Month: January 2014

lunchbox life: buffalo-ed chicken salad


Happy Super Bowl week, everyone!  Just kidding, I have no interest in the game–who’s playing in it again?  One thing I do enjoy about Super Bowl parties, however, is the food (duh), and every football fan knows that they’re not worth their salt if they don’t include buffalo chicken dip or wings in their spread.  They should also know the guilt they feel the next day after scarfing down tons of junk food–don’t we all?

If you are a chicken salad fan like me, you’re probably always in the market for new recipes.  I’ve seen several takes on buffalo chicken salad in magazines and on Pinterest, but I’ve not made it before today.  I have to tell you that I am pretty excited about this week’s lunch hour (or, 25 minutes in teacher world).  This tastes like such an indulgence, but it’s really not–instead of mayonnaise or sour cream, I used 0% fat Greek yogurt.  Most restaurants mix melted butter with their buffalo sauce for extra thickness and depth of flavor, but I leave that out here, and I can’t tell the difference.  This is such an easy recipe, and it will have you ready to cheer on whichever team you support this Sunday!

I served this chicken salad on a bed of greens with some blue cheese crumbles and a side of baby carrots, but you could also serve it as a sandwich.  Enjoy!

Buffalo-ed Chicken Salad

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken

4 celery stalks, small diced

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup 0% Greek yogurt

1 cup buffalo sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo)

salt and pepper

Removing the skin and bones, pick the meat off of the rotisserie chicken and place in a medium mixing bowl.  Make sure that the chicken is evenly torn and pulled.  Add the other ingredients, stir to combine, and serve atop greens, in a pita pocket, or on a sandwich roll.  Enjoy!

wild card wednesday: brown butter sauteed haddock, grilled green tomato, cauliflower “couscous”


Back at it with another adventure in cauliflower and deliciousness in the seafood realm. The Kroger may have decent prices, but the selection is a little lacking if you don’t want tilapia. The haddock was the best looking fish they had, which was great since I wanted to do something with skin. Don’t be scared of fish skin! When done well, it can have loads of flavor and probably vitamins or something else you’re supposed to have in your diet. 

And since the challenge this month is cauliflower, I too wanted to offer a way for someone who may not like the white fibrous  cabbage flower, giving it flavors you may not usually associate with it. I have to admit, I thought I was doing something novel, but apparently grated cauliflower “rice” has had its day already. Well, no one told me and I forgot to ask! I decided to call mine couscous because I think it fits the texture and I lightly boiled it with chicken broth. So there, rest of the Internet. Also, it was delicious. Please try cauliflower again if you think you don’t like it. 

NOTE: The grilled green tomatoes are a retread– a delicious, amazing retread. Can you find the post where they were used before?

Brown Butter Sauteed Haddock

2 large filets haddock, skin on
Salt to coat skin
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to flavor meat
3/4 stick butter

Brown 1/2 stick of butter in pan by melting over medium heat. After a few minutes the butter will foam and then die down. Swirl pan regularly. Brown bits will form on bottom of pan and butter will take on a nutty aroma. Remove from heat

Coat the skin side of the fish in salt and spice the top. Allow the salt to sink into the skin for about 15 minutes (use this time to prep your caulicous). 

When ready to cook fish, melt 1 tbsp butter in pan over medium high heat. Scrape skin with paper towel and pat dry. Cook skin side down. Spoon 1 tbsp brown butter over top of fish and cover. About 4 minutes, the skin should release from the pan. Flip for less than one minute, remove from heat at top with additional brown butter. Serve atop the cauliflower. 

Cauliflower Couscous

1 head cauliflower
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
2 red tomatoes, diced
2 yellow tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup italian parsley

Grate the cauliflower with a hand grater into a bowl. (I should have taken a video, but I needed both of my hands for the grating). Be sure to get all the fluffy parts and a good bit of the stems. 

Heat the oil over medium in a deep pan with garlic. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat. Add the broth and season. Stir and cover, reduce heat to medium low. After 10 minutes, add the parsley. 

In a separate pan, stew the tomatoes until mushy. Add to cauliflower after the parsley, close to time to serve. 

When plating, pile the “couscous” and place the green tomatoes on the side. Gingerly place the fish on top and garnish. This is beautiful, rich plate of food, one where you don’t feel like you are eating the white broccoli stuff. 


tasty tuesday: shrimp piccata with collard noodles with country ham and turnips

Shrimp, shrimp of the south.

Shrimp, shrimp of the south.

Circumstance forced ole JAM into the tuesday duty again this week and also left me with a short amount of time to pull a meal together. After a weekend that featured ribs and chicken and sweets and stew and carbs on carbs, I thought it was time for a quick, fiber-filled light supper. My mind went back to a meal I knew a few weeks before at Dovetail— a collard “noodle” dish that really satisfied. For protein, I wanted to go away from something on the buttery side and, well, shrimp are a top five food. So, after a few ideas came together and quick whirl around the store, I came up with this meal that can done in no more than 10 mins cook time and only about 15 mins prep for two people. It was a risk, sure, but the flavors meshed really well and the “noodles” worked great.

Shrimp Piccata

1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons, Juice of 1 1/2
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp capers
2 glugs of white wine <– Technical term

Start by shelling shrimp and setting aside. Combine the onion, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper, and oil in a bowl and whisk. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to meld. Use this time to prep the collards (below).

Heat a pan over medium high heat and pour in your sauce mixture. Stir for a couple minutes until onions soften. Add capers and stir. Add the shrimp and cover in the sauce and pour in the white wine. Stir again lower heat. Keep stirring until shrimp are just cooked through. Serve atop collards.

Collard Noodles

1 1/2 bunch collards
6oz of country ham strips, cut into bite size morsels
1 small turnip, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar

Cut the collards like so:

Linguine? Fettuccine?

Linguine? Fettuccine?

It is best, if the greens will lay flat to cut with towards the stem, using just the tip of the knife. One fluid motion will cut clean through and make the process quick and easy. It really needs to go one at a time, as the leaves are all different sizes.

Heat a deep pan over medium. Toss in the ham until it sweats and add the turnips. Coat with oil and heat until the turnips begin to soften. Add the collards and stir until coated in grease. Add the vinegar, stir, and lower heat. Be sure to keep stirring to keep green color throughout. The greens should cook about 6 minutes before heat is killed.

Plate in bowl and top with pepper, and a squeeze of lemon if you desire.

Be sure to get some ham, shrimp, and collards in a nice twirled bite. So delicious! Such nice, quick, Southern meal. I highly recommend.

wild card wednesday: fish skewers with hawayej and parsley + roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad


Happy Wednesday, all!  Today marks the middle of January, my least favorite month.  It’s cold, there are no major celebrations, and it’s dark too early, just to name a few gripes.  Despite all of this, we must soldier on and make the best out of what we have, which brings me to the Wild Card Wednesday ingredient of the month: cauliflower.  Yes, that dreaded white, crunchy vegetable on every crudite plate that is never eaten.  Some of you may know about the transformative properties of roasting vegetables, and cauliflower performs beautifully in this endeavor.  Like January, no one likes cauliflower upon first blush, but since we have to live with it, we might as well enjoy it, right?

Both of these recipes come from the cookbook Jerusalem, written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Both men were born in Israel, but Ottolenghi is Jewish and Tamimi is Muslim.  Together, they own a handful of delis in London and combine many tastes and flavors from all around the Middle East.  I was so excited to open this, along with another one of their cookbooks, Plenty, at Christmas this year.  My cousin Jessy (paying close attention to my Amazon wishlist) made an excellent choice!

The fish skewers have a strong depth of flavor–something that usually doesn’t come across with grilled fish.  It sits in the refrigerator in the hawayej–a Yemeni spice mix that you make from your pantry–and the flavor seeps into the filets very effectively.  The cauliflower salad is a true “party in your mouth” type of side dish; lots of interesting textures come out from the softness of the roasted cauliflower, the fruity pop of the pomegranate seeds, and crunch of the nuts and the celery.

So, here we go: a warm, vibrant, piquant plate for a dreary mid-week day in the doldrums.  Just the pick-me-up you needed!

Fish Skewers with Hawayej and Parsley

1 lb. (2 fillets) cod, halibut, or other firm white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lemon, halved

4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 1 hour

Hawayej Spice Mix:

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1 tsp. coriander seeds

1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

4 whole cloves

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/2 tsp turmeric

Start with the hawayej mix: place all of the mix ingredients into a spice grinder or use a mortar and pestle to grind the spices into an even mix.  Place the mix into a large mixing bowl.  Place fish, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and 1 tsp. of salt into the bowl with the hawayej mix.  Mix well with your hands, then cover with plastic wrap and let fish sit for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Place a ridged grill pan over high heat for about five minutes.  While you’re waiting for the grill pan to get hot, thread the fish pieces onto the bamboo skewers, leaving plenty of space between each piece (about four on each skewer).  Drizzle the fish with a small amount of olive oil, then grill for about 2 minutes on each side.  Grill the lemon halves and serve on the plate with the skewers.

Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

1 head cauliflower, broken into smaller florets

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large celery stalk, cut on an angle into 1/4-inch slices

5 Tbsp. hazelnuts, with skins

1/3 cup parsley leaves, picked

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup

salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Mix the cauliflower with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and some black pepper.  Spread the florets evenly in a roasting pan or on a cookie sheet and roast on the top oven rack for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool down.

Turn the oven temperature down to 325 F.  Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 10 minutes.  Allow the nuts to cool slightly, then chop and add to the cauliflower.  Add another Tbsp. of olive oil along with the remaining ingredients.  Serve at room temperature.

tasty tuesday: spaghetti and meatballs

The classics never get old.

The classics never get old.

Ok, so it may not seem that exciting that the first tasty tuesday of 2014 is a pretty straightforward classic supper, but this is not the spaghetti and meatballs that a box used to make. This is an example of how easily you can elevate an old standard into a standout.

The first step is making fresh noodles. I’ve talked about good processes in earlier blogs and the interwebs are crawling with videos that can help. At any rate, 2 rounded cups of flour, 4 eggs, a glug of olive oil, salt and granulated garlic swirled together until its a single blob that is kneaded for a few minutes and allowed to rest makes you one heck of a nice dough. I was able to debut my brand new pasta roller from Robinson Home, which I highly recommend. Keep it floured and rest while you prep the rest.

Get a nice sauce going. I used:

1 Can Muir Glen crushed tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion, frenched
6 roma tomatoes, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
Olive oil

Start with the olive oil on medium heat and heat the onion. After about 2 minutes add the garlic and saute until onions have softened. Add the the tomatoes and a little water. Stir in the herbs. Bring to boil over medium heat for about five minutes. Stir and reduce heat to simmer about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Use this time to make the meatballs.

1 lb ground round
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 lb pork sausage
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp paprika
1/4 cup panko
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for minimum of 20 minutes. Form into balls of your desired size.

In a large pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom on high heat. Sear the meatballs on top and bottom for about 3 minutes per side. Place in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Finish cooking the meat by placing the meatballs in the tomato sauce.

Once you have the meat in the oven, start a large pot with water for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for a couple minutes, until the noodles have plumped and lost all yellow color. Drain.

Serve it up as you have always known, top with parmesan cheese and parsley.

Eat up!

lunchbox life: Martha’s turkey burger and spinach salad with feta


Happy Sunday, everyone!  As I wind down the weekend with a glass of Cabernet and Downton Abbey, I hope that you’re enjoying the last few moments of your weekend.  Why does it always go by so quickly?

This week is a super simple lunch: a turkey burger and a hearty salad with spinach, grape tomatoes, shaved carrots, and feta.  I’m packing along some homemade balsamic vinaigrette (1 tsp each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard with a sprinkle of salt and pepper).  I used Martha Stewart’s turkey burger recipe found here.

This week, I’ll most likely be on edge since I’m running my first half-marathon on Saturday.  Keep me in mind around 8:15 AM on Saturday–I’ll have 13.1 miles ahead of me!