Month: November 2014

tasty tuesday: steak and scallops, collards, bourbon dijon cream sauce

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Man, it has been a long time since I have graced these pages. Way too long, which is why I had to bring something special this time. Part of my being so sparse has been due to being alarmingly busy, and this night was no different. Attending meetings after work, however short, can put a hamper on a meal’s preparation, so I had to pick foods that didn’t require a lot of effort to bring together in a big way. So, a simple surf and turf is what you get… a sear here, an sear there, and a tasty dish anywhere!

The real star of this dish may well have been the sauce, which is the only thing here that involved more steps than seasoning and searing. The steak received nothing more than salt and pepper on all sides before being seared over high heat with some butter, about 4 minutes per side for medium rare on the tenderloin cuts. The scallops only got salt, pepper and paprika before being seared over medium high heat in olive oil, about 2 minutes per side. The collards were gut into strips and sautéed over medium low in nothing but salt and olive oil. All very quick, very easy, and very pretty.

The sauce was only slightly more complex.

Bourbon Dijon Creme Sauce

1/2 cup bourbon
1 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating a deep saucepan over medium high heat. Heat at least 10 minutes (gas) before melting the butter in the pan. Slowly pour in the bourbon, which will catch on fire! Let the flame die and cook the bourbon for about 2 minutes before stirring in the dijon and garlic. Pour in the cream until it simmers and reduce heat. Whisk occasionally for about 15-20 minutes. Sauce should be relatively thick.

As you build your plate, put a little bit of sauce beneath the collards then atop the steak and scallops. This will being the dish together well and provide a little more sauce which is sure to be a hit!

This dish was super delicious and easy. Don’t be afraid to try at home!

meatless monday: caramelized onion, spinach, and swiss frittata with pan-roasted okra

image1(1)Happy Thanksgiving week! I’m so thrilled to have the week off from school for the holiday, so while there is no lunchbox life this week, I’m happy to bring you this delightful frittata on Meatless Monday.

A frittata is basically a crustless quiche. It’s also kind of like an omelet except that its texture is a little different because of the broiling at the end of the cooking process. I think it’s much easier than quiche or omelets, which is why I think the frittata in an underrated food. It’s similar to a casserole: what do I have in the fridge that I need to use? Particularly for produce, frittatas can save those greens that are just about to wilt or those tomatoes that are on their last leg. Frittatas are much better in the nutrition arena, however, because of their high protein content. While casseroles rely on creamy soups and cracker crumbs to hold all of the ingredients together, frittatas use the magic of eggs to envelop the other ingredients and hold them in a protein-rich form. Oh, and the cheese. So much cheese. But we’re not eating any pie crust, so we can have more cheese, right?

In this frittata, I used farm fresh eggs from The Dirt Farmers, our beloved CSA. I also used some beautiful spinach from last week’s CSA box. I caramelized some onions earlier in the day because I had the time to let them simmer in butter, but you could certainly saute some onions if you’re shorter on time. You could also sub in many different veggies or cheeses; this is the beauty of the frittata. Find what you need to use up, then make it sing with some eggs.

I served this frittata with some tasty pan-roasted okra. It’s so easy: slice okra lengthwise. Heat some olive oil and spices (I used herbs de provence, garlic powder, salt, and pepper) over medium heat, then crank it up to high right before you add the okra. Stir to coat the okra, then let it cook for about 5 minutes, giving it a quick stir a few times throughout the cooking process. Much like oven roasted okra, the char on the pods is so delicious and is a nice contrast to the pillowy frittata. It’s also much better for you than a crispy starch (fries, sweet potatoes, etc.).

image2(1)Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Swiss Frittata

Serves 4

3 onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into half moons*

3 Tbsp. butter

4 cups fresh spinach (if not baby spinach, tear into bite-size pieces)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

6 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I used Jarlsberg, which is actually Norwegian)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

*Melt the butter in a medium size pan over medium heat. Add the onions, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss the onions to coat them in the butter, then cook for about an hour, tossing the onions every 10 minutes or so. If you’re short on time, use only 1 onion and 1 Tbsp. butter and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes. If you have the time, however, go for the caramelized onions–the slow cooked taste is amazing. Set aside.

Turn on the broiler function in your oven. In an oven-safe omelet pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the spinach in batches. As it wilts, you can add more. Next, add the caramelized onions to this pan and stir to distribute evenly. Top with the swiss cheese, then pour the beaten eggs over the mixture. Let this cook and set up for about 3-4 minutes. Next, add the parmesan cheese on top and place pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Take out and let cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into fourths. Serve with a green vegetable for a light green salad.

meatless monday: spicy brown rice with avocado and fried egg


After spotting this recipe in Bon Appetit a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been dying to try it for a Meatless Monday. It contains so many of my favorite ingredients–how could I not give it a whirl?

The only real difference in my attempt was the addition of cashews for crunch, and I’m fully behind this last minute decision. I think this rice bowl would be great as a breakfast, lunch, or a dinner. Who doesn’t love a fried egg on top of a bowl of warm goodness, especially on a chilly evening like tonight?

The Sriracha is optional if you’re not into heat, but I love the stuff, so I added a good bit to my bowl. Enjoy!

Spicy Brown Rice with Avocado and Fried Egg

Serves 2

2 cups cooked brown rice

4 green onions, chopped

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced

1/4 cup cashews, chopped

1 Tbsp. canola oil

2 eggs

salt and pepper

Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

Heat sesame oil in a large, round-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the rice, chopped green onions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice mixture in the oil, then flatten out the top of the rice and let cook for 2 minutes. After the two minutes are up, stir, flatten out the top, then let cook for 2 more minutes. Divide the rice between two bowls and divide the vinegar between each bowl and toss. Top with cashews and avocado.

In a flat bottomed pan, heat the canola oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper over high heat. Crack the two eggs into the oil, then cover for 2 minutes. Take off the lid, top with a small sprinkle of salt and pepper, then slide one fried egg on top of each rice bowl. Squirt your desired amount of Sriracha onto each bowl and serve.

lunchbox life: turkey, spinach, and guacamole wraps

image1Happy Sunday, everyone! Last night, Alex and I hosted our third annual Friendsgiving at our house. Friendsgiving is simple: Alex makes two turkeys, I set up the drinks, and everyone else brings appetizers, sides, and desserts. It’s a Thanksgiving-themed potluck with lots of holiday cheer. One of my favorite elements of Friendsgiving is watching different groups of our friends who don’t yet know each other mingle and become friends. After toasts, recipe swapping, and gabfests, everyone went home and took their dishes with them (another perk). We, however, were left with some leftover turkey, so I’m faced with the perennial Thanksgiving challenge: what do I do with all of this leftover turkey? I’ve made several soups lately, so I thought I’d try something different. This lunch took about 3 minutes to prepare–that might be a record!

This week, I’m relying on some store-bought standbys. The single-serving Wholly Guacamole packs are great because you can enjoy your guacamole fresh each day. I still prefer homemade guac, but this stuff is great as a spread for a sandwich. I’m also using La Torilla Factory high fiber low carb wheat tortillas. At 70 calories each, they are full of great nutrition and, when zapped in the microwave for a few seconds, become very pliable for wraps and burritos. Buy some baby spinach and you’re ready to turn your leftover turkey into a yummy wrap!

My plan this week is to heat the tortilla and turkey separately in the microwave, then spread the guacamole on the tortilla, add the spinach, wrap it up and devour. I’m also packing an apple this week to round out my lunches.

Sometimes you don’t need a recipe for lunch–just take a protein (turkey), fat (avocado/guac), and veggie (spinach) and wrap it up!

lunchbox life: chicken fried brown rice


I am so excited to share this modified Skinnytaste recipe with you! Gina’s debut cookbook is great, and if you’re in Macon, you can buy it at Robinson Home on First Street.

Who doesn’t like fried rice? This dish seems to be one of those crowd pleasers, much like pizza or fried chicken, that you have to be the pickiest of eaters to not enjoy. I mostly avoid fried rice at restaurants because of its high oil content, but this recipe allows you to control the oil and protein while replacing the traditional white rice with the more nutrient-dense brown rice. The brown rice is full of fiber and will keep you fuller longer throughout the day. I added and subtracted a few things from Gina’s recipe, including the addition of chicken for protein and mushrooms for more nutrition and volume. Mushrooms are a great addition to a dish if you’re wanting a larger portion but aren’t wanting too many extra calories. Because mushrooms soak up flavor quickly, they do not distract the eater from the other flavors in the dish. They do, however, bump up the volume of each serving, and who doesn’t want a bigger bowl of fried rice?

I used boneless skinless chicken thighs here, and I highly suggest you use thighs instead of breasts. Many Asian restaurants use chicken thighs because of the slightly higher fat content. Another plus? They’re much cheaper than chicken breasts. The use of dark meat, sesame oil, and fish sauce in this dish will take your make-your-own-take-out from fake to almost authentic.

Yes, you are reading those ingredients correctly: use frozen peas and carrots! Isn’t that what you see the take out restaurants do?

Chicken Fried Brown Rice

3 cups of cooked brown rice (about 1.5 cups dry)*

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small bite-size pieces

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 egg and 3 egg whites

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 small onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

4 green onions, green and white parts separated

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1.5 tsp. fish sauce

*Be sure to prepare the brown rice before you do anything else–it can take a while! I cook my brown rice in a rice cooker so I don’t have to think about burning it.

Heat a wok or a large, rounded non-stick pan over high heat. Add the canola oil, then when the oil gets hot, add the chicken, garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. The chicken should only take a few minutes to cook, but be sure to not overcook it. Test a large piece to make sure it is done throughout, then remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate, but reserve the remaining oil in the wok. Next, whisk together the egg and egg whites and add to the hot oil in the pan, still keeping the high heat. Diligently scramble the eggs making sure to not overcook them, then remove them from the pan and set aside on a separate plate.

Keep the pan over high heat and add the sesame oil. Next, add the diced onions, celery, and white parts of the green onions. Cook for about two minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Next, add the mushrooms and peas and carrots and cook for another three minutes. While the veggies are cooking, combine the soy sauce and fish sauce in a small dish and stir; set aside. Add the rice to the pan, stir to combine with vegetables, then pack the rice mixture down in the pan taking care to smooth the top and cook for two minutes. Stir the rice mixure up, smooth out the top, and cook for another two minutes. Next add the chicken, sauce, and scrambled eggs, stir to combine, smooth out the top, and cook for another two minutes. Add the green parts of the green onions, turn off the heat, stir to combine, and serve.

lunchbox life: slowcooker smoky chicken, sweet potato, and kale soup


…with quinoa, red beans, tomatoes, and lots of spices. Once again, I ate too much over the weekend and was in want of something filling, yet nutritious for this week’s lunches. Let’s be honest, though–that’s always the goal. I don’t use our slowcooker as often as some people, but slowcookers are a great way to multitask if you have several chores around the house and don’t have time to do intricate cooking. This soup couldn’t be easier, plus it’s very adaptable–you could substitute a myriad of ingredients in or out. You don’t even cook the chicken or quinoa beforehand–they cook in the soup liquid! Here’s what it looks like going into the crock pot:

image(77)And here’s what it looks like after six hours of warmth and slowcooker love:

image(78)The protein from the chicken breast, quinoa, and red beans are a great pairing with the good carbs from the quinoa (again), beans (again), and sweet potato. The fiber from the quinoa, beans, and kale will keep you full all afternoon, too. I ate one serving of this, along with an apple, at lunch today, then ran 4 miles after school and wasn’t hungry until dinnertime.  Speaking of dinnertime, this would be a great weeknight dinner with a green salad!

Slowcooker Smoky Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Kale Soup

1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces

15 oz. red beans, drained

1 cup quinoa, dry

28 oz. diced tomatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, small dice

5 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp. salt

1/2 Tbsp. pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Combine all ingredients in a slowcooker and cook on high for six hours.