Sunday, June 5, 2016

Stir Fry:My Go-To Healthy, Easy Weeknight Meal

Don't get me wrong, I love to cook. I love baking, cooking and spending time in the kitchen, but let's be honest here, there are about 10 million other things I have to get done throughout the typical weekday of being a work-at-home mom! Between juggling a full-time job, a part-time job and a few freelance accounts, I'm desperate for simple and healthy meal solutions when dinnertime comes around.

ginger-beef-mushroom-kale-stir-fry


I came across this recipe by one of my favorite food blogs: Gimme Some Oven. We love stir fry around here, but it can get a little boring if you don't switch it up every now and again. This particular recipe blends beef, mushrooms and kale in an amazingly tasty ginger-spiked sauce that guarantees you'll be licking your bowl asking for more when you're done.


I know kale doesn't immediately jump to mind when you think of bowl-licking-worthy food, but I really love using it in this recipe to round out the dish. It helps stretch the beef a little more to feed a few more mouths but doesn't detract from the flavor of the dish. And bonus = uber healthy ingredient!

I didn't change much in the original recipe, just used button mushrooms because they were what I had on hand and sprinkled a few toasted sesame seeds on the top before serving.

What are your favorite go-to meals when you want to feed your family well but quickly during the week?

Ginger Beef Mushroom & Kale Stir Fry (recipe courtesy of Gimme Some Oven)
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Friday, June 3, 2016

Ramen: Not The Pre-Packaged Kind We Lived on in College

I know I'm not alone in saying I practically lived on some form of ramen noodles in my college years/early twenties. It's honestly a miracle all of our hearts didn't instantaneously explode from the sodium content in those little packets of MSG labeled as "flavor"! I remember a particularly tragic kitchen experiment in which my younger sister and I (hi Molly!) decided we didn't want to spend a whopping 99 cents on spaghetti and would just use ramen noodles for the pasta in our spaghetti and marinara sauce dinner.


There really aren't words to communicate how insanely disgusting that was. Pretty sure we spit it out in the sink and moved onto our 99 cent Totino's "party pizzas" lurking in the freezer. Thankfully, in this case, with age came wisdom. My younger sister is a fantastic cook and baker these days and neither one of us feels the need to use pre-packaged ramen noodles as a dietary staple due to our financial situations!

I had been wanting to try a more authentic ramen noodle bowl recipe and my husband is a lover of both soup and Japanese food, so it was a win-win when I got my hands on this fabulous little cookbook by Chef Jonathon Sawyer: Noodle Kids. The guy took home a James Beard Award in 2015, so I was pretty excited. So many great recipes are in that book, you should absolutely check it out, plus the emphasis on cooking with your kids is a cause that hits close to home with me.

We tried out the Roasted Chicken Ramen and absolutely loved it. I think next time I make it I'll be able to streamline it a little (ie not use every pot and burner in my kitchen), but the end result was worth it. If you have a well-stocked international section in your grocery store, you should be able to find all the Asian ingredients you need there. Our neighborhood has a fantastic Japanese grocery store, so I was able to beg the proprietor for help deciphering labels and find everything I needed. This was far from the first time we had visited his store, and he's always a huge help and really friendly.



Check out the link to the recipe below and give this more authentic spin on ramen a try. I swear your taste buds, nutritionist and heart will thank you!

PS - Don't leave out the amazing 6 1/2-minute eggs, they make the entire dish incredible!

Roasted Chicken Ramen Soup Recipe (courtesy of Jonathon Sawyer via NY Metro Parents)

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Strawberries & Lime: A Match Made in Summery Heaven

Here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we've been having one of the wettest and gloomiest spring seasons I've ever experienced. Thankfully this past week brought some sunshine and summer temperatures to ring in the summer season. Even though Memorial Day dawned rainy, humid and gloomy, we celebrated with a family cookout (Dad grilled in the rain, you can't keep him down!) and this fantastic summery dessert.

strawberrylimeiceboxpie

Our strawberry season hasn't been great this year due to the monsoons that have been hitting us all spring, but I was able to find some salvageable ones at our local farm stand. This pie blends two of my favorite things: key lime and strawberries, so I knew we couldn't go wrong! This simple, creamy and refreshing dessert was the perfect end to a meal of burgers, hot dogs and picnic salads.

Hopefully it's sunny wherever you are and you're experiencing a better strawberry crop! Here's to the unofficially kickoff of the summer season - go forth and eat all that delicious summertime bounty of fruits and veggies before winter kicks in before we know it and we're back to squash and potatoes!

Strawberry Lime Icebox Pie

Ingredients for the Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. grated lime zest
5 tbsp. melted butter

Ingredients for the Filling
3 egg yolks
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup lime juice
1 tbsp. grated lime zest

Ingredients for the Topping
1 1/2 cups (approx) hulled strawberries (don't use frozen!)
2 tbsp. melted strawberry jelly

Instructions
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and lime zest in a bowl, then stir in the melted butter until the consistency is like wet sand. Press evenly into a pie plate to make the crust and bake at 350 for about 6 minutes until just starting to darken.

Remove crust from oven and cool for 10 minutes or so while you mix up the filling. Whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk until combined, then whisk in the lime juice and zest. When combined, pour into the slightly cooled crust and bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely on a baking rack before refrigerating at least 5 hours or overnight. One hour before serving, remove the pie from the refrigerator and arrange strawberries on top and brush with melted jelly before returning to the fridge to set. Serve chilled.

Printable Recipe

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Simple Easter Craft + Dessert All In One

This year Easter is a little odd in our house, mostly because my husband has to work a 10-hour shift on Sunday (thank you medical field) and my mother-in-law is out of town. Because of that, we celebrated Easter last weekend with the traditional big meal, pretty dress for our daughter, church as a family and Easter basket goodies. The fig-glazed ham recipe I link to below is our family favorite, I discovered it years ago and it is demanded every time ham is expected on the table, we love it and it is just so easy!
Easter

If you're still scrambling to find your perfect Easter meal recipes, check out some of my no-fail, go-to recipes in the links below:

Fig-Glazed Ham, Tarragon Deviled Eggs & Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

Garlic Potato Gratin & Creamy Deviled Eggs

Still, I wanted to do something a little fun on the actual calendar day Easter with my daughter so we decided to make these adorable little cookie cups and decorate them with frosting and Cadbury Mini Eggs so they look like little birds nests.

simple-easter-craft-dessert


At just 3 months away from turning 4, my daughter is obsessed with all things bird. She loves ducks, baby chicks, chickens, geese and most importantly eggs. The chocolate ones that is, I can't convince her to eat a real one, but she loves cracking them open to help me when we bake and just learned the ASL sign for the letter "E" and proudly does that while saying "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" whenever she sees an egg.

That being said, this was the perfect little Easter craft/dessert for her. Plus, buttercream frosting is one of her favorite food groups.

If you're looking for a shortcut on this dessert its really easy, just use any pre-made or boxed cookie mix, make it according to package directions and use the mini-muffin tins the way I did for baking them (see baking steps below). Then let the kids pipe on store-bought whipped-style frosting (or do that part yourself) and let them decorate with the candy eggs. They'll love it, it'll keep their little fingers busy while you get Easter dinner on the table.

Make-Ahead Tip: You can even bake the cookie cups a day ahead (like TONIGHT) and keep them in a sealed container ready to decorate tomorrow.

If you want to make them from scratch, check out the recipe below that I found thanks to Lil Luna. I barely adapted the original recipe, so be sure to check out that site as well for more fabulous ideas!

Easter Nest Cookie Cups

Ingredients For The Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 room-temperature eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp. baking soda

Ingredients For The Frosting

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Food coloring (any color you like, my daughter chose green like grass and we use Wilton Icing Color)
Easter candy (for decorating; ie, mini chocolate eggs, robin eggs, peeps, etc.)

Instructions

First, make the cookie dough. Like I mentioned in the post above, you can do this a day in advance and bake the cookie cups. Just keep them in a sealed container until you're ready to frost and decorate.

Beat together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, shortening, peanut butter, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer until well combined and slightly fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then pour in the milk and mix until creamy.

Sift in the flour and baking soda, then mix well to combine. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and use a cookie scoop to place a ball of dough in each greased mini-muffin tin (or you can use 2 small scoops in a regular-sized one). Use a tart press (if you have one) or the end of a rounded spatula or kitchen spoon (the way I did) to make a small indent in each little cookie mound in the muffin tin. This will help mold the dough a little into the muffin cup.

For mini-muffin sized cookie cups, bake for 12 minutes. For regular-sized muffin cookie cups, bake for 15-17 minutes. Let cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before removing and setting on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make the frosting by whipping together the butter, vanilla, cream and 2 cups of the powdered sugar on high until smooth and creamy, then add in the remaining cup of sugar and whatever food coloring you've chosen.

Pipe the frosting on top of your little cookie cups and decorate with Easter candy. 



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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Switching Up Your Weeknight Chicken Recipe: With Pretzels

pretzel-crusted-chicken

Chicken is a standby in our house for weeknight dinners, but it can get a little boring just cooking the same dishes or cutlets over and over again. I love this concept of using pretzels as breading instead of the usual breadcrumbs! Not only do we always have pretzels in the house since they are a favorite snack of my 3-year-old, but I love the flavor.

This recipe is adapted from one I found through Food Network and is delicious served up alongside a baked sweet potato and your favorite veggie. We love roasted broccoli for weeknight dinners or a big green salad works well too.

Check out the recipe below and share your favorite weeknight chicken recipes in the comments!

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken w/ Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2, but is easily doubled to serve 4

Ingredients
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup small pretzels, crushed into small pieces (use a food processor if you like)
2-4 chicken cutlets
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Kosher salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbsp. pure maple syrup

Instructions
Poke the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and cook in the microwave until fork-tender (about 10-15 minutes). Cover or wrap with aluminum foil and set aside. Of course you can bake them in the oven if you like, but for a weeknight quick meal I like to make use of the microwave.

While the potatoes are cooking, pour the crushed pretzels in a pie plate or other shallow dish and season the turkey with the paprika, salt and pepper. Once the cutlets are well seasoned, brush one side of each cutlet with the dijon mustard, sprinkle them with the dried thyme and then press that side into the pretzel crumbs to coat. Repeat with each cutlet and set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (I like to use my cast iron skillet for this). Add the cutlets to the oil pretzel-coated side down and cook 3-4 minutes until golden, flip over and continue to cook on the other side until done. Cook the cutlets in batches if you don't have a large enough skillet to fit them all in one batch.

Combine the butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and a sprinkle paprika in a small bowl. Split open the sweet potatoes, sprinkle lightly with salt and top with the butter. Combine the remaining maple syrup and 1 tablespoon mustard. Serve the turkey with the sweet potatoes and maple mustard on the side for dipping.


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