Month: September 2014

lunchbox life: mediterranean chickpea salad


Rarely do I have a time when I dread cooking; usually, the process of creating a meal is a soothing experience for me. Tonight, however, I was simply too tired to cook. I also didn’t want to take too much of a shortcut, so this no-cook recipe is a great compromise. Some of my favorite recipes, particularly salads, come mostly from the assembly of great ingredients to make something easy, but also fresh and healthy. This chickpea salad is full of veggies, but it also has bites of Italian cheese and meats to satisfy your protein needs. If you want to go really light with this dish, you could use diced turkey instead of the pepperoni and salami, but if you go that route, I’d suggest adding some olive oil to the lemon juice for the dressing for added flavor. I didn’t use olive oil in the dressing here because the fat in the pepperoni and salami has enough of a flavor and consistency that it doesn’t need an added oil. Tip: when getting the meat for this dish, go to your grocery’s deli counter and ask for some thick-cut slices, about 1/2 an inch. This way, when you get home you can simply dice up the meat and you’ll only get enough for the specific dish.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cucumber, sliced and cubed

1 red bell pepper, sliced and cubed

1/3 cup marinated sun dried tomatoes

4 oz. salami, cubed

4 oz. pepperoni, cubed

4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed

juice of 2 lemons

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, refrigerate overnight.

tasty tuesday: spicy shrimp soba noodle bowls


Tonight’s dish was inspired by one of my favorite hidden hideaways in Macon: Pho Saigon. I’m partial to the shrimp noodle soup, which is a pho-like soup that I slurp up with plenty of basil and sriracha, but Alex usually gets a noodle or rice bowl. Both dishes are surprisingly healthy and are packed full of flavor. I knew that we still had some Georgia shrimp in the freezer from our trip this summer to the coast, so I wanted to feature one of our state’s jewels in a way other than a fried variety or in shrimp and grits. This recipe is a great summer-to-fall transition go-to; it’s simultaneously fresh and indulgent-tasting without being too heavy. I used Japanese soba noodles in this bowl which are made from buckwheat and are full of fiber rather than the typical rice noodle in Vietnamese cuisine, but you could use any type of noodle you like.

One of my favorite things about this dish was the contrast between the warm shrimp, broccoli, mushrooms, and noodles with the cool and crisp bean sprouts, carrots, lettuce, and peanuts. You could use any sauce you like, but I threw together some of the Asian sauces we had in the refrigerator and made my own variation. Tip: include a dash of fish sauce in your concoction. It smells less than ideal on its own, but it will make any sauce you like taste authentic!

Spicy Shrimp Soba Noodle Bowls

Serves 2

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 oz. soba noodles

1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup peanuts

4 leaves of greenleaf lettuce

for the sauce:

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. sriracha

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce

1 Tbsp. PB2

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Cook the pasta according the package directions, rinse with cold water, then toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil; divide evenly between two large, wide bowls.

Heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil and 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add two minced garlic cloves, then add the broccoli and mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes, remove from pan and set aside. Add another 1 Tbsp. canola oil and 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil to the pan, then add the other two minced garlic cloves and the red pepper flakes to the oil. Next, add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute on each side.

Arrange each of these items on around the bowl on top of the noodles: lettuce leaves, carrots, peanuts, bean sprouts, scallions, shrimp, broccoli, and mushrooms.

In a small jar, shake the sauce ingredients together, then pour the sauce into the middle of your bowl. Present the bowl this way to your diners, then dig in!

tasty tuesday: bbq seared tuna with beer and smoked cheddar grits, #pintsandpairings

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Welcome to another edition of a Pints and Pairings Tasty Tuesday for the Peach State Ale Trail, wherein we find a classic southern dish with a little twist. Fish and grits is the slightly less omnipresent brother of Shrimp’N’Grits, but it is a great dish on its own. And since fish is not just a single thing, you can really play with the flavors more than with the new Southern staple. A staple that is on display is the beer that is doubly featured here: Sweetwater’s Georgia Brown Ale. This beer is familiar to Georgians by now, finding its way to many bars and groceries. Like Terrapin, they have put Georgia on the national beer map and make many great beers, even if the first one I heard of was Blue…

Here, I decided to feature the beer in the grits. It makes sense that beer and grits would mesh well together, adding a nice layer of flavor to the sometimes monotone corn dish. Also, the beer flavor is completed by the use of a smoked cheddar cheese that makes a bold statement along with the sweet notes of the brown ale. I highly recommend this method for your evening grits dishes. 

Tuna was my fish of choice for this dish because I am not sure it gets its due as a versatile fish. Sushi or sesame are how you usually find tuna in these parts, which is great, but it also makes a great supplier of bbq flavors as well. Going with the bbq theme, I also made a sauce of roasted serranos and plums to top the fish. You always need a sauce to top the fish. Why not make a spicy sweet one. 

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BBQ Seared Tuna

Canola oil to lightly coat
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1 3/4 pound tuna steak

Cut the tuna steak in half, hopefully into strips depending on the shape of the steak. Coat the strips with the canola oil. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Rub liberally on all sides of the tuna steak. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. 

When ready, heat a pan to medium high heat. Coat the pan with oil and sear on all sides, about 3 minutes for the broad sides, and 20 seconds each for the narrow sides. Let rest for five minutes and then slice into thin strips to serve. 

Ga Brown and Cheese Grits

2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup GA brown ale
1 cup real grits
1 cup smoked cheddar
additional 1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
salt, pepper, onion powder to taste

Bring milk and beer to a simmer over medium low heat. Add the grits and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the grits become tender, add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Allow to cook another five minutes. Leave on low heat until serving. 

Plum and Serrano Chile Sauce

2 Serrano chiles, roasted on a grill pan
2 plums, pits removed
1/4 cup honey
1 dash vinegar

Seed the peppers and put in a blender. Add the plums, honey and vinegar and blend until fine. Pour into a saucepan and simmer about 20 minutes until it is well married. Add honey if it is too spicy for you. (you can do only one pepper if you like as well) Sauce will be thick. 

Plate the dish with grits in the bottom of a pasta bowl and top with tuna strips. Drizzle the sauce over the tuna lightly. 

I served the dish with a basic pear spinach salad with a lemon-mustard dressing. It was a good light complement to the spicy and rich main. 

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Happy eating and drinking friends!

meatless monday: double stack black bean burgers with avocado


Do you have a favorite black bean burger recipe? I’ve tried several, and I think this one is my favorite so far. Before this attempt, I’ve never been happy with the exterior texture of my burgers; they’re mushy and almost runny. These, however, were full-bodied and full of texture because of the quinoa on the inside and the panko breadcrumbs on the outside. The classic combination of black beans and avocado works well here because of the flavor profile of the black bean burgers: the cumin and red pepper flakes bring a smokiness that is cooled down by the avocado spread.

I served these burgers with crispy, seasoned oven fries from a previous blog post that I adapted from a Skinnytaste recipe. The great thing about this supper is that I was absolutely full and happy after the meal, and when I looked up the nutrition information, I could not believe how healthy and low calorie it was. Upon a closer look, it should really come as no surprise: think about all of the fiber in this meal! The black beans, quinoa, and avocado are filled with the stuff, and the potatoes from the oven fries are also a fiber contributor.

The brioche bun is clutch here because of its ability to hold its form. Be sure to toast it for maximum support for this hearty not-burger!

Double Stack Black Bean Burgers with Avocado

Serves 4

15 oz. black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups quinoa, cooked

1 shallot, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ear of corn, kernels cut off

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup fresh cilantro, plus about 1/2 cup chopped for avocado spread

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

cooking spray

1 avocado

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. hot sauce

other garnishes (I used sliced tomato, refrigerator pickles, and alfalfa sprouts)

4 brioche buns, split and toasted

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium, add the shallot and garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Next, add the corn, cumin, red pepper flakes, and salt and cook for 1 minute more, then remove from the heat. In a food processor, combine the black beans and veggies and pulse to combine. Next, add the quinoa and cilantro and pulse to combine and incorporate. Remove the blade from the food processor bowl and form 8 thin patties with your hands. Place the patties on a cookie sheet lined with nonstick parchment paper, then cover with another sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate for about an hour. When you’re ready to cook the black bean burgers, heat a grill pan to medium high and spray with cooking spray. While the grill pan is heating up, press about 1 tsp. panko onto each side of the burgers, then cook for about 5 minutes on each side on the grill pan.

While the burgers are cooking, split and scoop out the avocado and place it into a small bowl with the remaining cilantro, lime juice, and hot sauce. Mash until it turns into a spread, but leave a few chunks of avocado for texture.  Using the back of a spoon, spread the avocado mixture onto both sides of the toasted brioche buns, then add two black bean patties to each sandwich and top with your choice of toppings.

lunchbox life: two bean salad with quinoa, chicken, arugula, and pears



I am thrilled about this week’s lunchbox life, mostly because it was a true on-the-fly cooking experience that turned out visually appealing, nutritious, and full of flavor. This salad is an ode to the end of summer, and even though we in Georgia have weeks to go before we see a leaf turn red or brown, now is that time that we realize the time sensitivity of all of our delicious summer produce. Creativity wasn’t hard to come by with this week’s CSA box; when I saw the pink-eyed purple hull peas and the fresh green beans, I immediately thought, “oooh, I’ve never done a 3-bean salad on the blog before!,” but then I realized that I just had two instead of three. I decided to sub in some tri-color quinoa from the pantry to round out the salad. Then I remembered that we had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so I defrosted two, threw them in the oven with some salt, pepper, and paprika, then diced it up and threw it in the bowl. I noticed the hearty and peppery arugula in my CSA box, so I took off the stems and tossed the leaves in the bowl. I also noticed two beautiful green pears and just knew that they’d work perfectly in this salad for a slight sweetness and brightness, but then I dismissed the idea because I didn’t think they’d last all week in the salad until I decided to make apple cider vinegar the primary liquid in my dressing. ACV is a health juggernaut, but it’s also a natural preservative. I made my dressing and included some Indian spices, so then I grabbed some extra cilantro from my refrigerator and topped the bowl with that. After tossing everything together with the dressing, I was so pleased with the way this turned out! I would love to recreate it and take it to a party because it’s so easy on the eyes. I paired this salad with some cantaloupe from, you guessed it: my CSA box. I’ll be so sad when I can’t get this much local fruit when the cooler weather comes, so for now we’ll just have to appreciate and savor every piece we get!


Two Bean Salad with Quinoa, Chicken, Arugula, and Pears

Serves 6-8

2 large chicken breasts, baked and cubed

2 cups tricolor quinoa

2 cups fresh green beans, tips removed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces

2 cups fresh pink eyed (purple hull) peas, but you could also use black-eyed peas or lady peas

3 cups arugula, stems removed and hand-torn

2 firm Bartlett pears, cut into cubes

1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro

for the dressing:

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Place the peas and beans in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low at place the lid on the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, then drain the peas and beans and place them in a large bowl. Add the arugula and toss to combine so that the arugula wilts slightly, then add the chicken, quinoa, pears, and cilantro and toss.  In a small jar, combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously, then pour over the large bowl and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

meatless monday: caprese pizza with Brussels sprouts slaw topping

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Happy Labor Day, y’all. It was a nice day of partying and racing– the type of day that needs Pizza. We both got the hankering for Pizza while hanging in the pool today, so I decided to do something quick, easy and delicious for meatless monday instead of dialing up the local joints (which were likely resting anyway). We had some leftover Brussels sprout slaw (a Bungalow Favorite), so I thought of something that could work well with it, too. Caprese flavors caught my attention and eventually my taste buds with this tasty concoction.

It is also good to be back to the blog after my European adventure. To anyone from Toronto, Miami, Lexington, St Paul, Charlotte, or San Jose reading, welcome to the Bungalow, come visit anytime. (Same to you Gehl team!). You’ll all be happy to know I biked to the store to get necessary ingredients.

How can you go wrong with these guys?

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Caprese Pizza with Brussels Slaw

1 Pizza dough per Smitten Kitchen and other posts here
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bulb garlic
1 lb mozzarella, sliced to medallions.
10-12 leaves basil
Olive oil and salt
Balsamic glaze, to top
Leftover Brussels sprouts slaw to cover (many posts here include it)

Heat the oven to 400. Cut the top of the bulb of garlic and coat with olive oil and salt. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast about 30-40 minutes, until browned and soft. Raise the oven heat to 500 and throw in a pizza stone.

Make the dough, Roll it out on a flowered surface by hand. Squeeze the roasted garlic into a bowl and mash. Spread olive oil on the dough and then smear on the mashed garlic. Transfer to a peel covered with corn meal. Heat the dough 4 minutes.

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Remove the dough and add the tomato. Dot the balsamic glaze on the tomatoes and then add a basil leaf to each tomato slice. Top each quadrant with 2 medallions of cheese and cover with basil shreds and some more balsamic.

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Return the dish to oven with the peel onto the stone. Cook 8 minutes. Add the salad and cook 3 more minutes. Make sure the cheese is beginning to brown. Cut into four pieces and share it up.

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Happy four day work week! Enjoy a slice and sleep well tonight.