Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Easy Southwest Chicken Salad

Adapted from the salad bar "signature salad" at work. Seriously, if you don't love a good salad bar, pssshhh. C'mon!!! You get to create your own thing!

The salad at work is my usual go-to. I love the really awesome chick that always makes me my special salad who knows I say "I want this already designed salad, but not this, and add this" and doesn't eye roll at me.  The standard salad at work goes a little something like this:

Combo of salad (you know the kind you get bagged at grocery)
Black Beans
Red Onion
Cherry Tomatoes
Shredded Cheddar
Tortilla Strips
Chipotle Lime Dressing
Chicken Strips

Sorry, place-of-work, that combo sounds great to most, but didn't work for this girl.

I always say - no red onion (onion breath at work is an afternoon ladykiller), no tomato, add red pepper. Switch for ranch dressing. I didn't say this was a healthy salad. Oy Vey.

The chicken is always meh at work, so I decided to change it up and get really fancy with it: season with Taco seasoning. Revolutionary, huh? 2 chicken breasts (for the 2 of us) at 350 degrees for 25 minutes and let them sit for about 5-10 so it doesn't completely wilt your salad.

I always tell my friend at work to 86 the tomatoes but I think I just have a thing - I don't like cherry tomatoes in a salad - sorry!! I do like chopped tomatoes…. Cherry Tomato,  Chopped Tomato? (Toe-may-toe, Toe-mah-toe?)

Anyway, I drained black beans and rinsed them because your salad would be a weird gray color and taste only of black beans and be soggy if you didn't... and drained a can of sweet whole kernel corn and put as much as I wanted of both on top of my salad mix! Yes, my salad mix. It's a big bag of crisp good stuff that I thought was fresh and had the most distant expiration date.. Just do what you want when you make your stuff! I bet this salad would be great with baby spinach, but it's a little too much for my boo. Plus, I always add way too much cheese for my own good that would make others be grossed out. This time I added a mexican cheese mix.

For the dressing I went a bit crazy. I had left over taco seasoning….and OMG added it to my bottled ranch dressing. It was awesome.

So I made my fave salad! What do you like on yours? I always love listening to the combos people request on theirs in line at work and they disgust me, but it makes them happy! I always wonder if the person behind me thinks I have horrible taste in salad toppings!

Plus, I am brainwashing my husband into thinking this salad is healthy….it is, sorta. ;-)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fish Isn't Scary & Fancy Word Friday

For the longest time, cooking any type of fish was something I just didn't think I could do, and to be honest, want to do. I always thought of any fish tasting like frozen fish sticks, tasting bland, or over/uncercooking it.  Childhood memories are awesome, but I think I had way way too many fish sticks back in the day.

Then recently, I got brave and decided "Let's do this! I'm going to make us some fresh fish, and actually enjoy it!"

So, after all is said and done, now I want to make all kinds of fish.

Face your fears! Or, if you have always loved cooking fish, well, I'm glad I crossed over to your side of the fence, because YES it's good when done right.

A good fish dish (poet and don't know it) has a great accompanying sauce. This week, Joey gave me his expertise on a sauce that he made for me the first time he cooked for me. It was sea bass with angel hair and lemon caper sauce. Hey-Oh husband! I was hooked, we got married, so I of course agreed I wanted to learn to make this special sauce. Your save-the-dates for our vow renewals are in the mail, because I nailed this sauce. NOT REALLY

Behold!!! Beurre Blanc! And, surprise! We have our fancy word for Friday.

Beurre blanc —literally translated from French as "white butter"— is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine (normally Muscadet) and grey shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation. 

My photography skills are impressive…..(I see you giving me the side-eye) I also can't help but see the purple sandwich bag elephant in the room.
For this particular beurre blanc, I made a lemon caper variation. It's adapted from the culinary school book "On Cooking". I found it on amazon for cheap and it tells you everything you need to know about cooking. This sauce is acidic, salty and delightful. Perfect for pairing with my choice catch of the day, cod.  Why did I choose cod? It was a weekend and everything was picked over. I was not disappointed though.  I asked for a pound at the butcher because I honestly had no idea how much it would be for the both of us once cooked. It was plenty for both of us, and we actually used some of the thinner end pieces and coated them in panko and had some delicious "fish sticks" for a appi-teaser (I should try to avoid two eye rolls in one post, bad joke). I wasn't expecting their deliciousness so next time I will have a dipping sauce ready for those little fish babies! This lemon caper sauce will go great with any flaky white fish, if I had to guess. If you try it with one and it's terrible, please let me know, but I doubt it will be bad because this sauce makes the dish. I would start this sauce about 30 minutes before you want to cook your fish because it takes a bit of time and attention. 

Full recipe rundown:
1/2 medium minced white onion or whole shallot (shallots are usually used in this sauce but we didn't have any, so minced onion works great too)
The juice of 1/2 a lemon
Just shy of 1/2 cup of white cooking wine
2 tbsp capers, drained
1/4 to 1/2 stick of COLD butter

3/4 lb or 2 thick cod filets

Sweat onions on medium to high heat for about 1-2 minutes in a small saucepan. Pour in white wine, lemon juice, and capers. Reduce almost to nothing. You may see just a slight liquid when it is ready. I set the sauce off the burner and then put it back on once I flipped my fish.

VERY IMPORTANT,  add cubes of cold butter one at a time, letting each melt into the sauce and gently whisk constantly, with the saucepan lifted off the burner (still above burner, but not directly on). I told you this needed plenty of attention. Keep adding cubes of butter until you get to the consistency of a light vinaigrette or oil, or really, whatever your choice of consistency is. For a thicker sauce, less butter, for a creamier, thinner sauce, more butter. You get my drift.

As for this scary thing called fish…it's easier to cook than boiling water. S&P your cod, tilapia, flounder, whatever and put a pan on medium heat. A 2 second drizzle of oil in the pan and then sear your fish on each side around 5 minutes tops. I think I am high balling the time on each side because we had a thicker cut of fish this particular time. For tilapia it will probably take 1-2 minutes on each side, if that. 

You won't think it starting out, but you really will know when your fish is done. I like to flip one more time to see how solid and held together it is, then immediately plate my dish. Pour some of your lovely lemon caper sauce on top and voila! You are your new best friend and will make this whenever possible.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chilly? Chili.

It's cold.

Time to make Chili.

One of my fave wedding gifts. A clutch item in the kitchen.

I never have claimed any recipes on this website as my own and I don't plan on doing it anytime soon. I   like to follow them and happen to do it well.

#1 rule EVER and it's so important and everything ever that is pure and good in chili. Ground Beef. 80/20. Just do it. You skinnies on a diet - Run an extra 5 minutes tomorrow.  I asked J if he wanted chili and his response was "only if it's made with ground beef". Sometimes (that's a stretch) we are healthy kids around here but when it comes to this comfort food, you keep it the right way.

This chili recipe is taken from one of my mom's BFFs, Margie. Its DELISH and doesn't need noodles. It's its own star of the show.

You: "What's Margie's secret!?"
Me: Bloemers

There is chili paste and chili powder in the Bloemer's line that is a must have. Also, when picking up ingredients don't forget the soup crackers (oyster crackers). Fun touch and always necessary for some crunch.

The Lineup

You're gonna need:

2 lb ground beef
2 cans mild chili beans (I prefer Brooks, but generic are fine)
1 packet  or 2 oz Bloemer's chili powder
1 8 oz package of Bloemer's chili paste/base
2 15 oz cans Hunt's tomato sauce
According to my dad - 3 chili bean cans of water (best kind of measurements)
Shredded Cheddar for topping
Optional: Chives and Sour Cream (I don't use these but if you want to, be my guest!)

Brown your beef on med/high heat in either a cast iron pot or big pot of your choice. (Note: Chili stains everything. Get your scour pad ready and get some Madonna arms - without the veins. Or soak your pot afterwards if you want) Drain the fat. Side note: I wish so badly my dog was not allergic to everything, otherwise, because of all this snow on the ground I would make her a doggie snow cone with a touch of beef fat….but alas, bad idea and a terrible clean up later on.

Back to the chili:

Add chili powder to ground beef for a couple of minutes and let all the spices incorporate to make it extra delicious. What does adding the spice at this time do? Who knows, and who cares!? It makes it taste good, okay?

Add in the rest of the ingredients. Stir together until all combined smoothly. As for the S&P, I do a couple of twists on each grinder and have not been disappointed. Don't add too much salt please. Hold back…I'm guilty too! Just don't over salt it! Read: Don't ruin this chili. I bring to a bubble and then turn down the heat to low/simmer and cover for 2 hours.

Make it bubble like this. Then turn down the heat. 

I usually serve with mild or sharp shredded cheddar sprinkled in
and some soup crackers on the side.

One of these days I want to try to make chili with peanut butter (a la Damaris). SO wondering how that would taste.

P.S. AND one day I will get a nice camera and show you how to make delicious AND purdy food. For now, deal with my iPhone pics. Plus, if you are reading this, you know I am a beginner.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Steak, Potatoes, and Fancy Word Friday

Let's talk steak.

It's delicious, maybe nutritious (if you follow the Adkins). It's my favorite treat for a special meal.
I did not make this, but Joey ate this and it was mouthwatering.

Credit to Mojitos

First, let's compliment this steak dinner and make a gratin.

Gratin (French pronunciation: ​ is a widespread culinary technique in food preparation in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbsgrated cheese, egg and/or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine and is usually prepared in a shallow dish of some kind. A gratin is baked or cooked under an overhead grill or broiler to form a golden crust on top and is traditionally served in its baking dish.

Peel those potatoes. Annoying but a MUST.

Get yourself some serious knife skills or if you lack those, get a mandolin, OXO brand like me! I think ours is from Target. Its pretty amazing but inexpensive!

Compliment my manicure. (OPI Red if you must know.)

This was a Level 2 cut.

When you cut your potatoes, put them in a bowl of cold water. Don't let those puppies brown. Blech.

I lined my dish with some oil spray, then parchment paper.

My gratin was made with Pepper Jack cheese.  I had it in my fridge….so what? Yum. I will say, it was spicy and had a major kick. I loved it and normally don't like super spicy.

Layer potatoes, S&P, pepper jack, until you run out of layers or potatoes. I try to make the last layer cheese so it browns in the oven.

This is the special part. HEAVY CREAM. Just heat 1 1/4 c with 1 stick of butter (!!) up on the stove on LOW (trust, no other way than low). Let it heat through then pour over your potato layer fun.  Put that covered in the oven at 300 for 1 1/4 hours. You will thank me later.

Asparagus. Yum. Roast with olive oil, s&p for 45 min at 400. If you try to do both gratin and asparagus at same time, I'd boil the asparagus first for 5 min, then put in ice water to stop them from cooking to nothing, dry, then roast  on a pan at same temp (300)  for about 40 minutes.

Look at those beauties.

If you want a true filet mignon do the bacon wrapped filet ala Joseph. S&P those beauties. 

Here's how we roll. Splurge (omg $20) on two baby cast irons. . Heat those suckers up on broil while you prep your steaks.  Mind you, already have your side dishes cooking - cover those with foil or a lid while the oven is on broil. You will be sad with burnt food...

Imagine an amazing searing sound...

 Then after you flip with some tongs after 8 minutes (glass of wine), still in oven, and use your handy meat thermometer… They should be around 125 degrees.  Pull them out of the oven and sit on the stove top….they still cook and need to rest for a few to redistribute the juices (10 min tops). And those cast irons are no joke. They are HOT. Yum. Also, nobody likes a dry steak. Meh.

Then, delicately plate your dish so you can take a picture that is a bit lackluster like this one. I swear it's delicious! Better than an Applebee's commercial! Amirite!?

How do you like to make your steaks? I prefer a filet, but Joey likes a strip. I can't wait for grilling season… 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dinner Date and Fancy Word Friday

If you are married, in a relationship, engaged, just friends, single, with girlfriends, with guy friends, etc it is REALLY REALLY important to go out to eat with people you like spending time with. It keeps you sane. JoJo loves a good date night, and I can't ever deny him one. If only it was acceptable to wear pajamas or the elastic ankle sweats from Walmart (my go-to at home, stop judging, and you will probably find me in them if you knocked on my door for a random drop in, so don't if you are offended by them) to dinner and look chic. Maybe I'll try that one day just to say I did it… or, erhmmm, probably not. It is a treat to go out to eat, you don't have to cook unless you are eating fondue (It is totally 80s to do this but I am a huge fan), and it is worth every penny if you go to the right place.

The trick to saving money when you go out to eat is to PRE-GAME. Yes, I know you are laughing and calling me cheap - but whatever. That bottle of wine I got to pre-game is the same price as one glass of wine at the restaurant we are going to. I'm not made of money, people! And I'll have plenty of vino waiting for me when I get home from a delicious meal. I've mentioned wine in 50% of my posts so far. Have I talked about my love for a cheap decent red?

The conversation between Joey and I goes a little something like this.
"Can I take you on a date?
"Sure! "
"Where do you want to go? "
"I dunno, where do YOU want to go?"

It continues for a few minutes of text, then, I will be completely honest with you... I will tell him the restaurant I really have been wanting to go to the whole conversation, and we go there. Jackpot, I know.

We went to Mojitos, and accidentally swiped a couple seats at the bar from some people waiting longer than we were. Oops. Joey told me about it after I had blindly done it…thanks, Joe. Gotta get those bar seats!!!

Think about it though, bartenders are usually a promotion above a server (but not always), so they are probably a) really cool peeps and b)knowledgeable about the menu/a good server. Did you know I was a bartender once?  That's not the point….

Baguette, Green Apples, Manchego Cheese, Mini Pickles, Smoked Honey. Hey OH!

Charcuterie (/ʃɑrˌktəˈr/ or /ʃɑrˈktəri/; northern French: [ʃaʁ.kyt.'ʁi] or southernFrench: [ʃaʁ.kytə'ʁi], from chair 'flesh' and cuit 'cooked') is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as baconhamsausageterrines,galantinespâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.

When you are on a date, split a meat and cheese app. Trust. They are delightful together.

 Serrano Ham. Yum.

When you go to any restaurant in the near future- get the short ribs if are on the menu. Chefs are really perfecting these. Mine were DELISH.

Joey got the filet with bleu cheese caramelized on it.

Editor Note: I wish I loved two things in life: olives and bleu cheese. Luckily, Joey loves both so I live vicariously through him and watch him enjoy both. 

The point of this post is: Go on a date with your friend, dad, mom, sister, brother, best friend you have a crush on, your enemy….who cares…just go enjoy the fruits of others labor and enjoy a well cooked restaurant meal. 

P.S. TIP YOUR SERVER. SERIOUSLY, no one likes a bad tipper.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Glad I Finally Wasn't Embarrassed.

Hi! Glad you are stopping by. This is my "will post another delish item but have nothing at the moment  yet face" (probably drunk since its from NYE). Welcome! Fun recipes and posts are to come!

Invite Your Friends Over

Read the post. Invite your friends over. Cook what you love to cook. If they are your friends, they won't care if it's not great. But if you want to impress your friends and have great food….Cook this (Pioneer Woman). Pics show the fun.

Brussels sprouts are delish to me. Check with your buds if they like them. Roast with a squeeze of lemon, slice the lemon and throw it in there, s&p, and some bacon for 45 min at 345 on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil if they say YES. Keep these friends. Brussels sprouts are the shiz.

Seriously, its fun to have friends over. Even better to have a dinner party! 
Trust me. If you can read, you can follow a recipe. Just don't have too much wine before starting the food or it'll be a mess. 

Photo credits to Miranda at or follow on Instagram @thechicstreet and my sweet friend - follow her too on Instagram Allison @allisonmyers