Friday, August 03, 2012

In Honor Of Watermelon

In honor of National Watermelon Day we wanted to share our Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta and Feta! It is also National Simplify Your Life Week so this recipe certainly fell into the simple category as well!

I'll admit we were a little skeptical about this recipe at first. I am not a melon fan and Alex just didn't know what it would taste like with the other ingredients thrown in the mix. Turns out this was one of the most flavorful pasta salads we have ever made!!! 
This pasta is a great party dish for those hot summer  BBQ's!  

Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta, and Ricotta Salata via Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
  • 4 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups 1x1x1/4" pieces peeled melon (any variety)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, divided
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (we used a fresh Cayenne Pepper)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), shaved, or crumbled feta 

How To: 
  • Heat oven to 350°. Arrange pancetta in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes. (Alternatively, place pancetta on folded layers of paper towels on a microwave-proof plate and microwave on high until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.) Let pancetta stand until cool enough to handle, then break into bite-size pieces.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a medium pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta; run under cold water to cool. Drain and set aside.

  • Whisk oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Add half of pancetta, cooked pasta, melon, half of mint, scallion, and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining pancetta and mint over. Garnish with shaved ricotta salata or feta.

    Happy Watermelon Day Everybody!!! 

Thursday, August 02, 2012

An Heirloom Lunch

Our dinners have been sooo good this week that we have had barely any left overs! So...this week is all about a great deli sandwiches for lunch! In my personal opinion a sandwich is rarely a great sandwich without a tomato slice or two!

This week I bought a ton of heirloom tomatoes. I don't know if its the fun colors or the goofy shapes...maybe they just do actually taste better. Whatever it is I love them and have been putting them on everything and they make a boring turkey sandwich a little less boring! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weekly Menu: 7/29 to 8/2: Going Red-Meatless...and some peachy goodness

This week is all about veggies and chicken. 

We are steering clear of red meat in our house for a little bit! I'd rather not focus my blog on the terrors of foods so I will refrain from my tangent on red meat! I will say this though, buy only GRASS FED BEEF if you plan on eating red meat!!!Really that goes for any free range, organic etc. I find this extremely important when it comes to red meat though!

You never want to eat too much of one thing anyway so its good to switch it up the meats in dinner selections. There is so much you can choose from...and if you don't want to do a meat dish opt for hearty veggies that will fill you up like mushrooms!

Weekly Menu 7/29-8/2
  • Heirloom Tomato and Feta Open Faced Sandwiches
  • Orecchiette Pasta with Melon, Pancetta and Feta
  • Orange Marmalade Chicken with Arugula and Potato Salad
  • Herb Roasted Chicken with Tomatoes Pan Sauce
  • Orzo Pasta with Pesto and Chicken
  • Peach Cobbler
 I'll admit we went a tad overboard on the chicken dishes this week. We wanted to do the pesto pasta with shrimp but we had chicken to use up and wanted to stay within our budget! Next week we will certainly be incorporating a little more variety!  

Stay tuned for recipes and tips from this weeks menu! 

I'll leave you with a glance at our peach cobbler from Alex's peach pickin' adventure on Sunday! 
I am not normally a fan of pies and cobblers but it seems like when you have 30 some peaches in your house you it is kind of expected to make a peach cobbler!
Happy Cooking

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weekly Menu: 7/22-7/26: One Of Those Weeks was one of those weeks.

One of those weeks where you are just burnt from the week before and the last thing you want to do is go to the grocery store or even make the list of the things you need from the store.

This resulted in what I like to call our semi-lazy week! Sunday and Monday were Chinese food and Brickhouse Tavern for us! Both of which were by. I means healthy for us, but it's okay once in a while to let the rules fly out the window!

Luckily Tuesday we got back on track with menu planning and eating at home!

We blew a good portion of the budget on the semi-lazy portion of the week so we had I find things we could make from what we already had available. Well we have a lot of goat cheese and a lot of chicken! So we started with that! Plus we took a menu item we didn't make last week and changed it up a bit for this week!

Weekly Menu 7/22-7/26
  • Sunday- China Ocean ( our go to Chinese joint)
  • Monday- Brickhouse Tavern (little pizza place by our old apt. complex, brings back fun memories0
  • Tuesday- Spinach and Goat cheese Omelets.
  • Wednesday- Grilled Chicken with Orzo and Goat Cheese Vinaigrette
  • Thursday- Roasted Chicken with Green Beans, Red Skin Potatoes and Lemon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chicken Sausage and Peach Skewers with Green Beans

In keeping with the simple theme this week we turned to one of my favorite magazines, Real Simple for this recipe!
 These chicken sausage and peach skewers were beyond easy! We had some chicken sausage leftover in our freezer that we needed to use up so this was the perfect recipe. Plus it cut back on the grocery budget this week! We had green beans earlier this week but this recipe was a little different and we a bought a ton of green beans (the type we like, haricot vert, only came in a huge bag) so we needed to use them up as well! Like I've said before it is a good idea to buy things you can use several times throughout the week to help with the budget...with green beans you can put whatever type of sauce you want on them to change up the flavors.

All you need is: 
  • 1lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 3 tablesoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper 
  • 4 fully cooked chicken sausage links, cut into 1inch pieces 
  • 2 peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
  • 8 ounces of french bread, cut into 1 inch pieces (we used Torta Rolls from Costco)
  • Wooden or metal skewers 
     All you need to do is:
    • Soak your skewers in water for about 10 minutes if you are using wooden ones and heat up your grill.
    • Steam your green beans either on the stove top for 6 minutes or in the microwave for 4 minutes.
    • In a medium bowl, combine mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
    • Add the green beans and toss to coat.
    • In a large bowl, toss sausage, peaches, and bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. 

    • Grill the skewers, turning ocassionally, until the sausage is heated through and bread is toasted..about 5 to 6 mins. 

       Dinner is done and the rest of the night is free to do what we need to do! 
      Now that was simple!

      Tuesday, July 17, 2012

      Easy Empanadas!!!!

      I remember eating empanadas all the time as a small child. I would go to a friend's house everyday after school and her mom always made the best empanadas. Of course at the time I had no idea what I was eating or how to make them, I just knew they were awesome!!!

      Now if you are not sure what an empanada is...well here ya go: 
      It is a Spanish or Latin-American turnover with a flaky crust and a spicy or sweet filling.
       Pretty simple...and most certainly delicious

      Beef Empanadas 
      "For a novice baker, this is the most forgiving dough to work with. The cream cheese allows this pastry some elasticity but still produces tender and flaky results."
       From the book "Mad Hungry," by Lucinda Scala Quinn
      • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
      • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
      • 1/4 cup heavy cream
      • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons, plus more for rolling out the dough
      • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
       Now this dough may not be the healthiest so if you wanna opt for something a little less fattening go for it...but as I've said before it's all about moderation, if you eat 2 as opposed to 20 I think you'll be fine!

      1. Process the butter, cream cheese, and cream in a food processor, electric mixer, or by hand to thoroughly combine.
      2. Add the flour and salt. Process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.
      3. Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one dough disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface. Applying some pressure with the rolling pin, roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Re-flour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over, and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter, thin but not transparent. 
      *We made our dough the night before and refrigerated it. It is not time consuming but with being busy this week we decided to utilize Sunday night free time to make it!

      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1 small onion, chopped
      • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped**
      • 1 pound ground beef
      • 1 teaspoon ground cumin**
      • 3/4 cup pimiento-filled green olives, sliced**
      • 3/4 cup raisins (golden)
      • 1 teaspoon honey
      • 1 teaspoon coarse salt**
      • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper**
      • Several dashes hot sauce**
      • 2 large eggs, separated
      ** We forgot the green pepper this week so we upped the onion and added about 3 cloves of garlic. We also just guesstimated on all the spices (a little more than suggested never hurts!). I leave out the olives as well, we are not huge olive fans. And as always my go to hot sauce is sriracha sauce.


      1. To make the filling, heat a large skillet over medium heat, and then swirl in the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the beef. Cook, stirring constantly to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for another minute.
      2. Stir in the olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cook until the meat is golden brown, the liquid has evaporated, and the flavors have blended, about 4 more minutes. Cool the mixture completely in the fridge. Stir in the egg whites.
      • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or line a baking sheet.
      • To form the empanadas, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling out on a floured surface. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across), cut out circles about 3 or 4 at a time from each piece of dough. 
      • Gather all dough scraps together, re-roll once, and cut. Place 1/4 cup filling on one side of a dough circle. 
      • Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. The empanadas can be frozen at this point.
      • Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over each empanada. 
      • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The empanadas can be cooled and frozen to reheat in a microwave.
      We served our empanadas with green beans. All I did was blanch them for about 3 minutes and then sauteed them for about 10 minutes  with oil, garlic, salt, pepper, pine nuts (throw in last 2-3 mins of cooking) and garnish with Parmesan cheese. 

      We even had some left over for lunch today!! 


      Monday, July 16, 2012

      Weekley Menu: Keeping it Simple

      We are really looking forward to our dinners this week! 

      Simple. Simple. Simple.

       We have a pretty busy week ahead of us so we wanted to keep things short and simple each night. Keeping things simple doesn't have to mean boring though. Check out the great flavorful things we have planned for this week!
      (and our new menu board, I'm in love with it)

      *If you remember last week's menu you will notice the stuffed peppers again (oops we had a lazy day last week and pushed those to this week's Sunday meal).

      Our New Menu Board from World Market
      •  Sunday~ Cheese Steak Stuffed Peppers
      • Monday~ Empanadas
      • Tuesday~ Chicken and Goat Cheese pizza 
      • Wednesday~ Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata 
      • Thursday~ Chicken Sausage and Peach Scewers w/ Green Beans
      *Side Salads for All

      We also stayed under $90.00 this week. Thanks to making use of some things we had left in the freezer. Go us!!!

       Stay tuned for the tonight's Empanada recipe from  
      Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn

      Here is a sneak peek of the dough we made for the empanadas


      Friday, July 13, 2012

      Basil Pesto and Freezing Herbs

      We made fresh basil pesto on Sunday for our B.L.T. pizza and turkey sandwiches this week, but we still had some leftover. 

      Now normally I would have put the leftover pesto in a bowl and said "we will for sure use this for something else soon". Well that never happened and it would end up in the trash....huge waste of money considering how expensive basil and pine nuts are! 

      Then I read a great article on preserving herbs and thought I can do this with my pesto sauce as well! Save money and cut back on wasting food, awesome!

      All you need to preserve the herbs or sauce is an ice cube tray, freezer bags, oil or water and you're good to go. 

      I froze rosemary and thyme in olive oil, but I found it a tad difficult to just "pop" them out like the website had stated. I found myself banging ice trays on the counter top like a mad woman trying to get them out! After about 10 minutes and half the olive oil melted I had gotten all of the now misshapen cubes out, threw them in a bag and back into the freezer. They may not have looked as pretty as I had hoped but they worked just the same. We took a few out of the bag and threw them in a bowl with some chicken, a little extra olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice and marinated it overnight...delicious the next day! 

      I also froze cilantro, but decided this was something that would probably be better in just water. Herbs like cilantro and parsley are often used as garnishes or finishing ingredients. By freezing them in water I can just dry them off and have fresh garnishes right away! I also found that freezing in water was waaaay easier than olive oil. There was no banging on the counter with this round....which honestly was kinda fun for a few minutes!

      As far as freezing the pesto, I just filled the ice cube tray with the remainder of the sauce and froze it over night. They took a little work as well to get out because of the oil, but they turned out fine! Now we can just take a cube or two and throw it over some hot pasta and have fresh basil pesto pasta in a jiffy! 

       Fresh Basil Pesto
      pic via Real Simple Magazine
      2 cups fresh basil leaves (Trader Joe's Organic Brand)
      1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
      1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (the REAL stuff)
      1/3 cup pignolia (pine) nuts (Trader Joe's has the best deal, refridgerate the remainder to keep them fresh)
      4-6 garlic cloves, chopped (we tend to lean towards more garlic)
      Salt and ground black pepper (optional) 

      Add basil, garlic and pine nuts into a  food processor or blender and pulse several times. 
      Turn the processor or blender to on and and add the olive oil in a slow stream. 
      Then add cheese, pulse the processor or blender a few more times, add salt and pepper if desired.

      And there you have it. Fresh Basil Pesto.

      **To make basil pesto mayonnaise just combined 1/2 cup of pesto and 1/3 cup mayonnaise and mix it together...super simple!

      Here's what I'll be reading up on over this relaxing weekend:
      I can't wait to read this one. We recently started buying the real deal olive oil and boy can you see and taste the difference!  

      Happy Weekend!

      Thursday, July 12, 2012

      Shop Around

      Earlier this week I posted a little about our shopping habits in  

      As I was browsing through some inspiration blogs yesterday I came across The Salt , NPR's Food Blog.

      I really found their post from yesterday very interesting since I had stated in my post earlier this week:

      "After the meals are planned for the week we head to the stores...yes stores not just one giant superstore stocked full of name brand crap! A key to saving money is shopping around and finding local or small business items!"

      Wednesday, July 11, 2012

      Grilled B.L.T. Pizza on Wheat Crust

      I could have lived the rest of my life without a grill....but I'm really glad I chose not to!

      I could now live the rest of my life on grilled pizza!

      I was never one for standing outside in the heat over top of more heat crossing your fingers that the food turned out right! Alex can tell you I was not happy to be purchasing a Weber gas grill when we moved into our first home! I thought it would seriously be a huge waste of money! Little did I know we would use that grill probably more so than the stove/oven in our kitchen. Grilling in our home started off very basic, we would grill meats and that was about it, but boy did we grill...all year round!

      As we were planning our meals one weekend we came across grilled pizza. I thought this would most likely turn out into a huge ball of burnt dough on the grill, but I was up for the adventure and so was Alex! To our surprise we didn't burn the pizza and it was by far the best pizza we both have ever had! 

      Some variations of grilled pizza that we have tried are:

      Chicken or Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Shallots

      BBQ Chicken

      Shrimp, Chorizo and Escarole


      You can really put anything you like on pizza...just a little sauce of your liking, cheese and whatever toppings make you happy! 

      This week we decided to do a our own play on  California Pizza Kitchen's BLT Pizza
      Grilled B.L.T. Pizza on Wheat Crust

      • Trader Joe's Wheat Pizza Crust
      • Flour (enough to cover a surface to roll dough on)
      • 4 T. Olive Oil
      • 1/4 cup Basil Pesto Mayonnaise (recipe will be posted later this week) 
      • Mozzarella (sliced, enough to layer on pizza crust)
      • 1/2 lb Bacon (cooked and crumbled) we used Trader Joe's apple smoked uncured bacon. 
      • 2 tomatoes (sliced)
      • Lettuce
      • Cook bacon according to package instructions. While bacon is cooking set pizza crust out to warm up (makes it much easier to roll). We cook our bacon in the oven to cut down on the greasy mess that pan frying leaves behind. Drain, cool and crumble.
      • Roll pizza dough out on floured surface and form into desired shape. We keep a rectangle shape as it's easier  to move around with the pizza spatula on our grill. Once dough is rolled out  transfer to a cookie sheet and cover entire surface top and bottom with olive oil.
      • Grill crust over medium/high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. We keep the bottom side less crispy since we will put it back on the grill to heat through the ingredients 
      • Top pizza crust with a thin layer of basil pesto mayonnaise, cheese, bacon and return to grill until cheese is melted, making sure to not burn the crust. 
      • Top pizza with fresh tomatoes and  lettuce (we tossed our lettuce in a little bit of the basil pesto mayo for some added flavor. 
      • Feel free to add a little cracked black pepper as well
      ...and there you have it...grilled b.l.t.  pizza! 

      I hope you enjoy this as much as we did! 

      **I'll have more pics in my posts in the next few weeks. I am still a major work in progress and have learn the art of photo editing again!!! Bear with me as I continue towards a more visually pleasing site**