Friday, August 31, 2012

Super Simple Roast Potatoes

You probably saw these potatoes lurking in the background of my photo of Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Zucchini. As the name implies, they are super simple, but super tasty. The outsides of the potatoes are crispy, but the insides are fluffy. It's the best that potatoes have to offer.

Sometimes I have a bone to pick with roasted potatoes because they take a long time to cook. Well, I should have thought of this earlier, but if you cut the potatoes into small pieces, they cook more quickly. Duh, Erin. So, I chopped these spuds into little 1/2" cubes for speedy roasting.

Give these a whirl next time you have potatoes on the menu. I think you'll enjoy them as much as we did.

Super Simple Roast Potatoes
Serves: 2

1 large baking potato, diced into 1/2" cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Place diced potatoes on the parchment, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss everything together so the potatoes are evenly covered with oil and seasoning. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the potatoes are golden brown and tender.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Zucchini

I wasn't sure about this recipe. When I originally read it, I thought it might be boring. Then I started worrying about the fresh herbs. If I put fresh herbs in a hot pan and then in a super hot oven, will they burn? But despite my concerns, I gave it a shot.

And I was glad that I did.

As we were enjoying our hot dinner, the husband looked up at me and said, "I feel like I'm eating at a restaurant! This pork is delicious!"

The pork wasn't boring at all; it was incredibly flavorful. The herbs didn't burn; they added freshness and pizzazz. The result? A restaurant-quality dinner at our dining room table.

Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Zucchini

3/4 pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, divided
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 very small (or one medium) zucchini, halved and sliced 1/4" thick

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, rub pork tenderloin with 1 tablespoon parsley, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium high. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total, turning every couple minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the zucchini with the remaining 1 teaspoon parsley, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Once the pork is browned, add the zucchini to the skillet around the pork. Pop the skillet into the oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the pork is cooked to an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees. Set the pork aside, tent with foil, and allow it to rest until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees.

While the pork rests, toss the zucchini in the skillet so it absorbs all the delicious drippings from the pan. Thinly slice the pork and serve with the zucchini.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Watermelon, etc.

There are a couple random things I wanted to share with you today:

Watermelon with Salt and Lime
Lately our cafeteria at work has offered platters of juicy, sweet watermelon at lunch. Since I've been going bonkers over watermelon, the glistening tray of red fruit makes me swoon. One day, they set a bowl of lime slices next to the watermelon with a little sign suggesting you squeeze a little lime juice on top. I, of course, had to try this. And it seemed like a good idea to sprinkle a little salt on top, too. Yeah. That was also a smart decision.

So next time you're munching on watermelon, add a little pizzazz with small drizzle of lime juice and the tiniest sprinkling of salt. Mmmm.

Ice Cream for Dinner
It's summer. Why not?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tuna Salad with Tangy Zip

The husband and I were watching Breaking Bad the other day.

Do you watch Breaking Bad, by the way? I think it's on AMC. (All I really know is that it's on the TiVo, and that's what matters.) I have a theory about Breaking Bad: You're either a Skylar fan or a Walt fan. I think Walt is cuckoo, and Skylar should kick him to the curb. The husband thinks Skylar is a nagging jerkface and Walt should ditch her. So, I'm curious. If you watch Breaking Bad, let me know in the comment section if you're on Team Skylar or Team Walt. Thank you.

Back to the matter at hand...

We were watching Breaking Bad, and for some reason one of the characters (Hank, I believe) mentioned Miracle Whip. The Miracle Whip comment was not instrumental to the plot at all, but he said it. And I could not stop thinking about Miracle Whip. Specifically, tuna noodle salad made with Miracle Whip. Thanks for that, Hank.

So I made Tuna Salad with Tangy Zip. It was all I hoped and more.

Tuna Salad with Tangy Zip
Serves: 4 as a main dish

1.5 cups uncooked small pasta (I used rotini.)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup carrots sliced 1/8" thick
1 cup cucumbers quartered and sliced 1/8" thick
7 ounce can tuna, drained and flaked
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Once it's finished cooking, rinse the pasta under cold water until it's cooled. (If I'm serving the tuna salad right away, I like to put the pasta in the fridge while I'm chopping the veggies so it can keep cooling down. Warm-ish pasta in tuna salad creeps me out.)

In a large bowl, combine the cooled, cooked pasta with peas, carrots, cucumbers, tuna, and basil. Stir in the Miracle Whip and mayonnaise. If it seems too dry, stir in a little bit more Miracle Whip and mayonnaise until it feels right to you. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: If you make Tuna Salad with Tangy Zip the night before you serve it, you might need to add more Miracle Whip and mayo right before serving. Sometimes pasta soaks up the dressing while it sits in the fridge.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Remember back in June when we made Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken? That was delicious, wasn't it?

The day we made it, the husband and I ate Barbecue Chicken with Simple Cheese Grits. The next day we shredded the chicken and made barbecue chicken sandwiches. Both were delicious, but we still had leftovers. So I popped it into the freezer until later.

Later being last weekend.

Just so you know, the Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken froze wonderfully. I thawed it in the microwave and shredded it with two forks. Then it was time to make Barbecue Chicken Pizza. And, oh man, was it good.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Serves: 4

1 pound pizza dough
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups leftover Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken, shredded or cut into cubes*
1/4 cup chopped cilantro**

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well. Preheating the pizza stone or baking sheet helps to ensure the bottom crust of the pizza is nice and crispy.

While the oven preheats make sure all of your ingredients are prepped and ready to go. Once you start making the pizza on the hot baking sheet, you want to move quickly.

Carefully remove your hot baking sheet from the preheated oven. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to fit the shape of your pan. If you're like me and rolling pins terrify you, don't be deterred! Simply use your hands to gently stretch the dough to the shape of your pan. It doesn't need to be perfect. Place the dough onto the hot pan. (You'll notice that the dough starts to cook right away. This is why it's important to have everything ready to go.)

Spread the barbecue sauce over the dough, leaving about a 1" border around the edges. Sprinkle with cheese and then leftover Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken.

Bake for 16-22 minutes, until cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown. Top with cilantro and serve.

*Don't have leftover Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken? No problem. Snag a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on your way home from work. Then shred it or cut it into small cubes and stir in a bit of barbecue sauce. There you go!

**You may notice that the cilantro is missing in my photo. That's because I thought I had some at home, but, alas, I did not. And I was too dang lazy to back to the store to buy any. That's true life.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Toasty Tuna Nicoise Sandwich

A few years ago the husband and I went on a grand adventure to France. We ended our trip in the gorgeous city of Nice. As we wandered the streets looking for lunch one day, I came across a sandwich in a shop window that looked unbelievable. It was about the size of my face, for one. I love a giant sandwich. And it was filled to the gills with deliciousness.

But I had one little problem...I didn't know how to order it. My French is sub-par, to say the least. So, I turned to the husband for help. After he muttered something to the ladies running the cafe, I had my sandwich in hand, and I was a happy gal. "How did you order that?" I inquired.

The husband chuckled, "Well, it roughly translated to, 'how do you say that big sandwich?'"

Today I'm sharing with you my homemade version of my delicious big sandwich. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Toasty Tuna Nicoise Sandwich
Serves: 2

7 ounce can tuna, drained
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
3 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons mayo
2 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or heat your panini grill. Meanwhile combine tuna, lemon zest, olives, red peppers, and mayo. Season to taste with pepper. Evenly divide tuna between the bottom halves of the ciabatta rolls.

Sprinkle with cheese, then top with spinach. Close up the sandwich with the top halves of the rolls. Wrap the sandwiches individually with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or grill in your panini press until cheese is melted. Serve warm

Friday, August 17, 2012

Strawberry Peach Smoothie

I had a serious crazy pregnant lady moment the other day. Like "is she for real?" crazy.

It started with a hankering for a smoothie. I'd been thinking about it all afternoon: an icy cold, sweet, refreshing smoothie.

As I was starting to make dinner (chicken and the aforementioned smoothie, not exactly well-balanced, but somehow exactly what I wanted), I realized I had a problem:

I didn't have a straw.

Yes, that's right. I needed to drink my smoothie with a straw. NEEDED to. So, I texted the husband, "Can you bring me a straw when you come home from work. I need one for my smoothie." (I text in complete sentences and use punctuation. Further proof that I'm super lame.)

20 minutes later, and I hadn't heard back from the husband. That meant he was stuck at work. I had chicken on the grill, so I couldn't leave to go to the store and buy a straw. (Although I was very tempted to.) How, exactly, was I supposed to drink my smoothie without a straw? My anxiety levels were creeping higher by the minute.

So I went back to my trusty phone. Completely shamelessly, I texted my friends Ryan and Niki who happen to live up the street. "Can I borrow a straw? I need one for my smoothie."

And then Ryan saved the day. He brought me over a solid plastic straw from one of those pretty plastic cups that include their own straws. It was red. It made my day. Thanks, Ryan! I owe you a smoothie.

Strawberry Peach Smoothie
Serves: 2

5 ice cubes
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup sliced frozen peaches
1 tablespoon honey

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend everything together until smooth. You may need to stop and stir a few times to get the ice unstuck from the blades. Serve with a straw.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wisconsin State Fair

This weekend we went to the Wisconsin State Fair. There are cows and pigs, concerts and games, pygmy goats (the husband's favorite) and purveyors do I say this...junk.

Oh. And there's food, too.

Some treats we've enjoyed:

  • The Krispy Kreme Burger. Why would you put a cheeseburger on a regular, old bun when you can sandwich it between two Krispy Kreme donuts?
  • Chocolate-Covered Bacon on a Stick. Yes. Oh, yes.
  • Deep-Fried Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich. You know how I feel about PB&J

  • Corn on the Cob. Dip it in a vat of melted butter because you're at the fair. Why would you not dip it in a vat of butter?
  • Cheese Curds. This is a total Wisconsin thing. Squeaky-fresh cheese curds battered and deep fried. 

  • Corn Dogs. Salty and sweet. I don't understand why they're so good, but they're SO GOOD.
  • Soft Serve. I can't have an evening without ice cream.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Orzo with Sausage and Squash

Zucchini is so summery. It's abundant in backyard gardens, vegetable stands, and farmers markets. The only problem I have with zucchini is that the husband doesn't like it. So, maybe I don't have an issue with zucchini, maybe I have an issue with the husband. Hmmm. I'll have to think on that one. Anyway...

I thought perhaps if I disguised the zucchini with similarly-sized bits of sausage, he might not even notice it hiding on his dinner plate. Well, the husband did spot the zucchini, but he didn't mind it! I guess if sausage doesn't hide zucchini, at least it cancels it out.

Orzo with Sausage and Summer Squash
Serves: 4

8 ounces orzo (or your favorite small pasta)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small zucchini, halved and sliced 1/8" thick
1 small yellow summer squash, halved and sliced 1/8" thick
2 chicken sausages, cooked*, halved, and sliced 1/8" thick
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook for about 8 minutes, until al dente. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain orzo and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add zucchini and squash and saute until just about crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in sausage and continue cooking until sausage is warmed through.

In a large bowl, combine cooked orzo, zucchini, squash, sausage, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Stir in reserved orzo cooking water to help the cheese melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

*We had leftover cooked chicken sausages from a barbecue with some pals. If your sausage is uncooked, just slice it up and cook it in a bit of oil in your skillet before you cook the zucchini and summer squash.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pita Pizza

When I was in college, our cafeteria was pretty clever with leftovers. The day after they served gyros, when I was lucky (and by that I mean when there was leftover pita bread), was pita pizza day.

Back then I appreciated how delicious pita pizzas were. Now that I'm a grown-up in charge of making my own meals, I also appreciate how stinkin' easy they are to make. It's seriously ridiculous. You pile stuff on top of a pita bread and bake it until the cheese melts. Done. Dinner is served. Eat it while it's hot.

The husband and I are pretty simple when it comes to pizza toppings: pepperoni for him, pepperoni and kalamata olives for me. But feel free to use whatever you'd like to add pizzazz to your pizza. Mushrooms? Absolutely. Peppers? Sure. Anchovies? You go right ahead and live on the edge.

Pita Pizzas
Serves: 2

2 pita breads
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I've used spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce, and both works perfectly.)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni, olives, or other pizza toppings of your choice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place pitas on a baking sheet. Evenly divide tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings between the pitas. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cold Fudge

I read recently that the foods you eat while pregnant can impact your baby's tastes once he or she is born. That means, of course, that I should be filling up on antioxidant-rich berries, fiber-filled zucchini, and salmon chock-full of omega-3 fats.

Do you want to know what I ate all weekend? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter and banana sandwiches (with honey, of course), and hot fudge sundaes. Heavy emphasis on the hot fudge sundaes because I made homemade hot fudge, which is life-changing.

In between sundae time, I did this:

I ate leftover hot fudge straight from the fridge with a spoon.

You can't see this, but I'm hanging my head in shame right now. And in that spirit, I offer up a note to my yet-unborn child:

Dear Baby,

When you refuse to eat pureed squash in 9 months or so, I promise to remember that it's my fault for not eating enough vegetables while you were still a bun in the oven. I will not have a hissy fit when you throw said squash onto the kitchen floor. I will only cry a few tears of frustration when you follow-up by flinging it at my face instead. And I apologize for that sweet tooth. Maybe you can try applesauce instead of chocolate chip cookies? Be better than me.

Your Mom

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quinoa with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is a combination of other things I've shared with you recently. In other words, I was using up leftovers.

I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker. If you don't have a rice cooker (or if you don't feel like using it), feel free to cook the quinoa on the stove. I've included instructions for that below.

I cooked the sweet potato in my crock pot. I've become friends with that kitchen workhorse, and I've decided it must be used in every season. Nobody puts baby my crock pot in a corner.

Using my handy-dandy electric appliances is easy, hands-free, and it keeps my kitchen cool. That is probably my number one summer cooking goal: Keep it cool. It's applicable on so many levels.

Quinoa with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes
Serves: 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth (or substitute chicken broth or water)
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1.5 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chili powder
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium sweet potato, cooked, peeled, and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Cook quinoa in vegetable broth either in a rice cooker or on the stove. (If you're using a rice cooker, check out this post for instructions.) To cook quinoa on the stove, combine quinoa and broth in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, lime juice, parsley, chili powder, and black beans. Gently fold in sweet potato. Sprinkle goat cheese over the top and serve.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rice Cooker Quinoa

I have a rice cooker.

Considering the minuscule size of my kitchen, this may come as a surprise. I try to avoid crowding my bulging cupboards with single-use appliances. Now, don't get me wrong; I was absolutely ogling a cherry pitter at Williams Sonoma the other day. I just don't have the space. 

But the rice cooker is so nice. It makes rice perfectly, absolutely perfectly, every single time. I can't mess it up. I love that thing. And I read recently that you can also make quinoa in your rice cooker.

I can hear you now, "Come again? You can make quinoa in a rice cooker? But isn't that for cooking rice?"

Yes, my friends. I'm taking a single-use appliance and making it multi-purpose. That'll show my small kitchen who's boss!

Rice Cooker Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
2 cups liquid (I like the flavor added by vegetable or chicken broth, but you can certainly use water.)

Combine quinoa and liquid in your rice cooker. Turn it on. Walk away. Put your feet up. Read a book. In about 30 minutes, your rice cooker will shut off, and the quinoa will be cooked to perfection. Don't forget to fluff it with a fork before serving. (Which I forgot to do before taking this photo. Sigh.)