Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

So I’ve been a little melancholy since I came back from visting my family in Michigan this past weekend.

It is hard to go from a house bustling with 6 people who are all interested in talking to me, playing Bananagrams with me or just hanging out with me to a one bedroom apartment where I’m flying solo.

This happens to me frequently after I visit with them, so I wasn’t surprised; but it doesn’t make it any easier. :-(

I didn’t really want to post the recipes that my Mom and I made together over the weekend because it was bumming me out, but then I looked through the pictures I took and it made me smile a bit. Plus the sandwich was really good.

Family meals were a HUGE part of my life growing up. For me, food is nostalgic. A sometimes bittersweet, but always happy and tasty memory.

On that note, please bust out the grill and get going on these chicken sandwiches. The marinade on the chicken carmelizes when it’s on the grill so it tastes sweet and smoky.

Melt a slice of provolone cheese on top and finish of with a slice of pineapple.

I’m a sucker for sweet and salty combos, so this chicken sandwich was perfect!

Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 8 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 8 slices fresh or canned pineapple
  • 8 slices provolone cheese
  • sesame seed buns
  • toppings of your choice (tomato, mayo, lettuce, etc)

For the marinade: combine the first seven ingredients together in a very large ziploc bag. Add in the chicken breasts, seal, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours- although you may choose to go longer. Turn the bag a couple times while it marinates so each side is coated well.

Cook on the grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes (depending on thickness of breasts), turning halfway through. In the last two minutes, melt provolone cheese onto the chicken breasts. Top with pineapple slices and other topping, serve and enjoy!

Recipe from my Mom

- Erin

Daily Question: Do you still get homesick? (I cannot be the only one out there!)

Key Lime Pie Pudding

Alright readers, here is the first recipe from my long weekend with the fam.

When it’s sticky-sweaty-hot outside, this citrus dessert is cool and refreshing.

And it’s kinda cute and fun, right? :-)

Plus the crunchy graham crackers remind you of key lime pie crust without all the work!

Key Lime Pie Pudding

  • 1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbl key lime juice (to taste)
  • zest of 1/2 lime
  • 2 graham crackers

In a small bowl, combine the pudding mix and milk. Whisk to combine for 1 minute, then add the lemon zest and key lime juice and continuing whisking vigorously for 3 minutes or until the pudding begins to set and thicken.

Spoon into serving dishes and refriderate for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with graham cracker halves- perfect for dipping! Serves two.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

Greetings from Michigan my dear readers!

Yup, I’ve flown home for the long Memorial Day weekend to enjoy spending time with family and it has been awesome!

The weather up here has been all sunny skies (a little rain Saturday morning) and in the high 70’s so we’ve spent our days outside going for walks, riding bikes and putting our feet in the kiddie pool. :-)

I love my family so much and really miss them down in DC. As with all the people I love, I show them how much I care with FOOD, so I’ve also been busy in the kitchen. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes from my week at home.

Moving on…. Meatless Memorial Day.  Today’s recipe is for a warm orzo salad.

Orzo is a tiny pasta that looks like long grain rice and it cooks up in hot minute which makes it a perfect grain substitute on busy nights.

Sauteè up some baby cremini mushrooms and swiss chard, toss with cooked orzo and finish with fresh squeezed lemon juice and cracked pepper.  It is warm and comforting without being ‘heavy’.

It makes a perfect main dish for one, or a side dish for two.

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

  • 1/3 cup dry orzo, prepare according to package directions
  • 2 cups chopped swiss chard
  • 8 ounces baby cremini mushrooms
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbl butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl chopped parsley (optional)

Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauteè the mushrooms over medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms start to look tender and shrink in size a bit, throw in the chard and sautee for 5-7 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare orzo according to package instructions and chop parsley.  When the veggies and orzo are done, combine both in a large bowl with the parsley and toss to combine.

Season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Plate the salad and just before serving drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Today we honor the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, have a peaceful  Memorial Day.

- Erin

Chocolate Chip Shortbread

This cookie is buttery, slightly sweet, chocolaty. 100% Satisfying.

Did I mention sweet and buttery?

And studded with chocolaty chocolate chips!!

This dessert is elegant, but surprisingly sturdy. What do I mean?

I wanted to send some home cooked lovin’ to my hubby while he is away on his assignment abroad. I flipped open the June issue of Martha Stewart Living to the exact page where Martha talks about what cookies are great to ship overseas to soldiers! So perfect, I knew it was divine intervention and that these butter buddies needed to be made.

I’m no fan of plain shortbread though, so I jazzed these up with some chocolate. Because everything is better with chocolate.  I was almost sad to send them away ;-)

Traditional Shortbread Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup powder sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini sized, or regular size chopped)

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Beat butter on medium high in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Gradually add flour mixture into the butter, scraping the sides and beating until pale and fluffly, about 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300°. Butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Really get the butter in all the nooks and crannies. Using plastic wrap to protect your hands, gently press the dough evenly into the tart pan, cover, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Remove the dough and slice the tart into 8 pieces and prick all over with a fork before putting into the oven. Bake until golden brown on top, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. You may need to run a knife along the slice marks you made earlier before seperating the wedges.

Enjoy!

If you plan on shipping them to a loved one, pack tightly in a sealed tin or plastic container. Crumble up parchment paper to fill any gaps in the container to prevent the cookies from sliding around in transit. These will last for two weeks in an airtight container.

Inspired by Martha Stewart

- Erin

Daily Question: What is the best care package you’ve ever received?

How to Make Strawberry Jam

So as part of my interest in urban homesteading, I like making my own jams and applesauce.

Yes I know I’m hardly being a champion of self-reliance by making jam, but I’m doing what I can!!

Homemade Strawberry Jam

The first time I made jam I went into it 100% obsessed with doing it all “right”. I bought two books, a stater canning set, jars etc. I actually read one of the books, Putting Food By, cover to cover. Yes, it was a little over the top.

But companies in the home presevering industry totally try to freak you out by making it seem like if you make one wrong move while canning you’re going to kill your entire family with Botulinum toxin.  Ya, stressful right?

So now you know why I was a little… cautious.

Obviously, I learned to do something right, because my husband and I have successfully ate our way through strawberry and blueberry jam as well as applesauce without any trips to the ER.

So for those of you interested in trying your hand at canning  I put together this illustrated step by step guide to make the process less mysterious and scary!*

Start with some fresh picked berries

I use the recipe on the Sure-Jell box, it calls for 8 cups of berries. To make washing easier, fill up your (clean) sink with water and add in the berries. Run your hand lightly over the berries to swirl them around.

Now you need to hull all the berries at once. Grab a berry outta the water and using one hand, gently grasp the berry at the bottom. Using a paring knife in the other hand, insert the tip just under the green stem and twirl the berry to cut the stem out.

See!

Note in the background, I set out a bowl to hold the stems.

Lay out baking sheets covered in paper towel (probably need 3), lay the hulled berries on here so excess water will drip off.

Once you’ve cleaned all the berries, you need to clean out the sink and then wash your canning lids, jars and bands in warm soapy water. Drain the sink again, and re-fill it with hot water. The jars need to stay warm until you ladle the cooked jam into it.

Put the lids into a small pot of hot water on the stove on low heat. These also need to stay very warm until the jam is ladled into the jars.

Fill you canning pot with water and turn the heat to high, it’s so large it takes a while to boil. Also set a full teakettle over medium heat too, as the water from the canning pot boils out, you’ll need to replace it with almost boiling water from the kettle.

Clean your work surface and set out ALL THE UTENSILS you need. Cooking jam goes fast, and you need to have everything at your fingertips.

Extra large bowl, pectin, potato masher and tongs are essentials

Measure your sugar, mash your berries and your halfway there :-)

Cook berries, sugar and pectin together at a full rolling boil (one that doesn’t disappear when you stir it). Watch the berries, but also start setting up your jars.

Sweet bubbling goodness

Once the jam has cooked according to the recipe you’re using (about 10 minutes) ladle into jars, leave some room at the top for the air to expand while it cooks a second time in the canner.

Top the jars with lids, gently screw on the bands, and then get those bad boys in the canner. I use this nifty basket to hold the jars and it makes for easy lifting. Cook the jars in the canner for the amount of time specific in your recipe!!! Yes, this matters.

Once the jars have fully cooled and self sealed (you will hear a pop as the lids compress while the jars cool, that’s how you know its working!) you have beautiful jars of yummy, preservative free jam. Just fruit, sugar and some love. :-)

Enjoy!

-Erin

Daily Question: What fruit jam is your favorite?

*Note: I do recommend buying Ball’s Blue Book for more detailed recipes, or you can use the recipes on the Sure-Jell box.

Avocado Egg Salad

Today’s Meatless Monday post is good enough that you may want to always keep some in the fridge for weekday lunches or snacks.

The creamy avocado and tangy lemon dance on your taste buds while fresh celery provides that classic crunch you expect from egg salad.

I like this because it tastes a million times healthier than traditional egg salad made with mayonnaise.

Serve in a wrap or over a bed of fresh and peppery arugula. It’s so yum, you’ll never want to go back to boring egg salad again.

Avocado Egg Salad

  • 1 ripe Haas avocado
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 green onions, chopped (white parts)
  • 2 celery stalks, split lengthwise then chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • salt and pepper

Chop your veggies and put them in a medium size bowl. Chop your eggs by slicing egg in half lengthwise, then place yolk side down on cutting board. Slice in half again lengthwise and then slice widthwise 4 or 5 times. Add to the bowl with the veggies. If pieces of yolk fall out, set them aside to blend with the avocado.

Scoop out the flesh of the avocado into a food processor. Add in any yolks set aside earlier; squeeze the lemon juice into the food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, no chunks should remain.

Using a spatula, add the avocado mixture to the veggies and eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold the veggies and eggs into the avocado mixture. Chill and serve! This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and will not turn brown because of the addition of the lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Daily Question: Do you have a favorite traditional recipe that you’ve spiced up with a modern twist?

- Erin

 

Beer Bread Two Ways

I hope your weekend involves beer. Either consumed straight from the glass, or in the form of Beer Bread.  Cheers to Friday!

So I believe deep inside most food lovers, there is a little fat kid. This fat kid is responsible for you loving things like chicken fried steak and biscuits. Or Cheetos.

How is it possible to go from loving high-brow cuisine like tarte au pistou to fried bologna sandwiches? The answer is the little fat kid.

My little fat kid actually lurks quite close to the surface, and sometimes he rears his fat ugly head and screams “I NEED CARBS”!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, when this happens I don’t fight it. I feed it. Beer Bread.

Usually with some butter. Ok, always with some butter.

 

When your little fat kid cannot be ignored, start with flour and a nice dark beer.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder (that’s it!)

Pour in beer and mix into a ball.

 

You are literally done, and in less than an hour, you will have this warm, golden brown deliciousness waiting for you and your inner fat kid. It’s ok.

Beer Bread (Two Ways)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 heaping tbl sugar
  • 1 tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces beer
  • AND
  • 1 4 ounce can diced green chilies (this was around 3 tbl if you use fresh)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
  • OR
  • 1 heaping tbl Italian seasoning*

The first four ingredients form the base of this beer bread recipe. If you start with these, you can pretty much add whatever mix-ins you want. I loved the aroma and taste of the both these versions!

Whisk the first four ingrediants together in a large bowl. Pour in your beer, and stir until combined and the dough forms a ball. Don’t knead it. Coat a regular sized loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and spread the dough in.

Bake at 375° for 45 minutes to 55 minutes. Check for doneness with a knife in the center. During the last 10 minutes of baking, melt 2 or 3 tablespoons butter and brush the top of the bread with it to get a nice golden brown color. I don’t recommend skipping this step because I think the bread looks kinda ugly without it.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing it to cool on wire rack.  Try it while its warm, sooo good. :-)

Note: I used a Penzeys blend with basil, oregano and dried garlic. You need the garlic.

Inspired by Farmgirl Fare

Enjoy!

- Erin

Daily Question: What does your inner fat kid crave? ;-)

Back to the Garden Pt. 2 and Strawberry Picking!

It’s time for a much overdue garden update. I wanted to wait until everything – paths, beds, borders- was weeded, planted and looking fabulous, but that just wasn’t happening.

But I’m pleased with the progress made so far, considering where I was at phase zero.

Check it out, radishes are coming up.

And some rainbow chard is peeking out too.

All my seedlings failed this year because I didn’t replace my grow lights in a timely fashion, oops, so I had to buy pepper and tomato transplants.

I love tomato names, this one is Box Car Willie

Black cherry tomato, Marconi pepper and Box Car Willie

And I got some snazzy new gardening gloves :D

So after planting and weeding and watering, I met up with a friend to continue my agrarian adventures and go strawberry picking.  Growing up I went blueberry picking every summer with my mom, but we never did strawberries so I was looking forward to trying something new.

The day was really beautiful, not to hot, and it was nice and breezy. We drove to Butler’s Orchard about 25 minutes outside of DC and picked up a couple flats to hold our berries. I was ambitious and grabbed the flat that would hold 10 pounds of berries and we dove right into the strawberry patch.

If you don’t know anything about strawberry patches, I’ll tell you all you need to know and that is the plants grow about 1 foot off the ground.

Fast forward 5 minutes in and I loudly declare “God, I’m glad I’m not a migrant farm worker, this sucks.”

Sooo, ya. Picking berries is backbreaking, literally. Lower back pain aside, I had a lot of fun and with the help of my friend (who is a berry picking machine) I got 10 pounds of beautiful, shiny and sweet smelling berries.

You my pretty, will be made into jam

I think this posts begs the question, why would I seek out and actually enjoy picking my own berries?  I’m not Amish, isn’t that what grocery stores are for?

My friend and I actually chatted about this while we were out in the field, and I think she articulated it the best:

It feels good to work with your hands. To take ownership over something and actually see an immediate outcome. I love the physical effort of gardening, you actually feel connected to the food. I know this might sound crazy to many of my dear readers, and that’s ok.

Simply put, working with my hands, being active and then being creative with how I choose to cook the food that I’ve grown feels awesome. I sit behind a desk all day at a job that doesn’t really allow creative thinking.  This is the perfect outlet for me, and its why I love food, gardening and cooking so damn much.

(steps off soapbox)

Thank you.

Stay tuned for a post about how to make your own strawberry jam, step by step.

- Erin

Daily Question: Do you think knowing where your food came from matters?

Moroccan Beef Tagine

Sometimes you want to take a vacation and you just can’t. Any number of reasons can keep you stuck at home, lack of moulah, time or those pesky things called “children”. I don’t have any but I hear they are a lot of work ;-)

If any or all of the above apply to you, sometime you can feel like you’re going on an adventure by trying ethnic cuisines. I love cooking this tagine. It’s not that complicated so you can indulge in some serious daydreaming while you’re cooking.

The slow simmering and bubbling fill your kitchen with the scent of cumin, cinnamon and ginger… how I imagine a Moroccan bazaar to smell.

In my mind, the scenery looks really similar to the movie Aladdin (odd), but whatever.

To go on your own cooking adventure, start with SPICE!

Cumin, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric

Sauteé an onion in olive oil, then add the spices and cook until aromatic to bring the flavor out.

Now for the exotic, some ruby red and oh so pretty pomegranate juice… so yum.

Grab a handful off dried plums and raisins, some stew beef and you’re all set.

Turn the heat to low and start the simmer. If you have an actual tagine,  you can cook this in the oven at 275° for a couple hours. Being a city dweller with limited space to store my kitchen toys, I used a perfectly acceptable substitute: the dutch oven.

While this cooks, relax and watch a movie… maybe Aladdin. Because you’re never too old for a Disney movie. :-)

Moroccan Beef Tagine

  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs stew beef
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, cumin, ginger and turmeric
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup dried plums
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large-heavy dutch oven (or tall-sided saucepan). Cook onions for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned and soft. Add the spices, stir and cook until fragrant. Add beef and quickly brown on all sides. Add raisins, dates, juice and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to very low simmer. Cook between 1 hour and 3o minutes and 2 hours. It is finished when the meat is fall apart tender. You can also cook for a similar amount of time in a low temp oven.

Serve on top of pearled couscous, prepared according to package directions.  Pearled couscous is exactly as it sounds, and it has a great ‘bite’ to it that you don’t get with regular couscous. Check it out:

Enjoy!

Daily Question: What dream vacation do you want to go on?

Personally, I want to go to South Africa!

- Erin

Thai Sweet Potato Curry

Hi to all my readers and happy (meatless) Monday.

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day. I got to spend some time with my in-laws down in lovely Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. We ate lunch at a colonial-times inspired country restaurant that served up some mean fried chicken. Needless to say it wasn’t the healthiest of meals! But today’s post balances that out.

This Thai curry features one of my current vegetable obsessions, rainbow chard.

Look at how beautiful it is, with those reds and yellows and purples, it makes any dish prettier.

I planted some of this in my garden, but it’s not quite ready yet, this bunch is from the Dupont Circle farmers market

There are so many colors in this Thai curry dish, you just feel healthier looking at it. Imagine how you’ll feel eating it :-)

The broth is rich, complex and delightfully coconuty. Yup, that’s a word.

Apologies for such a short post, I have poison ivy and the horrible itchyness is seriously interrupting my thought process.  It can’t last forever though, right?

Thai Sweet Potato Curry

  • 2 tbl fish sauce
  • 1 tbl red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 tbl brown sugar
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 8 oz broth (veggie, chicken etc)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cup (packed) rainbow chard, chopped

Pour coconut milk into a large saucepan. Bring the milk to a slight boil, whisk in the curry paste, fish sauce and brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in the broth, carrots and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover partially. Let cook for 10 minutes, then add the chard and cook for 10 more minutes. Finished! Serve over rice or eat as is.

Enjoy!

Daily Question: What did you do for Mother’s Day?

- Erin