Mediterranean Fusion Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Having a dinner guest on a Monday night is pretty rare for me. In fact, I don’t think in all my working years that I’ve had a friend over on a Monday night. But I’m so glad I did. Friends can be great inspiration for cooking. I always want to leave an impression and make sure they’ll be back again.

Another person who regularly inspires me is my boyfriend. While the kitchen is primarily my domain, he helps out a lot. And it doesn’t hurt that he grew up in a culture rich in amazing cuisine and hospitality. I’ve learned so much because of him. So it would be wrong to take all the credit for the Mediterranean fusion chicken lettuce wraps. It’s our creation. 🙂

The concept came from a desire to eat less carbs and to dress up the bell pepper dish I found myself cooking nearly every night for a short period. This time I added white mushrooms as well, and the result was pure magic.

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So while you can certainly adjust the ingredients as you’d like, here’s what I did last night:

Saute chopped white onions, orange and yellow bell peppers, and white mushrooms in a mixture of vegetable/olive oil.

Season with cumin, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and a few good squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Then I pan fried 2 seasoned chicken breasts, sliced into 4 pieces. Once cooked, the chicken was further sliced into strips.

Carefully remove 10 or so lettuce leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce.

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I also prepared a garlic yogurt sauce, using Greek yogurt, filtered water, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Once your lettuce leaf is loaded with chicken and the vegetables, just scoop some sauce on top. The mixture of flavors were heavenly. I love it when I nail it. 🙂

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I made brown rice as the side which turns out to be an excellent choice. It was a filling and wholesome meal. I was so excited to share with you I woke up 2 hours early. 🙂

Green Lentils for Lunch

Weekends can sometimes lead to unexpected spending, leaving less money in your pocket for eating out. This was one of those weekends.

I have the perfect secret weapon for a cheap, filling meal, that’s packed with real nutritional value. One small bag will set you back about a $1.60. Green lentils.

I boil them 3/4 of the way, drain the water, and then add filtered water, sauteed onions and a scoop of tomato paste. Once the water is mostly evaporated and the lentils are soft, it’s done. Add salt and pepper. Serve with bread and Greek yogurt.

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My Thanksgiving Menu

If you can believe it, Thanksgiving is less than a week away! If you haven’t been furiously planning over the last several weeks, like I have, hopefully my menu, recipe choices, and tips can bring you some inspiration.

Turkey

This year my parents are buying a fresh turkey (as opposed to a frozen one) and I have suggested that we try a new cooking technique called spatchcocking or butterflying. It’s supposed to cook the turkey faster and more evenly. If you’ve ever tried this method with turkey or chicken, I’d love to know what you think of it.

Sage sausage stuffing

Sausage stuffing has been a staple side dish in our family Thanksgivings for years. We just make it from a box on the stovetop and add Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. Yummy!

Mashed potatoes

These are my specialty! I tried making them in a crock pot last year, but nothing beats the traditional method. But I’m excited to use my immersion blender to get the smoothest, creamiest texture possible!

Potatoes au gratin

Did I mention I love potatoes? and cheese?

Here’s my go to recipe:

http://southern.food.com/recipe/scalloped-potatoes-85629

Be sure to use a mandoline slicer to get the thinnest potato slices and be sure to layer them evenly!

Broccoli and cauliflower gratin

I wrote about this side dish in one of my earlier posts. So delicious!

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/broccoli-and-cauliflower-gratin-10000000258238/

Creamed spinach

When it comes to creamed spinach, and many other things, I turn to Pioneer Woman for the perfect recipe:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/04/creamed-spinach-to-die-for/

Roasted butternut squash soup

A friend made this soup for me and I absolutely loved it! Go easy on the curry powder if you have a sensitive tummy.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Curried-Butternut-Squash-and-Pear-Soup/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

Fall leaf bread (Pillsbury croissant dough with cheese and herbs)

Brilliant idea from Pinterest. Gotta try it!

http://www.hungryhappenings.com/2012/11/cheesy-crescent-roll-leaves-for-your.html

Honey and Vanilla Glazed Carrots

I like the simplicity and sophistication of this:

http://www.susannahskitchen.com/2013/09/recipe-vanilla-honey-glazed-carrots.html

Green bean casserole

A must on any traditional Thanksgiving plate! I ❤ green beans.

https://plus.google.com/app/basic/stream/z13lwfrpfyvlxrjtl22hwdsocrfmtfgoi04

I love Macaroni and Cheese!

I can’t eat Kraft macaroni and cheese anymore. It was a small tragedy at first, but I’ve learned to let go and I’m all the better for it. You see, it turns out there’s some pretty weird stuff in that blue box. I guess there was a campaign to remove the harmful yellow dye from the ingredients, but come to think of it, there’s probably still something wrong with powdered cheese, no matter how much I really, really liked it. You can read more about the Kraft dye concerns here.

I’ve always enjoyed making homemade macaroni and cheese as well, but I just felt lazy to do it all the time. But after reading about the crap that goes into a lot of our food, I decided to make an attempt to have more control over what goes into my kitchen and my body. I’m by no means perfect and I’m not trying to be. There’s a lot of unknown when it comes to anything you buy from the store, but you can at least be sure there are less chemicals in food you prepared yourself then if you just dumped a frozen bag of pasta onto a pan. At least… that’s what I want to believe.

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To make that pretty bowl of joy above, cook some elbow macaroni (or any pasta, really) per the box instructions or if you’re me, just keep testing it until the noodles are soft enough. Hot tip: fill a small cereal bowl with noodles. This is about as many noodles as there are in a standard Kraft box. While the noodles are boiling, take out a small sauce pan to make the cheese sauce.

Macaroni and Cheese Sauce

Butter

Flour

Half n Half

Shredded cheese (I like Colby Jack)

Salt and pepper

Optional: dijon mustard, mayo, cayenne pepper, onions, chopped jalapeno, bacon bits, broccoli bits, etc.

To make the sauce, start by making a roux. A roux is equal parts butter and flour, melted and mixed together. If you’re making yourself lunch or a one-man dinner, you only need maybe 1/2 or 1 TBSP of butter, and hence, the equivalent amount of flour. Today I added just a tiny bit more butter than flour and added about 2 TBSP of chopped onions. I gave the onions a few minutes to cook in the roux, and then I added about a cup of half n half (milk or heavy cream will also do). Whisk the mix continuously until it begins to thicken. Then I mixed in a big handful of shredded cheese, a dollop each of mayo and dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Drain your pasta and pour it over with your cheese sauce.

It’s pretty easy to make once you get the hang of it. And it’s easy to modify too! Pour your cheesy noodles into a casserole dish and bake with more shredded cheese and bread crumbs on top. I’ve even served it as an appetizer by baking into aluminum muffin wrappers.

How to Prepare and Enjoy Japanese Eggplants

Eggplants. Aubergines. Patlican. Whatever your name for it, it’s that beautiful purple vegetable that isn’t seeing enough face time on your dinner plate. They’re full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. And if prepared well, they can be incredibly delicious. Some vegetables are best when they’re cooked and eggplants are no exception. But the trick is knowing how to prepare them so you can make the most of their flavor.

There are several varieties of eggplants, but my favorite are Japanese. Japanese eggplants are like the thin, miniature versions of your average eggplant and are a much darker purple than their longer, Chinese cousin.

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If you’re cooking for two, one or two of these babies will make for the perfect side dish. To prepare it for cooking, start by peeling the skin using a potato peeler, then chop off the stem.

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Next, slice the eggplant into thin strips, cutting length-wise.

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Lay each piece flat inside a baking dish, drizzling each piece with olive oil. Be sure each piece is sufficiently soaked, without overdoing it. Too much oil will prevent them from getting crispy. Sprinkle with sea salt, then bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Be sure to check on them periodically during the cooking process. Once the edges of the slices start to brown, they are ready. Serve with plain Greek yogurt and enjoy!

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Breakfast for Dinner!

Tonight’s meal is a reward. A reward for surviving the week. For being a grown up and making the days count. Tonight is not a night for counting calories or worrying about trans fat. Tonight is a treat, a going against the grade. Tonight…we’re eating breakfast.

I don’t really eat breakfast. Sometimes I’ll have some oatmeal or an apple to hold myself to lunch, but I normally just drink water. I know this goes against the traditional notion that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but that’s just how it is. I do like breakfast, though. Although somehow I think the meal I’m about to share with you shouldn’t be eaten everyday.

I love Manischewitz Potato Pancakes. They’re also known as latkes, a food traditionally prepared for the Jewish Passover. But when I was growing up, potato pancakes were a special occasion breakfast. A special dish we made on someone’s birthday or on the first morning of the new year. I guess that’s why I get so happy when I make them…because they make me feel like celebrating.

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Because I only cook for two, I usually only prepare half the box of potato pancake mix. I find this to be a more practical solution than making the entire amount and saving the remaining mix in the fridge. Because then you only have a day or so to use it up…and we already talked about how I hate leftovers and eating the same thing two days in a row.

Another crucial element in any American breakfast is bacon. Delicious bacon. My boyfriend discovered the perfect method for cooking bacon and I’m going to share it with all of you now.

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Place a grate or cookie rack over a cookie sheet with edging, leaving space in between the rack and cookie sheet for the bacon fat to drip (Caution: Never use a flat cookie sheet. It will leak bacon grease all over your oven and start a grease fire). Carefully lay out your desired number of pieces of bacon on the rack, making sure the bacon doesn’t slip under the grating. Now place it into your COLD oven. Cold is critical, people. Then, set your oven to 425 degrees F. I haven’t been good about keeping track of exactly how long they cook, but the bacon is the first thing I start when I make breakfast. My guess is 20 minutes, but I highly recommend keeping a close eye on them until they become a nice golden brown. Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and carefully remove each piece from the rack. Then let the bacon blot dry on a paper towel. Give them a minute or so to cool. The change from the oven to the outside air will help the bacon to crisp.

Finally, what breakfast is complete without eggs? I only really like mine as an omelet or scrambled. Tonight’s were somewhat in the middle.

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I start by sauteing chopped onions with a very small amount of olive oil. This brings a nice flavor to your eggs and keeps them from drying out. I cook the onions most of the way through and then add two eggs, shredded medium cheddar cheese, chopped baby spinach, salt, and pepper. Whisk it all together and you get this:

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Such perfection! When I was kid, I ate potato pancakes topped with butter and sour cream. Now I eat them with Greek yogurt and the taste is pretty much the same. My boyfriend likes to toast Seven Grain bread and load his eggs, bacon, and yogurt on top while I prefer to enjoy each taste individually. Whichever you like, I know you’re in for a great meal.

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Do you ever eat breakfast for dinner?

Cookies – Moroccan Themed

Today was a rough day. And all I could think was…let me go home and make those sugar cookies! I’ve been wanting to get into some serious cookie decorating and I finally found the right cookie recipe to inspire me. I spent hours last night looking at some beautifully decorated cookies and I wanted some of my own. So for whatever reason, I thought of Moroccan patterns and decided those would be my design.

Here’s the link to the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever tried: http://makebakecelebrate.com/lets-talk-about-rolled-sugar-cookies/

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