Grilled Chicken, Corn and Onion Quesadillas

…and we’re back!

After a month long hiatus to tie the knot (beach style!), I am finally ready to get back in the kitchen! Vacations bring a whirlwind of new cuisines and flavors into the picture and trust me, I have a delicious mango salsa recipe in the works to make its appearance soon!

But first…

If you have ever been on a beach vacation, you know how hard it is to acclimate back into your everyday routine once you return home. Longing thoughts of lying in the sun and waves crashing haunt you to your core while answering two hundred emails. Boring cereal makes its way back, in place of freshly made omelets and mimosas. A girl actually has to wear real shoes versus flip flops and so long to wearing a sundress everyday! I digress…

So while we settle back into normal life, we begin to plan grocery shopping trips and easy-to-make meals to hang onto the lounging lifestyle as long as humanly possible.

Quesadillas are a perfect “catch-all” type of meal that utilizes anything you may have lying around in the freezer or fridge. Since it’s summer (and we just bought a brand new grill!), we decided to try a new recipe from Naturally Ella…because trying to think of one on our own seemed like a lot of work post-vacation. ;) Only changes: we added chicken and of course, more cheese.

Check out this 5 burner dream..

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 Grilled Chicken, Corn and Onion Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • cilantro bunch, chopped
  • 8 tortilla wraps
  • skewers (optional)

Begin by prepping the vegetables and chicken for the grill.

You will need to cut the onion so that it is easy to spear with the skewers and grill. (I use skewers to keep everything together while cooking.) I recommend cutting the ends off, holding onion on a non cut edge and slicing in one inch slices. Place on skewers and brush both the onions and corn with olive oil.

Over a low flame, grill the veggies until the tender.

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Remove from grill and proceed to chop the onion and de-kernel the corn. Set aside.

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Turn the grill up to medium-high and cook off the chicken. Once done, let the meat sit for a few minutes before chopping into small pieces.

The next step is to prepare the spread. Combine the goat cheese, cream cheese and cilantro in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.

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Spread a nice layer on two tortillas and begin sprinkling the onion, corn and chicken on one of the shells. Add 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese. Place the second tortilla shell on top and lightly press down. Repeat until your ingredients are gone, we were able to get 4 quesadillas out of the mix.

Re-heat the grill and clean. Brush the racks with a bit of olive oil and, over a medium heat, place your quesadillas down carefully.

Grill each side until you achieve grill marks and the shells are slightly crispy.

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Once done, slice into fourths and enjoy with some plain greek yogurt!

See! Simple, easy and delicious!

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Sriracha Quinoa Bites

My new addiction? SRIRACHA.

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Seriously, I have been putting it on, and in, everything. Scrambled eggs, soup, chicken…someone even tried to convince me that it tastes great on peanut butter toast. I’m not so sure about the latter, but you never know until you try, right?

Truth: I keep a bottle of this stuff at home AND at work. No shame.

On to dinner…

It was Thursday and I was in the mood for something spicy, yet nutritious. Protein was in order after a fairly intense step class (which I ended up in accidentally), but alas, all of the meat we had was frozen solid.

Quinoa to the rescue.

If you missed my rant on how fab quinoa is, check out my Quinoa Cakes post.

Here is the jist: quinoa is packed with protein, easy to cook and is extremely versatile. Bonus? Cooked quinoa freezes well for later use and easy weeknight meals.

While I would love to take credit for the ingenious idea of combining two of my favorite things, the pat on the back goes to Leaf and Grain. I came across their recipe a few months ago and am now finally getting around to trying it! A few adjustments were made to appease my own tastes. I felt the Sriracha had a bold enough taste that the honey and cilantro would try and compete. I also used parmesean and romano instead of gruyere, and to cut down the carb count, nixed the breadcrumbs. That’s the beauty of cooking from scratch and trying new things, one has the ability to alter to their liking.

What I loved about this recipe was the way they cooked the “bites”. I adore quinoa cakes, but they can be messy to make if your consistency isn’t just right. By baking the quinoa mixture in cupcake pans, it cuts the work in half!

These bites make a great post-workout snack with just a hint of spice!

Sriracha Quinoa Bites:

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesean
  • 1/4 cup of shredded romano
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Begin by rinsing one cup of dry quinoa. Bring two cups of water to a rapid boil in a pan, add quinoa, cover and cook until the liquid has been completely absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. The quinoa should be light and fuffy, set aside to let cool.

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In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, cheese, eggs, green onions, garlic, salt and Sriracha. Mix thoroughly.

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Use a spoon to scoop into an oiled 24 mini cup cupcake pan. Press mixture into the cups using the bottom of the spoon.

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Place pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until sides and tops are brown and crispy. Move to a cookie sheet to cool.

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Serve warm with a green onion garnish and a few drop of Sriracha.

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Goat Cheese Croquettes

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I ADORE goat cheese.

Salads, pizza, sandwiches…there are more things that I put this cheese on than not.

So what could be better than breaded, lightly fried goat cheese!?

We first had a version of these croquettes at Black Fin Bistro in Key West and I was instantly hooked. So much so that we now have to order two plates when we go because one is just for me. (Vacation is for indulgence, right?) They also have a great wine selection…and wine lunches are totally acceptable when one is one vacation.

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Goat cheese and wine? I have found my utopia.

The chefs at Black Fin must love goat cheese as much as I do, they serve their Diablo Burger with it smushed right on top.

Isn’t it b-e-a-utiful?

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Back to the cheese…

These croquettes are fairly easy to make and serve well as an appetizer or can be served on top of a salad. Toppings are endless! Honey, strawberries, whatever your heart desires. I like to use almonds to give it some added texture and to compliment the goat cheese flavor.

Note: Keep the goat cheese as chilled as possible while preparing, otherwise you end up with more cheese on your hands than in your stomach.

Goat Cheese Croquettes: 

  • (2) 4 oz packages goat cheese, chilled
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup panko breading
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Begin by slicing each package of goat cheese into approximetly 1.5 oz sections, you should end up with 6 pieces total. Take the flat edge of your knife and use to slightly flatten each round, utilizing your hand to help shape, if needed. This works best if the goat cheese is chilled and you work fast! Place on a plate and in the freezer for a few minutes to cool after shaping.

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Use this time to mix panko, parmesan and basil.

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Working with one round at a time, dip into the egg mixture, let excess egg drip off and then press each side lightly into the flour. Move to bowl of panko, Parmesan and basil. Press each side, and all of the edges, into the breading until completely coated. The goal is to get as much of the breading on as humanly possible.

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Heat the oil over medium-high heat and place the croquettes in. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until slightly toasted. The cheese will become quite soft, so use cation when flipping. You can place finished croquettes on a parchment lined pan and in the oven to keep warm as the rest cook.

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When ready to serve, plate a few warm croquettes and top with sliced almonds.

Welcome to what amazing tastes like.

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Shrimp Alfredo with Fresh Tomatoes & Toasted Panko

Before we go any further, I must warn you…

…this dish is NOT diet friendly.

Ever heard of a “cheat meal”? This is what they’re talking about.

Heavy cream, pasta, butter……it’s a carb lovers delight.

It is also fairly easy to throw together. Alfredo can be as simple or as complex as one wants. We prefer a simple sauce and then build around it with toppings such as fresh tomatoes and toasted panko.

Shrimp Alfredo:

  • 1 lb dry fettuccine noodles
  • 1 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breading
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes
  • fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350.

Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Look at those delicious noodles. I could eat the whole lot of ‘em right now…

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Time to de-tail the shrimp. Pinch at the base of the tail and pull, easy as that!

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Dice the onion. The easiest way tot do this is to cut off the ends of each side, place on a now flat end and cut in half. Lay on the flat side and slice strips from one end to the other, don’t cut quite all the way to the back so you have a place to steady your onion when dicing. Turn the onion and dice on the perpendicular.

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Using the same pot you cooked the pasta in, heat the teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion, cooking until the onion is soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the shrimp and butter and toss until the shrimp is thoroughly heated. Turn to simmer.

Dump in the cooked noodles and begin to add your liquid.

First pour in the pint of heavy cream.

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Next, add in about a 1/4 cup of a dry white wine. (Then, pour a glass of wine for yourself.)

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Toss the noodles, shrimp and onion in the liquid, crack in some fresh pepper. The liquid will be pretty liquid-y (go figure) but give it a few minutes over low heat and it will begin to thicken. Add in the shredded Parmesan and mix until melted. Keep over low heat, tossing to make sure everything is evenly mixed

While the sauce is thickening, measure out a 1/2 cup of plain panko breading.

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Spread it out over a parchment lined pan and toast until brown, 8-10 minutes. Place in a small bowl and set aside. 20140329_17115520140329_174500

To dice the tomatoes, use a serrated knife to cut off the sides of the tomatoes. Try to cut with the curve of the tomato to avoid as many seeds as possible. Dice into bite size pieces, sprinkle with a bit of salt and place in a bowl.

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Give your fettuccine and shrimp a few more tosses and add in some fresh basil, sliced chiffonade.

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Place a nice bundle of fettuccine alfredo on a plate, top with tomatoes and a sprinkle of panko.

Bon appetit!

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Chipotle: At Home

After the success of homemade Chinese night, I thought, “What else can we make a home?” (Translation: how else can we save some money by not eating out?)

The votes were in, homemade Chipotle it is.

If the five of us eat out at Chipotle, after adding chips and guac, we are up to a good forty dollars for a meal. Make it a home and we can knock that cost down to under twenty-five dollars. I was able to scrounge our cabinets and found a few cans of black beans and rice, we already had some tomatoes on hand and there was a pork roast in the freezer. (Any meat will do, chicken you can grill and chop…pork or beef, best served slow cooked and shredded.) Even if you need to purchase each of the ingredients, they are still fairly inexpensive. In the summer, you can use homegrown vegetables and herbs!

The key to making at-home Chipotle? CILANTRO…LOTS OF CILANTRO.

Note: Cilantro and flat parsley look a lot alike. If you can’t tell the difference visually, try smelling the bunches.

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Chipotle – At Home:

Pulled Pork:

  • Pork roast (usually a shoulder or butt cut)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fajita Veggies:

  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Cilantro-Lime Rice

  • 2 cups of long grain white rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 limes
  • Salt to taste

Black Beans:

  • 2 cans black beans

Fresh Tomato Salsa:

  •  4 large vine ripe tomatoes
  •  ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Guacamole:

  • 1 avocado
  • ¼ red onion, finely diced
  • ½ lime
  • Salt to taste

Pork is best when it is cooked over low heat for at least six hours. The added bonus here is that your house will smell delicious all day! Place the roast (fat side up) in a Crock-Pot, add chicken stock and bay leaf. Place the lid on top and cook until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. The meat should fall apart easily and it should shred with minimal effort. Place in warm oven to keep to temperature.

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Up next is to start on the rice. Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil, add rice and turn burner to simmer. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 13-15 minutes or until there is no excess liquid. Uncover, lightly fluff with a fork and let cool.

Finely chop the bunch of cilantro, enough for the rice and salsa.

Once the rice has cooled, add the cilantro and juice of two limes.

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To get the last bit of lime juice out, stick the lime half in between a pair of tongs. Mix lightly until everything is combined, keep on low simmer to keep warm. Salt, if needed.

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Thinly slice the pepper and onion, heat oil over medium heat and let them cook until softened (5-7 minutes).

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The beans are the easiest part of the meal! Drain the beans and place in a small pot to warm over low-medium heat.

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Time to make the fresh tomato salsa and guacamole (yum).

Slice the sides of the tomatoes off, trying not to get to much of the liquid or seeds in each slice. (Try to slice with the curve of the tomato.)  Dice into small cubes and throw into a large bowl.

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The onion should then be diced into very, VERY, small pieces. Few enjoy biting into a large pice of raw onion and the onions blend with the tomotes and salsa better the smaller the pieces.

If you don’t have a mini food processor, I highly recommend purchasing one. Even for the sole purpose of chopping onions…your eyes will thank you! Not to mention, it’s much easier than lugging out the big one!

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Chop 1/2 the onion into large chucks and process away! *Don’t over-process or else you will end up with an onion-y liquid.

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Toss in almost all of the onion, cilantro, and about half a teaspoon of salt (more if needed.)

Mix, mix, mix!

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Next to the beans, the guac is the easiest part. Take the avocado and slice in half length wise. Scoop out the pit and using a sharp knife, cut the avocado into squares inside of skin.

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Scoop out the insides into a medium bowl and MUSH. Add remaining chopped onion and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime in. Sprinkle with salt, mix together and you’ve got guac!

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Table the food, throw some sour cream on top of your bowl and bon appétit!

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Nutella & Raspberry French Toast

Twenty plus years ago, my grandmother introduced my sister and I to the wonder that is Nutella.

We were putting chocolate hazelnut deliciousness on everything from bread to pears to cookies. We were also known to just eat it straight from the jar. I even carried a spoon with me! (I can’t be certain this was due to my love for Nutella, or if I just had a strange attachment to this particular spoon..)

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I am sure my grandmother had no idea it would turn into such a craze. There is even a World Nutella Day! It’s February 5th and is the one day I can grab a spoon and eat to my heart’s content without feeling any remorse.

If you haven’t tried this life changing spread, get in your car and drive to your nearest grocery store. You won’t regret it.

On to brunch…

French Toast is great for when you have leftover bread from last night’s dinner. You can either let it dry out overnight, or as some prefer, dry it out in the oven the morning of. There are plenty of recipes that call for different spices to be added to the egg mixture, but as the raspberries and Nutella will provide plenty of flavor, this is only a basic egg mix.

Nutella & Raspberry French Toast

  • 1 French bread roll
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Nutella
  • 1 package fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 200 and slice bread into 1 inch slices. Let the bread dry out in the oven for about 10 minutes or until it feels like it is stale, flip slices half way through.  Set aside and cool.

Whisk the eggs, heavy cream and vanilla in a large bowl and then pour mixture into a shallow pan. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and melt the butter.

Take a few slices of bread and place flat in the egg mixture, let each side soak for 30 seconds. Only soak as many at a time that will fit into your pan.

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Place the bread in the heated pan and cook each side until lightly browned and the egg is fully cooked. Move the cooked slices to a parchment lined pan and place them in the oven to keep warm. Soak and cook the remaining slices

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The rest is easy! Plate a few french toast slices and spread about a half tablespoon of Nutella on on each.  Top with as many raspberries as you want and sift powdered sugar over everything.

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As my grandparents always said, bon appétit!

Orange Chicken, Lo Mein & Crab Rangoons

Kendall: “Anna, seriously…your homemade Chinese is better than P.F. Chang’s.”

A fifteen year old, and my second toughest critic, has said my food is better than a high-end Chinese restaurant!? (Cue jaw drop…)

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It has taken me three tries to get homemade Chinese night just right, but mission accomplished.

These recipes are kid approved, so you already know they’re delicious.

Orange Chicken, Lo Mein & Crab Rangoons:

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Crab Rangoons:

  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 1 package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 package imitation crab, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Orange Chicken:

  • 1-2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha, or more, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

Note: Orange glaze adapted from Damn Delicious

Lo Mein:

  • 1 package of lo mein or chow mein noodles (You can also use spaghetti noodles if you have them on hand. The only difference is that the lo mein noodles have a lighter consistency.)
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 2 red peppers, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, more to taste if needed

Equipment:

  • Mini Deep Fryer (filled with oil of your choice) or a pan with a generous layer of oil
  • Food processor
  • 1 large pot
  • 1 pan

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Preheat fryer to 375 or a pan of oil to medium high heat, also warm oven to 225 to keep food warm as you work.

Crab Rangoons:

Begin by making the filling. Take softened cream cheese, imitation crab, garlic and place in a food processor. Blend until everything is combined and you have a nice even mix of crab and cream cheese.

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Working with a few squares of dough at a time, drop a small spoonful of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of each square. Using water, wet the outer edges and fold over, one corner to the opposite corner. Begin sealing in the cheese by pinching together the edges, trying to get out the air bubbles as you go. Keep going until you run out of filling, or wrappers…  20140222_192850 20140222_193002 20140222_193156

Drop 6-7 at a time into the preheated oil. Cook for 7 minutes until evenly browned on each side, drain excess oil on a paper towel lined plate and move to parchment lined pan. Once all are cooked, place pan in the oven to keep warm.

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Orange Chicken:

While rangoons are cooking, start with the orange glaze. Combine everything from the broth to the white pepper in a pan and whisk until blended. Bring to a boil and turn to simmer. Add the dissolved cornstarch and let the mixture simmer and thicken.

Cut the chicken into one inch pieces, drop in the bowl of whisked egg. Using a fork, spear ten pieces of chicken out, let excess egg drip off and move to plate of cornstarch. Completely coat each piece with cornstarch and (once rangoons are finished) drop in fryer or pan.

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The chicken will cook in 7-8 minutes and the breading should be lightly browned. Move cooked chicken to paper towel lined plate to allow any extra oil soak off, then move to large oven safe bowl. Repeat until all chicken is cooked.

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The next step is to coat the chicken. Start with 1/4 cup of the orange glaze, pour into the large bowl of cooked chicken and toss. Add glaze as needed, the goal being to lightly coat all of the chicken but not overdress…soggy chicken is no good.

Once all of the chicken is coated, sprinkle with sesame seeds and place the bowl in the oven.

Lo Mein:

Once chicken and rangoons are in the oven keeping warm, throw together the lo mein.

Bring a pot of water to boil, cook noodles to al dente texture (5-6 minutes), drain in colander, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.

Heat teaspoon of oil and garlic in pot over medium high heat, throw in snow peas and pepper slices. Toss with garlic oil and heat for five minutes, or until peppers are tender.

Turn to low heat, add cooked lo mein noodles and soy sauce. Use tongs to lightly mix everything together until evenly coated with soy sauce. Add more sauce if needed, toss and heat the noodles. 20140222_20044120140222_201450

Place some lo mein in a dinner bowl, top with chicken and rangoons. Garnish with the green onion.

Grab your chopsticks and 享受!

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Homemade Pierogies, Italian Sausage & Caramelized Onions

Sundays are the perfect days to relax, or in my case to make homemade pierogies.

Relax schlamax.

Pierogies have always been a favorite in my family, most reunions or get-togethers involve either making or eating pierogies. We cannot get enough of those doughy potato pockets.

Check out these intense pierogies makers doing work in Savannah, GA, circa 2002.

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The beauty is that you can fill them with whatever you like! There is a place (no joke) called Pierogie Palace about an hour away from us that makes over 105 different types of pierogies….can you imagine??

I am sticking with the traditional potato filled ones…one day I will work my way up to crab stuffed pierogies.

Homemade Pierogies, Italian Sausage & Caramelized Onions

Pierogies:

The filling

  • 6 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (a healthy substitute for sour cream)
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper

The dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Onions:

  • 2 medium white onions
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine

Sausage:

  • 1 package of Sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • Grill pan

The equipment:

  • Nonstick pan
  • Stainless steel or cast iron pan
  • Glass pan
  • Stand or hand mixer

Preheat oven to 350.

Start with the onions. Slice both onions into medium-thin slices and heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook over medium to low for 25-30 minutes. The onions will begin to brown and soften, use a stiff spatula to stir and to scrape the bottom of the pan while cooking (yes, you want the gunk at the bottom.) Caramelizing will bring the sugar out of the onion and it will sweeten as it cooks. Once you have nice, caramel colored onions, add the wine and stir to combine. Set aside.

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While the onions are cooking, take those potatoes and begin peeling! Once peeled, dice into 1 inch cubes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add potatoes and cook until fork tender (7-9 minutes).

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Drain and combine in mixer bowl along with the yogurt, cheese, S & P.

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Mix on low-medium speed until you have a nice, smooth potato mixture (no lumps!) If you need to add more yogurt or cheese to achieve this, do so. Empty into a smaller bowl and set aside. Rinse the bowl.

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Once the filling is made, it is time to start on the dough. Take the 2 cups of flour and dump into mixer bowl, crack in one egg, add water, oil and salt. Start by whisking everything together until the dough is slightly moist and combined. Add a bit more flour, switch to the kneading attachment and let the mixer do the work. If you find that the dough is too sticky…add a bit of flour, if it’s too dry…add water. The dough is ready once it forms on large ball that falls off of the attachment. (If you’re kneading by hand, this recipe includes a bonus forearm workout!)

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Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on your working surface and split the ball of dough into fourths.  Working with one fourth at a time, roll out until the dough is about 1/8  inch thick. Using a glass (or if you’re fancy and have a pierogie press), begin cutting dough into circles. Remove excess dough and add back into the next batch.

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If you feel the dough starting to get too sticky, put in the fridge to cool.

Once you have cut out as many circles as you can, it’s time to fill and seal! Take your cheesy potato filling and scoop about 1 tablespoon in the center of each of your circles.

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Fold over in half and use a fork to seal the edges (a fork also gives it a nice authentic look.) Be sure to firmly seal the entire way around to avoid a potato-ey mess when cooking.

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Repeat until the dough has run out. I was able to get about 25 pierogies out of the mix, this amount will vary depending on how thin the dough is rolled out.

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Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Drop in a few pierogies at a time and brown each side until slightly crispy. Move to a glass pan and continue the process until all of the pierogies are stacked in the pan.

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While pierogies are browning, heat your grill pan over medium high heat and sear your sausages.

Top the glass pan of pierogies with the caramelized onion and place both the pierogies and the pan of sausages in the 350 degree oven to finish cooking, 8-10 minutes.

Slice the sausage on a diagonal and serve everything with a side of Greek yogurt!

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Cheesy Quinoa, Broccoli & Chicken Bake

Today is one of those seemingly familiar days where all anyone wants to do is to put their pajamas back on and crawl right back into bed. This “polar vortex” seems to be a never ending saga as we have an ongoing wind chill advisory and yet another snow storm heading in this weekend.  Titan, as they like to call it. At this rate, we are going to have to double back with storm names and will probably end the season somewhere in the second round of J’s…..

Seasonal Affective Disorder…it’s a thing.

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We needed something warm and comforting for dinner.

I started racking my brain to remember what we had at home. I have a terrible habit of buying more of something we already have… (ex. There are currently four containers of sour cream in our refrigerator.)

I remembered we had some frozen, cooked quinoa waiting to be used for something delicious. (Note: Try to cook off a large batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week. It thaws easily and can be use to create almost anything!) There was also a lone onion, red pepper and plenty of shredded cheese. To my luck, I also found some broccoli and chicken when I got home.  After rummaging in the cabinet for some panko, a casserole it will be!

However…as “casserole” sounds like something from the eighties and always seems to be what people bring over when someone in your family has died, I am naming this dish something else…

Cheesy Quinoa, Broccoli & Chicken Bake

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 12 oz chicken breast, cubed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 1 ½ cup of shredded Italian cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain panko breading

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease 13×9 glass pan.

Place the 2 cups of quinoa in a large bowl, you will be mixing everything together before you put it in the oven so make sure the bowl is plenty big.

Season the chicken with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. In a pan over medium-high heat, cook the chicken until done and lightly browned, usually 5-7 minutes.

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While chicken is cooking, heat a pot or pan of water to a boil, dump in broccoli florets and cook until slightly tender and bright green, 3-4 minutes. Drain in colander under cold water then chop.

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In the same pan, heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil and cook peppers, onions, garlic and Italian seasoning for 5 minutes or until peppers and onion are tender.

In the meantime, lay the 1/2 cup of panko on a parchment lined pan and toast in preheated oven until browned, set aside.

Combine chicken, broccoli, pepper/onion mix and quinoa together in the large bowl. Add 1 cup of  the shredded cheese and mix everything together.

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Using a spatula, empty the mix into the 13×9 pan and flatten until the pan is evenly covered. Sprinkle the remaining half cup of cheese and the toasted panko breading over top, place in oven.

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Cook until the 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and you’re left with a gooey mess of delicious.

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Now go grab a blanket, a glass of red wine and snuggle up!

Spaghetti Squash & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

In the endless quest to eat healthy, one simply cannot consume pasta every night..

Shocking, right?!  If I had it my way, some wonderful person would invent a fat-free, calorie-free and carb-free (but still delicious) pasta…

To that person, please do the same for wine, ice cream and bread.

In the meantime, subbing in a vegetable for a grain will have to do.

Spaghetti squash is a variety of winter squash that, when cooked, has a flesh that separates away from the skin in the similar shape of spaghetti.

Lovely, isn’t it?

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It is hard to pass on this option when you look at the facts:

1 cup regular pasta = 220 calories, 42 carbs

1 cup spaghetti squash = 42 calories, 7 carbs

The squash also contains almost the same amout of fiber as enriched pasta, reassurance to anyone who doubts that this veggie could fill a person up.

In my opinion, this is a much better option than tofu-based noodles…..

There are a few ways to cook spaghetti squash: boil, roast, even microwave. I have not tried the latter, but imagine it would probably speed up the cooking process as microwaves have the tendency to do so. However, I leave the microwave cooking to someone else.

The first time we made this squash, it was a pretty hot boily mess. Turns out trying to scoop a two pound squash out of a large pot is not an easy feat. Trying to drain it in a colander results in a large splatter of scorching water…so let’s try roasting it!

Spaghetti Squash:

  • (1) 2 lb yellow spaghetti squash
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • S & P

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:

  • 12 oz of medley cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinaigrette
  • dash of cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 3 basil leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half on the long end. (Note: this takes some muscle and finagling.) You will find it contains seeds, similar to a pumpkin, cut and scoop out seeds until you have a nice clean center.

20140218_175956 20140218_18021320140218_180453 Drizzle the teaspoon of olive oil between both halves and brush to cover. Lightly dress with salt and pepper, lay cut side up on a parchment lined pan sheet and place in top rack of oven. Set timer to 25 minutes.

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While squash is in first phase of cooking, prep your tomatoes. Lightly coat inside of an oven dish with olive oil. Cut tomatoes in half and place in the dish. Sprinkle salt, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinaigrette, oil and pepper over top and stir to coat.

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Once the squash has cooked 25 minutes, pop the dish of tomatoes in lower rack of oven and cook both tomatoes and squash for 20 additional minutes.

After 20 minutes, tomatoes should be soft and the squash should separate from skin easily with a fork, pull both pans out of the oven. Using a fork, separate the flesh of the squash from the skin until you have a nice bundle of squash noodles.

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Spoon the cooked tomatoes over each half of squash and drizzle the remaining tomato juice over top and on the edges of the squash.

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Top each half with 1/4 cup of the Romano cheese and sprinkle basil on top. Throw back in the oven for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

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Grab your fork and twirl up those delicious squash noodles!

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