behold, I didn't find the honey to be sweet enough, so I added the sugar. But the one thing I do know is that this was one tasty side dish! I served it alongside pork tenderloin. Enjoy!

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Time from start to finish: About 1 hour

Ingredients:
1 Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes
1-2 Tbsp Honey
1-2 Tbsp Sage (I only had dried. I imagine fresh would be fantastic!)
2-3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay squash on a cookie sheet and coat with rest of ingredients. Make sure the squash is laying flat, and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until fork tender.

Eat Well!
Melissa

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mexican Lasagna


Yesterday was a dreadfully ugly looking day. Actually, most days this week have been that way. It's almost November, so I expect it to look like midnight when I wake up. However, I expect my lunch break to at least be filled with some sunshine. I am obviously asking just too much there. Every day when I've left for lunch, it's been gray and overcast with a side of gross. When I think fall I think of nice crisp (summer, if you're listening, take that stupid humidity with you) air, leaves changing, hoodies, hot chocolate, etc. But it's just been a very gloomy looking week this week. So what does one do? Well, I crank up the air conditioning in the apartment, pretend it's chilly out, get my favorite blanket, and I cozy up on the couch, or in bed. AND I want something dense and hot in my tummy. Lasagna is a perfect go to dinner for these kind of days (or makeshift days!). Yesterday I wanted something different than traditional lasagna, so I went with a Mexican lasagna. Noodles made out of tortillas, creaminess from sour cream, "ragu" made out of black beans, corn and chilies. It's just simply perfect. I've read so many recipes on different ways to make Mexican lasagna, and I've pretty much combined all of my favorite parts from all of them. Substitutions are always welcome, this lasagna is so forgiving. Also, you could make it vegetarian very easily. Double or triple your amount of all the veggies and just omit the chicken. The beans and corn alone are very filling and have an amazing taste, so you won't miss out!!

Q: What is your go to comfort meal? And do you have a favorite spinoff?
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Time from start to finish: 1 - 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients:
1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Corn with Chilies*
1 small can Green Chilies
1 small Onion, diced
3 cloves Garlic, grated
1 Tbsp flavorless Oil of your choice (don't waste good stuff here)
few dashes of your favorite Hot Sauce (I used a Habenero)
1 Tbsp Adobo Seasoning
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tbsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Cilantro
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
1 package flour Tortillas, edges cut off so each tortilla is a square, not a circle
4 large boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 cup Taco Sauce
1/2 - 1 cup Sour Cream, plus more for serving
1-2 cups Mexican Blend of Cheese (or whatever mild Mexican cheese you want)
1 cup Pico de Gallo, or your favorite salsa
1 packet Taco Seasoning or a blend of your own, from the above spices
About 1/2 cup water

*If you can't find this, just substitute a can of corn and 1 red pepper diced up.

Sounds like a lot of ingredients, but don't worry, this recipe is really easy, and it's basically fool proof.  Preheat your oven to 425. Begin by putting your chicken breast (clean it of all the fat first, makes it easier when you go to shred it) submerged in a pot of cold water. Salt the water, cover the pot and put it on high and bring to just below a boil. Once it reaches just below a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until your chicken is cooked. Remove to cutting board and shred. I like to use two forks, or a knife, and just pull apart big chunks of the chicken and allow the big chunks to cool while I do other stuff. This way it becomes easily handled, and you can pull it with your fingers - which I find the best way to do this. You can use a food processor, but I find when you do it by hand, you tend to pull so the chicken fibers stay together, making it more tender. But if you wanna save ten minutes (understandable!), pop it in the processor for a few bursts. Once your chicken is shredded, or while you wait for it to cool so you can handle it, mix the first 12 ingredients in a large saute pan over medium heat. You just want to warm it through and mix all the flavors up together while you're working on your chicken, or while you're cutting your tortillas.Once your mixture is heated up nicely, about 8 minutes, remove to a big container/mixing bowl. Carefully mix in sour cream. You want just enough to make the mixture moist and creamy, but you don't want a ton of sour cream at the bottom of the bowl. Set aside for use in a minute. Back in the pan you warmed up all those ingredients in, put in shredded chicken over medium high heat. Add taco seasoning and enough water to wet the whole mixture and steam up. Really this isn't exact, and you won't mess it up. Mix up the seasonings and turn off the heat. Now starts your layering process!

I used a smaller square baking dish, 8x8, just because there are only two of us. But you can easily double or triple this recipe. Just bake a little longer. Spray your baking dish with pam or whatever you want, just make sure it's coated well. the tortillas love to stick. You could also put a little taco sauce on the bottom. Layer: tortillas, bean and corn mixture, salsa, chicken, cheese, tortilla. This made 3 layers. Then top with the taco sauce and more cheese. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortillas are soft. Let stand a few minutes before cutting. It's easier to handle that way.

I used the scraps from the tortillas and lightly coated them with some oil and the spices above. I served them alongside my salsa! Perfect side dish!


Eat Well!
Melissa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Swing and a Miss!

 And no, I'm not talking about baseball. Goodness I just can't get into that sport!

So last evening I decided to 'throw together' the pork chop recipe I was going to try back for date night. The recipe is so simple, I figured it'd be done in twenty minutes, be a recipe I hadn't tried, AND be cinch. Oh my my. Where did I go wrong? Oh, I know. Somewhere between "talking on the phone to your mother" and "paying no attention". Yep. Right about there. It started off fantastically! I prepped my shallots and garlic, had everything on the counter, had my wine measured, you name it, I got it (Jurassic Park, anyone?). THEN my mother calls. Yep, I can blame her. Ok maybe I can't. But it'll make me feel better, and that's what moms are for, right? She can take the blame. You see, I didn't use thick cut pork chops. I saw butterflied chops at the store, and I had to have them. I'm not exactly sure what my obsession with butterflied meat is, but it's a pretty strong one. It always cooks faster! Yep, that's it. It cooks faster. Something I completely neglected to remember while I was chatting away with my mother, nodding at my husband (I had no idea what he was trying to say to me, but I gave the appearance of agreeing with him. I do hope he was asking me a question), stirring the sauce, and thinking that I should wash our bedsheets. The result was relatively dry pork chops. In good news though, the sauce was absolutely to die for. I poured it all over my mashed potatoes. At least some part of dinner was salvageable!

I was too busy ignoring my pork, you think I got a picture?

I told you when I started this that there would be failures! Here is failure numero uno. Only about 999 to go :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Korean-ish Style BBQ Chicken


Nothing says "dinner" like sticky char-y chicken. I made this yesterday when I wanted to spend more time relaxing on my day off, then tending to dinner. It's a very quick easy marinade that is reminiscent to a Korean style BBQ, but I tend to omit a few traditional ingredients (I'm looking at you, white sugar) and put in a few with more flavor (mmm Worcestershire). So before I get yelled at, I know it's not an actual authentic Korean BBQ, but it makes a freakishly good marinade, so who's complaining? I love to cook my boneless skinless breasts in our nonstick skillet. I always find that the marinade gets nice and glazed on, and I can still clean the skillet with relative ease (unlike my grill pan. boo!). I have a thing for mixing my hot, sticky chicken in mashed potatoes. I have no idea why, but it's my thing. So I serve this with mashed potatoes (or baked potatoes! Works great there too!) and an autumn salad. But it's chicken. You can serve this with whatever you like!

Question! What do you like to pair your chicken with best? I look forward to your response!

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Time from start to finish: 30 minutes without marinating time

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Ginger, grated
3 cloves Garlic, grated
1 Shallot, minced
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
1/4-1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup low sodium Soy Sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Sriracha or chili flakes/hot sauce, whatever heat agent you want
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts*, butterflied
1 Green Onion, snipped for garnish (Optional)

Whisk all ingredients, sans chicken together until mixed thoroughly. Pour over chicken, making sure all the chicken is covered and coated. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 8 hours**.  Preheat grill pan/nonstick skillet/grill to medium high to ensure a nice sear on the meat. Discard marinade and cook until chicken juices run clear - about 8 minutes total depending on the thickness of your chicken. Enjoy!

*I have a thing for using boneless, skinless. You are more than welcome to use bone-in, skin-on chicken! Just adjust cooking time!
**I wouldn't leave this one marinate overnight - I have let it go and it was extremely tough.

Eat Well!
Melissa

Oh Tuesday


Sorry there were no posts this weekend. It's been a busy few days here, but I can promise a few pictures and recipes to come this week from this past weekend. My most favorite being the champagne layer cake that I made! Being a lazy bum last night, I forgot to upload the pictures so I could make the post today, but when I get home, I will be sure to upload.  There's a mediocre picture I shot of the cake in the kitchen. I was so tired after making it, I didn't put in the time to get good pics :(  But for a great picture (and the recipe!) check out  Darjeeling Dreams. She makes the most mouthwatering sweets ever. I saw her recipe for the cake here, and I knew I had to try it. The only way to describe this cake is this: whenever there are baked goods in our home, generally they last a week and then we throw some out. There is one BIG piece, or two little ones, left. It was made Friday night. We didn't even have a piece until Saturday morning. That is just how good it is. It is by far the best from-scratch cake I have ever made. I have to attribute that to the perfect batter recipe for the cakes. It was a much more unique recipe than your traditional yellow cake. 1/4 cup of champagne, a cup of buttermilk, no oil or shortening, just egg whites - no yolk. Not that this isn't standard for some recipes, but the typical cake I make is a box that says Betty Crocker. If you're lucky, I'll make the most standard of from-scratch cakes. When she posted the recipe, it looked like a dressed up cake that wouldn't be completely impossible to make. And boy, the recipe is 100% dead on. I've added it to my list of go-to cakes to make. The frosting/whipped topping is delicious and airy and can be changed to incorporate whatever flavor profile you're going for. You could add honey or vanilla, like she suggests, or whatever extract you like. You can change the filling inside (she uses blackberry preserves). But no matter what you do, this cake will turn out perfect, and it's sure to make everyone who tries a piece think "Wow!" I wish I had an event coming up that I could bring this to, it's that good. I was just happy to share some with my mother and grandmother-in-law.

Eat Well,
Melissa

Friday, October 22, 2010

Orange and Fennel Salad

So bright and refreshing
Ah what is better than a nice balanced meal? Seriously nothing. Throughout the day Brandon asked me what I was going to make for dinner. All I knew was that I had to do something with the split chicken breasts we had in the fridge. I also knew we had fingerling potatoes (I knew this because the husband kept talking about how excited he was for roasted fingerlings ALL DAY). But I kept thinking about how something was going to be missing. I'd be missing bright colors, acidity, crunch. Basically... I'd be missing some form of veggies. I've been getting so into fresh produce recently. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but really for our household "fresh produce" is usually something we reserve for the weekend. You can see why I started this blog! I needed a good kick in the behind to get myself into eating much better. Usually we would get bags of steamer veggies, because I would cook meals that didn't take much time on the weekdays. Yep. I was lazy. Glad I used my noggin tonight though! And I'm doing everything in my power to kick that habit of steamer bags right where it hurts. No more for me! Unless I'm in a pinch, of course :) Or I want corn! Gotta have my corn!

So whilst pondering throughout the work day, I decided that I wanted to have some form of salad. Yes, I know you see the picture up there! But the trick was making something that really balanced the meal. I can't think of a better salad for what I made for dinner tonight. Also, I really pinched pennies with it too! My salad cost $7.00 for a huge salad. Seriously! It consisted of the three ingredients you see right there: Orange, fennel and baby arugula. The oranges were great because they doubled as an accompaniment to the salad AND to the chicken. It tied everything together so perfectly. I made a home made lemon-orange dijon vinaigrette to go along with the salad as well. So my seven dollar purchase actually gave ingredients to my salad, main course and the vinaigrette. Pretty nice, if I do say so myself. Also, my kitty tended to think that dinner was pretty awesome too. As you can see, she thinks it's quite tasty. At least... that's what she told me about the chicken.


So without further adieu, here is the simple Orange and Fennel Salad, with home made Lemon Orange vinaigrette!

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Time from start to finish: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

For Salad:
1 package Baby Arugula
2 large Valencia Oranges
1 large bulb Fennel, core removed and cut into thin strips

For Vinaigrette:
Juice of 1 Lemon
Juice of 1 Orange
1 clove Garlic, minced or grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup White Wine Vinegar
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (more or less to your taste)

Wash and dry your arugula, top with the fennel and oranges. Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette together, and lightly dress the salad. Voila! This pairs fantastically with roasted chicken! When I roasted mine, I used some of the orange juice and zest on the chicken breast, so it tied in beautifully. But you can enjoy this on its own, or with some tasty bread, with soup, with whatever your heart desires. It's a perfectly balanced salad with a great dressing. Enjoy!

Eat Well!
Melissa

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Best Cup Ever!


This morning I had some "Christmas Eve" tea from Stash. Before you say anything, I'd like to avidly deny getting too far ahead with my seasons. I am not obsessed with Christmas, I am not obsessed with Christmas, I am not obsessed with Christmas. There. I told you.

I more or less made this post to show off my delightful cup. I love it. I look completely trendy, but I don't care. That's gotta be my most prized coffee cup. The husband got it for me last year for Christmas, and it's still my favorite. The cup never feels terribly hot, it's got a CANDY CANE STRIPED STRAW, and it's clear, so you get to see how pretty your tea looks. Or soda, beer, cocktail, 12 shots of rum, what have you. I tend to stick to tea and hot chocolate in it, though :).

See!! Candy cane striped!
Speaking of hot chocolate, I tend to drink the powdered swiss miss stuff, because it's not awful for you. A lot better for you than actually melting baking chocolate, anyway. But anyway, this weekend we bought their 25 calorie packets. They are completely terrible, and I wouldn't recommend them to anyway. I used to packets in that cup up there. I typically use two of any kind of hot chocolate, and it never tastes watery. But that hot chocolate tastes like 85% water, 15% chocolate garbage. :( Saddening, because that would've been a nice treat to not feel guilty about. Oh well. I'll stick to my 200 calorie cups of hot chocolate. At least it's uber tasty :)

Drink Well!
Melissa

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fontina English Muffins



Mmm who doesn't love a nice english muffin for breakfast? All the cracks just catching the butter/margarine/BACON FAT. They're absolutely delicious! One of my favorite types of food, if you can even call it that, is "breakfast." Yes, I'm lumping all the breakfast foods together. However, if I'm being truthful, my real "favorite" is a really delicious breakfast sandwich. When I was younger, around 17 or so, it used to be the "cool thing" to go to a local gas station and get breakfast in the middle of the night. Or rather, the cool part was GOING to the gas station, and then I'd get breakfast. Boy am I glad I'm 24 now. I can go during whatever time of day, and be EXTREMELY awesome. Know why? Because breakfast is cool at all hours. Yep. I just know that when I walk in and press those buttons on the Made-to-Order screen, that the 18 year old high school kid is looking up (or down, I'm not even five feet tall) at me like I'm the head cheerleader. (Have I mentioned my mastering the art of illusion?)

This takes me to my breakfast sandwich that I recently made. Generally when I make breakfast sandwiches they include a bagel, bacon or sausage, egg and cheese. Those are the only four components that I need. Who am I kidding? I can slap a piece of cheese on a hot bagel, wrap it in foil and eat it five minutes later and be in pure heaven. But on this particular morning, I happened to have no bagel or meat! What was I to do? Pretty sure you guessed right! I still made a damn sandwich. Probably the easiest breakfast sandwich ever. Fontina, fried egg, a little butter and english muffin. So perfectly fantastic. This doesn't even really need a recipe, but I'll give you one anyway! Then you can be the cool kid too!

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Time from start to finish: About 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 English Muffin, halved
1 Egg
Shredded Fontina, enough to pile on top of an english muffin
1 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp fresh Chives (optional; for garnish)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Turn your broiler on, (or toaster oven if you prefer) and put a pan on medium low heat. Melt the tablespoon of butter in your pan. Prep your english muffin. Split your muffin and put it on a cookie sheet. Top with the fontina and a little bit of salt and pepper. It should look like this.

mmmmmm

See how easy?! Now we want to fry up our egg. Now crack your egg into your pan and break the yolk a little bit. I do this by just taking my spatula and gently tapping the edge into the yolk. It makes it stay in place, but gives you that nice fried texture all over. I don't tend to like yolk dripping down my breakfast sandwiches, (unless it's just eggs on toast!) I just find it messy. But if you like that, don't break it. If you do break it, it should look like this.

Don't forget to season your egg!
Now put your english muffin under the broiler/in the toaster, allow the cheese to melt and the english muffin to get crisp. About 2-3 minutes depending on your equipment. But watch it, because you don't want the muffin to burn. Then just assemble and chow down!!!

I love this sandwich because it tasted a little grown up, but I know better. I'm still the cool kid.

Eat Well,
Melissa

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Asian Noodle Soup


It's Autumn. It's cool and breezy, you don't want to leave the couch. What DO you want? Something warm and comforting. Something that requires very little effort. AKA: You want to call the Chinese delivery guy. Or the pizza guy. STOP! DON'T CALL ANY GUYS! (Unless of course you're trying to have a sweet house party.) This soup is so quick and easy, and it tastes like you've been cooking the broth for hours. It literally takes 15 minutes, very little prep, and you'll be back under the covers in no time. It's perfect because you can add whatever vegetables you want, just make sure you adjust your cooking time, then slurp away!

I've made this soup a couple times now, and it seriously goes so fast. Brandon, my husband, has actually proclaimed that it is his all time favorite soup. That's some serious praise for an avid lover of chicken noodle soup. So, without further adieu...

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Time from start to finish: about 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 15-ounce can Chicken Broth (or water)
1 Star Anise
Few dashes Soy Sauce
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Ginger
2-3 cups Baby Bok Choy, rinsed, dried and chopped roughly
1 12-ounce package of Baby Bella Mushrooms
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp Brown Sugar
Udon Noodles (up to you how much to use)
1 Scallion, chopped

Get your pot of water on for your udon noodles and follow the package instructions. You'll want to have your noodles ready just as your broth is finished. So just plan accordingly.

Star Anise gives a great, subtle licorice tinge to your broth
 In a medium saucepan, heat stock, broth, soy sauce, star anise, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir together gently and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add whatever vegetables you're using and cook two minutes. Put your cooked udon in your bowls, then top with soup and scallions and enjoy!

I told you! Such an easy dinner!!!!!

Eat Well!
Melissa

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cornflake Chicken

I've had quite a busy weekend! This past week was a pretty rough week for my family, so my husband and I decided to have a much needed, exciting weekend. ALSO, amazing news, my camera came on Thursday night! Friday we went to a party, so we didn't have to cook, and Saturday night he took me out on the town to use my camera and to get food downtown. So yesterday morning I woke up and was already trying to plan what I wanted to make.

We ate relatively heavy this past weekend, so I wanted to make something less fattening, but still have something that was extremely comforting. There is nothing more comforting than good fried chicken. But...I'd totally throw that "less fattening" out that window if I made fried chicken!!! So, I made cornflake breaded chicken. It's seriously even better, in my opinion, than deep fried chicken. I know, that sounds sacrilege. But honestly, by the time I clean up all of the oil and the mess from fried chicken, I am almost regretting making it to begin with (now... if someone else is cooking and cleaning, then this isn't always true!). This "fried" chicken is guaranteed to be crispy, delicious, moist, and about 30 times better for you than actual fried chicken. It's easy cleanup, too - one roasting pan and one closed container. What could be better? Oh, that's right, the fact that it tastes amazing. Try it, you'll seriously love it.

I paired it with garlic sauteed Swiss Chard. Enjoy!

Recipe: Cornflake Chicken

Time from start to finish: About 45 minutes, Plus 2 hours for marinating

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, butterflied
4 cups non-sweet Cornflakes, crushed
3/4 cup Buttermilk
2 Tbsp Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Prepare your chicken. Butterfly it so you have two individual cutlets per breast (just cut your chicken in half, horizontally). In a container prepare your marinade. Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, cayenne, cajun and salt and pepper together. Put your chicken in the container and let marinade at least 2 hours. After marinating, preheat your oven to 425. Take your crushed cornflakes and pour them on a few sheets of foil (for easy cleanup!). Press your chicken into the cornflakes to get a nice, even coating. This seems to take a little more force than regular breadcrumbs, but it's worth it! Place the chicken in a roasting pan with a rack on the bottom. If you don't have one, you can spray some nonstick spray on a roasting pan, but you risk the breading sticking to the pan. Cook for 18-25 minutes, depending on your thickness of the breasts. As long as the juices run clear, you're fine! Serve with garlic sauteed greens. Enjoy!

Eat Well! 
Melissa


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mac and Cheese, Grown Up Style


As you can see from the picture, this isn't your average macaroni and cheese. It's freaking killer because it's made with gnocchi. The cheese sauce is surprisingly light, and the Parmigiano Reggiano on top is just icing on the cake (or...cheese on the pasta?!). This is the perfect side dish to any lean meat, or would be perfect on its own. Sitting under the covers on a cold Sunday... eating this while reading a book...I could rock that.

The cheeses that I used were Gruyere, Fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano. I have seen several recipes when looking for macaroni and cheese that use this blend, so I decided to try it. It's hard to believe that this isn't the heaviest thing ever. But somehow the gnocchi just end up tasting like light fluffy pillows just kissed with cheese sauce. The key is to not ladle too much cheese sauce in the tartlet pans. So when you bake it, it adheres to the gnocchi, but it doesn't look soupy. But really, too much cheese is never a problem in my book. So if you want it extra cheesy, GO NUTS!

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Time from start to finish: About 40 minutes
Ingredients:
1 packet Gnocchi
1/2 cup Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Fontina Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmigano Reggiano, shredded
3/4 cup Milk*
1 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated (or ground if that's what you have on hand)
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Garlic, grated or minced
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put your salted water on to boil and preheat your oven to 400. In a saucepan, melt your butter over medium low heat. Once melted, add your garlic and let it cook for about 45 seconds, just so you start to smell it. Add your flour and whisk to create a roux. Stir in a the milk, dijon, salt, pepper. Slowly add the Gruyere and Fontina, a handful at a time. Stir until the cheese is completely melted before you add the next handful. Then add the grated nutmeg. Put your gnocchi in to cook before you've added the last of your cheese. It should only take 2-3 minutes to cook. Cook per package instructions, drain. Once all of your cheese is added and melted, it's finished. Split your gnocchi up into tartlet pans, or just put it all in one dish if you prefer. Add the cheese sauce and top with Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the Parmigiano Reggiano is melted. Garnish with basil or parsley if you like! Enjoy!

Eat Well,
Melissa

*I used 1% Milk. If you use a higher fat content milk, you might need to adjust your cheese sauce stirring time just slightly (same with if you use skim, it might take a little longer to thicken)