Wednesday, June 29

Summery Squash and Orzo Salad

Earlier this year, a girlfriend and I were discussing our "bachelor foods".  The foods we eat when we're cooking for one.  Those meal choices that present you with the foodie version of a tree in the woods dilemma:  "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" 

If I eat an entire box of Kraft Mac n' Cheese but no one is there to witness it, did it really happen?

Her bachelor foods included frozen waffles.  Mine now includes frozen waffles too (thanks Mel!) but also turkey tacos and new recipes that I'm not sure I could convince Roy to try, like brussels sprouts.  Oh and the occasional box of Kraft Mac n' Cheese.  Or a stack of Oreos.  Don't judge.

This recipe is one of my favorite "single" meals although to be honest, it's so good I'm not sure why I haven't made it for the Royfriend yet.  It's very fresh and filling and I love that I can easily make a single serving of it.

Should you decide to try this, remember these words very carefully: do not skip the herbs.  I've made it both ways and the herbs add another layer of flavor that you don't want to miss.  That being said, you can use feta and goat cheese interchangably.  I added a side salad and a crusty roll with lots of butter because it was a bachelor meal and if no one saw me dipping chunks of hot bread into lots of butter, than it didn't happen, right???  Right ;)

Happy Eating!


Summery Squash and Orzo Salad
Serves 1, double recipe to serve more

1/2 cup zucchini, roughly chopped
1/2 cup yellow squash, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions, roughly chopped
Orzo (1/3 cup of dry orzo is about one serving)
Goat Cheese (or feta, use what you've got)
Parsley, chopped
Dill, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Add orzo to boiling water, cook until al dente, about 9-10 minutes.

Saute zucchini, yellow squash and scallions in a little bit of olive oil until tender (about 7-8 minutes over medium heat). 

Mix pasta, veggies and goat or feta cheese together. Season with salt and pepper and mix in herbs.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 23

Asian Honey Chicken Kebabs

This recipe is as much of a summer staple for me as my flip flops.  I'm pretty sure I whip up a batch of these kebabs two or three times a month between June and October using whatever veggies I can find at the Farmers Market that week.

Asian Honey Chicken kebabs with grilled red onion, zucchini and squash and corn on the cob

And unlike some grill recipes that have you making your own rubs and spice mixes (which is fun, when you have the time to do it from scratch), this recipe is about as "lazy woman friendly" as it gets.  It uses just a couple of every day ingredients that you probably have sitting in your pantry right now like honey, soy sauce and garlic.  And it gives normally bland chicken some great flavor!



Occasionally I'll throw some steak in the mix as well.  Or if I'm really feeling fancy pants, sometimes I'll marinate the steak separately in some teriyaki sauce and make a duo of chicken and steak kebabs.  See, doesn't that sound delicious and as fancy as you can get for a BBQ?  I con my guests that way all the time :)

You can throw your veggies into the marinade along with your protein.  Or try keeping them separate and spray them with a light mist of Olive Oil PAM before they hit the grill so their natural flavors shine through.  And seriously, try whatever you can get your hands on... bell peppers, red onions, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, potatoes (yes, I said it, potatoes, apparently it's the "new thing" to grill although I've yet to try it).



One lesson I will impart after a summer of making kebabs: while it may look cute to mix and match your protein and veggies, resist the urge!  It's just not practical.  Chicken, steak and veggies all have different cooking times and keeping like items on their own skewers makes it easier to cook everything just right.

Happy Eating!  And of course, let me know if you have any other summer marinades that you swear by.


Serves 6

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (about 1.5 lbs)
1 clove of garlic, minced
veggies of your choice

In a medium bowl, mix together vegetable oil, honey, soy sauce, pepper and minced garlic.  Reserve a little bit in a smaller bowl or glass to brush on kebabs while grilling.

Add cubed chicken and veggies if you choose decide to marinate them.  Stir or mix well to coat the chicken.  Refrigerate for 3 hours or more.

When you're ready to grill, thread chicken and veggies on skewers and discard remaining marinade.  Preheat grill, lightly oil grill grate, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is done.  Brush with reserved marinade and turn to keep kebabs from burning.

Monday, June 20

"Not Guac" avocado dip

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

It's important it is to get of your comfort zone every once in a while.  I can preach on about all the benefits but you know them.  So instead, I'm going to ask you to get out of your comfort zone with this recipe.  Take a little leap of faith.  I'll be the first to admit that it looks less than appetizing.  But think about the flavors:

red onion
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
feta cheese

It makes your mouth water a bit, right?  It seems like it has potential for deliciousness.  And it does!  It totally delivers.

This is one of those recipes that is impossible to explain.  It's much better tried together over a glass of wine or beer.  That was how my Dad first introduced it to me.  And that's how his friend introduced it to him.

I would love to make it for you so you could see just how delicious and unexpected it is.   But if I could do that, you'd be standing in my kitchen chowing down on dip and not reading about it on this blog.

I call this "not guac" because when I tried to explain it to one of my BFFs Carey and her husband Will during a recent visit, I started by asking questions infomercial style.  "Do you like avocados?"  "Do you like tomatoes?"  "Do you like red onions?"  "You're going to LOVE this dip--"

At this point Will interrupted me.  "Are you making GUACAMOLE?!?"  His jaw was on the table and he was horrified, thinking I'd lived all these years on the planet Earth without eating guacamole.

I quickly cleared up the confusion and we agreed to call it "not guac" (you'd never know one of us works in marketing and the other in advertising).  The next day we enjoyed the dip along with some of Will's homemade beer and they were converts. 

So I'm asking you to get out of your comfort zone and give this one a shot.  I think you'll love the unusual flavor that the balsamic adds.  Try it with tortilla chips and if you have leftovers put them on a basic iceberg salad (don't add salad dressing).  Carey added it to a salad and topped it with shrimp and gave it an A+.  I can't wait to give that version a shot.

Happy Eating!


"Not Guac" Avocado Dip
serves 4-6
2 ripe avocados
2 Roma tomatoes
Half a medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Garlic salt
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Roughly chop avocados into chunky pieces.  Roughly chop tomatoes into chunky pieces (remove seeds and watery insides).  Finely dice half a red onion.

Combine avocados, tomatoes and red onion in a medium bowl.  Sprinkle in 1/2 cup of crumbled Feta cheese.  Give it a light sprinkle of garlic salt (remember, you can always add more).  Stir gently to mix.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil and then with balsamic vinegar adding a bit more balsamic vinegar than olive oil.  Again, go easy.  You can always add more later.  Stir gently to combine.

Test with a tortilla chip and add more olive oil and balsamic vinegar as needed.  I like my dip to have more balsamic than olive oil since it gives the mixture an unexpected but fantastic flavor.

Enjoy!  Know that the longer this sits, the more the flavor builds.  And definitely try your leftovers on a salad, you won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 15

The one where I meet my girl crush

Oh, what's that?  That blurry photo right there?  It's just me and Carla Hall from Top Chef hanging out.  No big deal.

LIES!  It's a HUGE deal!  I just met Carla from Top Chef!  Insert all kinds of girly squeals here.

She happens to be doing some cooking demonstrations at a tradeshow that I'm attending this week. I knew she'd be doing demos in the exhibit hall and I was just hoping I'd be able to catch one in between the chaos that is running my company's booth.

But when I came in to check on something during set up today, she was just quietly preparing her station.  So I seized the opportunity to snap into starry eyed fan mode and went over to say hello. 

And confess that I have a girl crush on her.

She was amazing.  So nice, so sweet.  Happy to accommodate my gushing over how much I adore her and her concept of cooking with love and how the world needs more Carla Hall!  She even indulged me with that blurry photo.  The only way it could have been better is if I was actually eating some of her food.  She rocks.

Unfortunately, the exhibit hall is calling my name so it's back to work.  New recipes coming next week!


Sunday, June 12

Just a regular Friday night

Of all my friends, I'm not sure I can think of anyone that likes food more than Seth.  I know I'm a proclaimed lover of food and eating, but I've got nothing on Seth and his appetite. 

King Seth at Medieval Times

When we go to the neighborhood sushi joint, he regularly orders as many rolls as the Royfriend and I combined.  He's been known to spend $20 by himself on a single meal at IHOP.  Although nothing beats my favorite memory of Seth coming over in a Santa suit after Santa Con and waxing poetic about the Corn and Sausage Chowder that I'd made.  And then propmtly falling asleep on my couch 10 minutes later.  In his Santa suit.

Several years ago we were leaving one of our favorite bars after a couple of drinks and were in the mood for a midnight snack.  Unfortunately, the only thing nearby was a Dunkin Donuts / Baskin Robbins.  So off we went. 

When we got there we spent a few minutes oogling the 31 flavors of ice cream and leftover donuts.  But why live an ordinary life when you can be extraordinary. 

Seth picked out an ice cream cake and committed to finishing it off before the end of the evening.  And not just any ice cream cake, but one that weighed in at 1.71 lbs with 2600 calories and 130 grams of fat.  The other patrons weren't quite sure what to think.  One guy even wished Seth a happy birthday figuring that was the only excuse for the gluttony taking place before him.

Unfortunately for Seth, I had my camera handy, and documented the experience.  And today, because it's Seth's birthday, and I'm a good friend like that, I'm sharing it :) 

Happy Birthday Seth!

PS: don't get the "I'm a man, I'm 40, come after ME" comment?  Check out Oklahoma State's football coach Mike Gundy go on an epic rant.  Because Seth is a whopping 2 or 3 years older than most of my friends in Chicago, we constantly pester him about his "old age" and this quote resurfaces a lot.

Wednesday, June 8

BBQ Chicken Nachos

True confession time: I love bar food.  It's my Saturday guilty pleasure of choice, especially during football season.  I try to eat balanced meals and snacks during the week (keyword: try).  And then I indulge my cravings in spinach and artichoke dip, gluttonous brunch, loaded nachos, fried anything and college football when Saturday rolls around. 

Trouble sets in around dinner time.  I find myself too stuffed to enjoy even one more loaded cheese fry and my body is preparing to disown me after all the processed food and sodium.  I feel like undoing the top button of my jeans and falling asleep at the table. 

And that's why I adore this recipe.  It blends the best of both worlds - loaded nachos and the wholesome foods that treat me so much better than my favorite bar dishes. 

The original recipe came from my Chicago friends Dave and Lindsay (affectionately known as AY in Windy City circles).  Roy and I were at their house for dinner when Lindsay introduced us to this amazing find.  It's so basic, you'll wonder why you didn't think it up yourself.


Tangent time... it's hard to explain to you just how fun Dave and Lindsay are and how much I enjoyed living in the same city as them.  So here's a picture that should help elaborate. 

How can people who will do that on their wedding day NOT be fun to hang out with?!?  They've been gone for almost 2 years now, but Chicago still misses them dearly.

Over the years I've played with Lindsay's original recipe by adding in peppers and onions.  I finally settled on the recipe below that includes diced red, green and yellow peppers.

diced bell peppers waiting to be made into nacho goodness

I probably make it every other week during football season, particularly for Monday night games.  It can be made ahead of time and it makes enough for leftovers.  Plus I feel like I'm enjoying an indulgent treat when in reality, I'm getting protein, veggies, and whole grains which is more than I can say for my bar appetizer bffs.  Be cautious not to put too much chicken on one chip. I know it's tempting but you want to maintain a good chip to chicken ratio.

Play around with the your favorite ingredients and work up a combination that's best for you.  Check out this article, "Nachos 50 Ways" from the Food Network Magazine.  You'll get all kinds of good inspiration!

Unfortunately, I can only vouch for the healthy rating if you keep it as is.  But don't let that deter you from trying it with buffalo chicken and blue cheese, fresh corn and jalapenos, or mango and pineapple with Monterrey jack cheese.  The combinations are endless.

Happy Eating!


BBQ Chicken Nachos
35 mins, serves 4-6

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts (around 1.5 lbs)
3 diced bell peppers – red, green and yellow
Shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
1 bag of restaurant style tortilla chips (you want larger chips so they have space to hold the goods)
BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s original sauce)

1. Bake the chicken for 20 mins at 400 or until cooked through.  While chicken is cooking, dice bell peppers.

Lazy Woman's option: use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to save yourself the time of baking the chicken.

2. Slice the chicken breasts into big chunks, place in a food processor or blender and shred until it resembles a pulled bbq meat.  You can also pull it apart by hand using forks, but that’s a lot of effort and interferes with my ability to simultaneously drink a beer.

3. Place shredded chicken and diced bell peppers into a large bowl and add 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce.  Mix well and add more sauce in small increments as necessary.  You want it to be well coated and moist but not soggy.

4. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Lay chips in a single layer on the backing sheet and spoon the shredded chicken and bell pepper mixture onto the chips.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese. 

5. Bake on a rack in the top third of the oven at 300 degrees for 10 min.  Just enough to melt the cheese and heat the chicken/bell pepper mixture through.

Again, it’s very easy to make this the day before and refrigerate it so you aren’t slaving away on game day or a work night.  Just stir the mixture up and let it come to room temp first.  And only make as many nachos as you think you’ll eat.  You can’t reheat the nachos, but the bbq mix keeps so you can always make more.


Below are the nutrition facts from a very similar Hungry Girl recipe.  It's not a perfect match.  The HG recipe is based on using 1 can of 98% fat free chunk white chicken, 1 cup of fat free cheese, 1/2 cup of bbq sauce with about 45 cal per 2-TBSP serving, and baked tortilla chips.  I'm just sharing this to give you a ballpark since the recipes are pretty similar.

229 calories, 3g fat, 875 mg sodium (would assume this goes down if you bake your own boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of using canned chicken), 26g carbs, 125g fiber, 7g sugars, 21g protein

Sunday, June 5

Pan Fried Flounder (or Sole)

Thanks to the recent heat wave, we've been having July and August-like temps here in Chicago.  When I got up to walk the dog at 8am yesterday it was already 81 degrees.  Which is great, because who doesn't love a good sweat before their morning coffee?!?

The good news is the heat has made it much easier to give up my heavy winter dishes in favor of lighter summer fare.  Like this one which was featured on the Weight Watchers site when they did a relaunch of the program this spring (if you don't trust my review of the recipe below, trust the 563 reviews on the WW website).


The combination of flavors - Dijon mustard, cornmeal, Parmesan and lemon - is intriguing.  I was unsure of how they'd come together.  But the result is decidedly delicious!  The recipe includes just the right amount of each ingredient so that no one item is overpowering.  It ends up being fresh and flavorful with a little bit of crunch and a nice tanginess. 

My store was out of flounder so I made this with sole which was on sale.  It turned out to be convenient for when I goofed the recipe the first time and realized I'd forgotten the egg whites.  Fortunately I had two more fillets in the fridge so I was able to just start over! 

Which leads me to things I'd do differently next time... skip the egg whites.  Unless you're really trying to do Weight Watchers by the book, I think it's A-ok to save yourself some time and kitchen utensils by just using an egg substitute or even a real egg wash.  I also had a hard time getting the cornmeal coating to stick to the entire fish surface, as you can see in the photo below.  I think that's something that just takes time, and maybe a fish spatula, to master. 

This has been added to the summer rotation and has helped get me out of my "white fish slump".  I won't go into the details but let's just say, I'm no longer allowed to cook tilapia.  So this makes me doubly excited to have an easy fish dish (besides salmon) under my belt!

Happy Eating!


from Weight Watchers

1 pound flounder, sole or fluke fillets   
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard   
1 large egg white, whipped until stiff (or equivalent measure of egg substitute)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal   
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese   
1 Tbsp thyme, fresh, finely minced (or 1 tsp dried thyme)   
1/2 tsp table salt, or to taste   
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground, or to taste   
2 sprays olive oil cooking spray   
1 Tbsp olive oil   
1 medium lemons, cut into 4 wedges
Rinse fish and pat dry. Place fish on a plate and spread both sides of fish with mustard; dip into egg white (or egg substitute) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt and pepper.  Dust the fish with the cornmeal-mixture, making sure to cover both sides.

Coat a large oven-proof skillet with cooking spray and set over medium to medium-high heat; heat oil until shimmering. Add fish to skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on one side; flip fish and cook until done on other side, about 2 to 3 minutes more.*

Serve fish with lemon wedges.