Friday, June 28, 2013

Freakin' Fantastic Food Friday: Greek-style Chicken and Couscous

In my second installment of Freakin' Fantastic Food Friday, I revisit a dish I've made half a dozen times, and I have no idea what to call it, but the end result is always tasty and it's ridiculously easy to make.

Basically you simply grill chicken (sometimes I'll marinate it in Greek dressing, other times I'll just use garlic powder, salt and pepper) and the mix it in with the other ingredients. This takes about 20 minutes start to finish and is great for work lunches. You've got your proteins, your carbs, and some vegetables. It's relatively healthy, but with great flavor. Just what this girl needs for work during the week.

For the complete recipe, visit my previous post here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crockpot Ropa Vieja

I know a few people who follow a Paleo diet. I've been told of its merits and one thing I think it definitely does right is pushes people to eat more protein and vegetables. I think there are a number of great Paleo recipes out there, and some awesome blogs for those who are interested. One that a coworker of mine had suggested I look at recipes on is She encouraged me to try this crockpot recipe for ropa vieja and swore I wouldn't be disappointed.

Alas, I was disappointed. BUT, NOT BECAUSE OF THE RECIPE. The flavors in this recipe are awesome. I unfortunately got the one piece of meat at my Giant that remained a bit too tough, even after 10 hours of crockpot cooking. I'm sure with a better cut of meat, this would have turned out perfectly. It was not really easily shredded like the traditional dish, so I had to settle for meat chunks. But the flavors were great and highly recommend you trying this. I elected to make black beans and rice for a side.

Her original post is here:

Crockpot Ropa Vieja (serves 6-8)

  • 1.5-2lbs chuck roast
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 TB capers, drained
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1 TB dried thyme
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Chop onions and peppers and place in a crockpot. Place your chuck roast on top and cut 4 deep slices into the chuck roast and push your garlic cloves into the roast. Add the cumin, thyme and oregano to the pot, as well as the salt and pepper. Then add your tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, capers, and bay leaf to the rest of the crockpot.

Place on low for 6-8 hours or high for 5-7 hours.When your ropa vieja is almost done, it’s time to cook your rice.

Once your ropa vieja is done cooking, use a  fork to shred your beef in the crockpot. Serve ropa vieja on top of  rice.

I'll admit, this was even more flavorful the next day and makes great leftovers.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Freakin' Fantastic Food Friday: Sticky Wings

In my day job, there is a phrase that we often use: Throwback Thursdays. This usually refers to us a revisiting of previously used content on a Thursday. On this, the first day of Summer, I'm kicking off my own little feature for the summer months: Freakin' Fantastic Food Friday. In the year and a half I've had this blog, I have made some amazing dishes that I would make time and time again. But always feeling pressure (of my own, of course!) to make new things and feature new content on this site, I often don't get much of an opportunity to revisit some of those dishes.

So for the summer, I'll be celebrating these awesome dishes when I remake them, sharing a simple link to the original recipe and a new pic of the food. This week I made sticky wings (a recipe from my friend Nick at for some friends who came over for the True Blood season premiere. This was quite apropos given the stickiness of all the blood we saw on that episode. These sweet and spicy wings always hit the mark. I typically make these during football season, but they are truly enjoyable any day.

Check out the sticky wings recipe:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Summertime just SCREAMS for watermelon salads. I never understood the appeal of putting salt on watermelon until last year when I made a great watermelon with basil salad, which called for a coarse salt and olive oil. Amazing. And something that I likely make again this summer.

This particular watermelon side dish has a few different elements to it, but involves the same general concept:  salt and sweet is always a winning combo in my playbook. So give this salad a whirl the next time you're asked to bring something light to accompany a heavier summer meal.

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad (serves 6 as side dish)

  • 6 cups watermelon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped watercress
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onion
  • 1 medium English cucumber, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 TB chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 TB fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 oz reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • Mint sprigs (optional) 


Combine watermelon, watercress, onion and cucumber in a large bowl.

Combine mint, cilantro, lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add juice mixture and salt to watermelon mixture; toss gently to coat.

Sprinkle with feta; garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mint Pesto

Last weekend, I ran my second 5K. Correction: I ran most of my second 5K. Due to a crazy crowd, having to stand way too long to wait, etc., I came up with a variety of reasons as to why I didn't run the whole damn thing. But one thing I didn't skimp out on was carb-loading the night before. So it was only a 5K. So what. I still wanted an excuse to gorge on some pasta, which I don't do very often.  So I made this mint pesto recipe that I've made a few times before, just never featured on this blog. It comes from my buddy Nick at, who is always coming up with interesting takes on very simple dishes. This is a typical pesto recipe, but you swap the basil for mint. And it's great.

Mint Pesto (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh mint   
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley   
  • 2 TB pine nuts   
  • 3 cloves garlic   
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese   
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste 


Wash the mint and parsley well. Toast the pine nuts for a few minutes in a dry pan.

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until they resemble a coarse paste.Taste the pesto and adjust the flavors. It might need a bit more oil or salt and pepper.

Toss pesto with hot pasta and serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tuscan Salmon with Rosemary Orzo

In keeping with the theme of simple meals and those that require rosemary (seriously, I had a ton of rosemary to go through) I found this recipe on epicurious. Even though I cut the recipe in half, I managed to eat this three days in a row. While fish can sometimes be tricky as leftovers, this turned out to be just as good the next day. This is a great option when cooking for one.

Tuscan Salmon with Rosemary Orzo (serves 4)

  • 6 oz. orzo
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 salmon fillets (5 ounces each), skin on
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 TB chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 TB chopped fresh parsley

Cook orzo as directed on package until al dente.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook 1/2 cup onion and rosemary until onion softens, 9 minutes. Combine with orzo in a bowl.

Season salmon with 1 tablespoon basil, salt and pepper. Heat same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook salmon until golden, 5 minutes per side, flesh side down first; set aside.

Add garlic and remaining 1 cup onion to skillet; cook until soft, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives; cook until tomatoes break up, 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in parsley and remaining 1/4 cup basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve fish over orzo; top with tomato mixture.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Food Porn: Chez Billy

I have a coworker who talks about this place all the time. I finally had a chance to check it out for a friend's birthday celebration. So after a day out at Lincoln's Cottage, we headed over to nearby Petworth to check out this restaurant. I absolutely loved the interior of the restaurant, especially the big open bar space.

We started off with some oysters and frites, as well as some beers in the back patio before heading in to what would be a very rich, filling dinner. My French food experience is fairly limited. I tend to lean toward more spicy and complex (in a different way) dishes. This is not to say that French food isn't complex, but they do an amazing job of making something seem so simple, but I'm sure the process to get to that point was far from it.

I opted for a salmon special which sat on the most buttery potato puree I've had in a long time, accompanied with mushrooms and bacon. The birthday boy offered for the classic French duck dish. The sauces were truly divine so it lived up to what French food really is: an indulgence to be experienced fully and perhaps only once in a while. :)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Orzo with Artichokes and Pine Nuts

The official start of summer (i.e. warm weather and the ever-present smell of grilled foods) is now here and if you're like me, you're lucky to have friends who host a fair number of BBQs. They truly are synonymous with long holiday weekends and tailgates. Sure, you could bring a bag of chips, or pick up a six-pack of beer, but if you're like me, you use these opportunities to try out a new side dish.

The following recipe covers several bases.

1) It's easy.
2) It's healthy.
3) It uses very basic ingredients, most of which you may have sitting in your cupboard.
4) Did I mention it's easy?

Orzo with Artichokes and Pine Nuts (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 cups orzo (10 oz)
  • 3 TB pine nuts
  • 1 (14-oz) can whole artichoke hearts (not marinated)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 TB red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest

Cook orzo in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander.

While orzo cooks, lightly toast pine nuts in a dry small skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 1 minute, then coarsely chop. 

Drain artichoke hearts in a large sieve and rinse well. Pull off leaves from bases of hearts and quarter bases. Rinse leaves and bases well, then drain thoroughly. 

Stir together oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add orzo, pine nuts, artichokes (leaves and bases), parsley, and zest and toss to combine.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chicken with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

Every so often, one craves comfort food. Even when the weather gets warmer. My culinary pursuits have changed drastically over the years, and I now take comfort in foods that are hearty, complex, and often involve pork products. However, my tastes didn't always run this way. I grew up on chicken and potatoes. For a while, I didn't eat many things out of the white/yellow color spectrum. Which is sad really, but I fortunately grew out of it. But this week I acquired a large amount of rosemary and lemons. So when life (or your friend Vickie) gives you lemons (and rosemary) you make a roast chicken dish. And so I did.

Chicken with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce (serves 4)

  • 1-1/2 pounds small new potatoes such as Red Bliss
  • 2 large lemons
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on lemons, plus 1/4 cup Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves, skin on
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 TB unsalted butter (optional)

Put the potatoes in a pot of salted cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool, but do not peel. Cut in half and set aside.

Preheat the broiler. Cut a small slice off both ends of each lemon, then cut in half crosswise. Arrange the lemons, flesh side up, in a flameproof non-reactive baking dish, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Broil 6 inches or more from the heat until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Squeeze the lemon halves over a sieve suspended over a bowl. Push and stir the pulp through the sieve with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Discard the lemon shells.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large ovenproof saute
 pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken, lower the heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove to a platter.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and tossing, until brown all over, about 5 minutes. Drain off the excess oil. Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the potatoes and place in the oven to reheat and cook through, about 10 minutes.

When done, remove the chicken to a platter and put the pan with the potatoes over medium-high heat. Toss well so the pan juices are absorbed into the potatoes. Scrape the potatoes out of the pan onto the platter around the chicken.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the garlic. Sauté briefly until light brown. Immediately add the reserved roasted lemon juice (this final flash of heat will cook off any residual acid flavor), stock, rosemary, and parsley. Stir and scrape up all the browned bits that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too lemony, stir in the optional butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and potatoes and serve immediately.

You'll notice that the sauce is pretty much invisible in this dish. I found it very flavorful, but runny. Perhaps less chicken stock, or adding cornstarch would have done the trick.