Another week has come and gone. How?! Friday night we had a cookie exchange Christmas party with our small group. That was a good time, so nice to see how our community in DC has grown and deepened over time, I’ll be sad when the time comes for these lovely folks to start moving away (most, if not all, are in DC for a set period of time). On Saturday we drove up with Philadelphia to see Syracuse play Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center. Ugh, that game. Somehow we went from being up 15 in the first half, up 5 with 10.8 seconds left in regulation, to losing by 5 in overtime. There are no words. But it was a great trip because we got to have brunch with my cousin Will and his wife, Telsa. Then we went to the game with my cousin Matt and his wife Amanda, and then went back to their house for the night and had dinner with them my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bob. And we FINALLY met Matt and Amanda’s daughter, Emerson. She’s pretty stinkin’ cute. My extended family really is a blessing, it’s always so fun to see them and catch up. We spent the night at Matt and Amanda’s and headed back to DC today. Highlight of the day today was stopping at Ikea. I’m always looking for ways to maximize the space in our apartment, and recently saw this lovely idea for spice racks. Thus, the stop at Ikea. Check out what we did, I love it!
And on to this week’s recipes. Holy wow. I’m only posting the recipe for the dinner one. It’s SO good, you should probably make it tomorrow. I modified the recipe from this cookbook (which I got out of the library, and after putting a sticky note to mark pretty much every other page, I decided I needed to add it to my Christmas list). And it’s so easy! Well kind of. Since it’s a make ahead dish, you prep it all the day/night before, and then the next day just preheat the oven, dump the contents of your two prepped bags into a dutch oven (or probably many other dishes that would work) and wait. It was amazing. I threw it in the oven, did an at home pure barre workout, showered and was ready to take it out as Matt was getting home from work. Wins for everyone, especially our stomachs! And boy, do you get your fill of veggies! I had to double check what the recipe said the servings were (4).
The molasses cookie recipe is a family recipe and I’m going to pretend it’s a secret family recipe because it’s so stinking delicious. These are my favorite cookies to have at Christmas time (though there are several very close runners up). My Aunt Mary always makes them, but since we’re missing that family gathering this year I asked for the recipe to try it out myself. Let me tell you, this not for the faint of heart. Which leads to a giant belated thank you to my dear Aunt Mary for making these pretty much every year. I made the dough the same night I did that at home pure barre work out. My poor arms. I had to tag Matt in at the end to help finish stirring! But the two day process (one night for making the dough, another for rolling it out, baking, and frosting) was well worth it. Enjoy the pictures of the process.
Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
- 12 ounces red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 12 ounces Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 8 shallots, peeled and halved
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces, thick ends halved lengthwise
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 tsp fresh thyme
- 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 3-4 chicken breasts (depends on size, we used 3. Also the cookbook said to use bone in, skin on pieces, too much work to eat so we just had boneless, skinless breasts)
- Cranberries, I think I used about ¾ cup (I added these from the cookbook’s version, it was a good choice)
- Place potatoes, Brussel sprouts, shallots, carrots, 2 Tbsp of the oil, the garlic, 2 tsp thyme, and 1 tsp rosemary into a gallon size zip lock bag. Press out air and seal, toss to coat.
- Place chicken, remaining 2 Tbsp oil, remaining 2 tsp thyme, remaining 1 tsp rosemary, ¼ tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in a separate 1 gallon zip lock bag. Press out air and seal; Toss to coat.
- Refrigerate both bags at least one hour, and up to 24 hours.
- When ready to finish and serve, preheat oven to 475.
- Spread veggies in a dutch oven (or casserole pan, or the cookbook says to use a jellyroll pan), throw in the cranberries, and top with 1 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper.
- Place chicken in on top toward the center, cover, and cook 45-60 minutes (as long as the chicken is 160 degrees, you’re good.
Dang, the weeks really do fly by around the holidays, don’t they?! I ended up traveling to Wytheville, VA for work Tuesday-Thursday. It was great in that what I was doing is my favorite part of my job – teaching not high net worth people about their retirement plans. I have always loved teaching people and whenever I get to help out our Financial Education Group at work, I’m a happy camper. What I don’t like is driving 5 hours alone each way. I really just hate driving in general. Thank goodness I’ve lived in cities with ample public transportation! But one of my coworkers suggested that I listen to the NPR podcast ‘Serial’ on my drive. That’s a pretty fascinating podcast for those of you who need something interesting to listen to. The other notable thing this week was that on Saturday we volunteered with Wreaths Across America to lay wreaths on all the graves at Arlington National Cemetery. That was pretty amazing. James met us at our place and we walked over (gotta get our steps in!) and met up with a group from PwC. It was definitely a good use of our morning, and it was also pretty shocking how many volunteers there were, and therefore how fast it went!
Our recipes for the week were all winners – we will definitely make all of them again. The soup was delicious and a little different than the other soup recipes I’ve made. I will recommend that you make the orzo separately and store it separately, it soaks up most of the broth and therefore our leftovers were more of a risotto consistency, and less of a soup. But it still tasted delicious! The pasta bake was soooooo good, we ate way too much of it the first night we had it. It’s a healthier alfredo sauce so that made us feel a little better? And then I didn’t know if I was going to like the salsa. But the picture on the blog where I found it looked pretty so I went for it. It did not disappoint. With the tortilla chips it was the perfect mix of salty and sweet. I’m pretty sure Matt’s mom has made a similar one with a mango instead of pears, it’s also delicious and I’d recommend that as a variation on the recipe below.
Have a good week everyone!
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup (Recipe from Here)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks (you could also use chicken breasts, we used thighs this time but will be using breasts next time, I just like them better)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 5 cups chicken stock (or we used two of these and 7 cups water, to get extra broth)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaves and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Stir in orzo, rosemary and chicken; reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and parsley; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately (or else the orzo will soak up all your broth!).
Chicken Alfredo Baked Ziti (Recipe from Here)
Chicken Baked Ziti Ingredients:
- 12 ounces ziti (or any pasta shape)
- 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (about 2 chicken breasts)
- 1 batch alfredo sauce (see below)
- 1 1/2 or 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- chopped fresh parsley
Alfredo Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup low-fat milk (I used skim)
- 3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute one minute, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine. Saute for an additional minute to cook the flour, stirring occasionally.
- Slowly add chicken broth, whisking to combine until smooth. Whisk in milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let cook for an additional minute until thickened, then stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
Chicken Baked Ziti:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook the pasta al dente in a large stockpot of well-salted boiling according to package instructions. Drain. Return pasta to the stockpot and add chicken and alfredo sauce. Gently toss to combine until the pasta is evenly coated.
- Pour half of the pasta into a greased 11×7-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the chopped parsley and 1 cup of cheese. Layer the remaining half of the pasta evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining parsley and cheese.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and serve immediately, sprinkled with additional toppings if desired.
5-Ingredient Pear Pomegranate Salsa (Recipe from Here)
- 2 fresh pears (any kind), cored and diced
- 1 fresh pomegranate, seeded
- Half a red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- juice of half a lime
- Toss all ingredients together until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately, or store in a sealed container for up to 2 days.
Whew. It has been a while! Sorry folks. I was in California for work the week of November 17. When you get promoted to Senior Associate PwC sends you to this amazing resort in Palos Verdes and gives you a professional coach for the week. It was kind of exhausting because there was so much scheduled. But it was so great and pretty rejuvenating, so that’s good. And the location is on a point so you get the sunrise and the sunset. I need to go back! Here’s a few pictures from that beautiful place.
Next, Matt and I met in New Mexico and spent a couple days in Albuquerque and then a few days visiting his Aunt and Uncle in Taos. It was cool so see some new cities and nice to relax and see Matt’s family before heading to Arizona to meet up with my family for Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving was spent at my brother’s house in Scottsdale, but the real fun began the next day. We drove to the Grand Canyon and hiked in and out in two days, and camped in the Canyon the night we were down there. It was an adventure and all were quite sore by the end of day two (my fitbit says it was 15 miles on day one and 12 miles on day two, Matt’s says 17 and 14. So, somewhere in there. It was a lot.) Here’s a few sweet pics from the hike to Havasu Falls:
Since we’ve been back we’ve just been catching up on life. This weekend we finally got the place decorated for Christmas!!
And on to the recipes…We made the soup right before I left for California. I forgot to take a picture, woops. It’s fine but I don’t think I’ll make it again. Too many other soup recipes to try! The breakfast quinoa recipe we also made for the first time right before I left for Cali – had to use the leftover goat cheese from the roasted squash – and then again this weekend. It’s pretty delicious. And the other dinner recipe was pretty good. I will warn – the oranges definitely give the dish a distinct taste. We ate the leftovers and will probably make it again some time, but on my end it isn’t something I’ll be craving. Maybe I’ll make it without the oranges next time. Anyway, enjoy!
Pasta e Fagioli (recipe from this book)
- 3 ounces of bacon, cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 ounce) can white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, navy), drained and rinsed
- 4 cups chicken broth
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup ditalini (small, tube-like pasta)
- ¼ bunch fresh flat-leaf pasta, leaves only, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium for 7-10 minutes, or until it is crisp and most of the fat has rendered. (As the bacon browns, it may begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, but don’t worry – it will dissolve into the soup later and provide big flavor).
- Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Stir well and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the beans to the pot along with the chicken broth, oregano, and basil. Stir to combine. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil.
- Add the pasta to the boiling soup and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is fully cooked. Stir the fresh parsley into the soup and serve hot with a light sprinkling of Parmesan over each bowl.
Breakfast Quinoa (recipe from this book)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small onions
- 1 package (5 links) Trader Joe’s Chicken Apple Sausage
- 1 cup Quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 4 eggs
- Salt and Pepper
- Pour quinoa and water into a small pot. Bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let simmer 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Slice the onion, soften in olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- While the onion cooks, slice and add the sausage to the same pan as the onion.
- Scoop quinoa into four bowls (I saved two servings in pyrex containers) and split the onion/sausage mixture between the bowls.
- In the now empty onion pan, fry an egg for each bowl (or I like mine loosely scrambled). Top each bowl with 1 egg cooked how you like. (If saving extra bowls for a later date I cook the egg fresh the day we’re eating it)
- Top each bowl with a small handful of goat cheese and sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Moussaka-Style Lasagna (recipe from here)
- 8 Ounces Ground Beef
- 6 Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles
- 1 15-Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 Cup Low-Fat Milk
- 4 Ounces Baby Spinach
- 1 Eggplant
- 1 Orange
- 1 Yellow Onion
- 2 Tablespoons Golden Raisins (I skipped these)
- 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Teaspoon Moussaka Spice Blend*
- ¼ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
- Spice Blend: (3 Parts Dried Greek Oregano, 3 Parts Ground Coriander, 2 Parts Sumac, 1 Part Ground Cinnamon, 1 Part Aleppo Pepper)
- Prepare the ingredients: Preheat the oven to 475°F. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut off and discard the stem off the eggplant; cut the eggplant into ¼-inch-thick slices. Zest the orange until you have 2 Tbsp. Cut off and discard the remaining peel and pith of the orange. Cut out the segments (or supremes) from between the membranes; place the supremes in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from the membranes over the supremes. Peel and small dice the onion.
- Place the eggplant slices on a sheet pan; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat and arrange in a single, even layer. Roast 16 to 18 minutes, or until tender and browned. Remove from the oven.
- While the eggplant roasts, in a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the ground beef; season with salt and pepper. Cook, frequently breaking the meat apart with a spoon, until browned. Transfer to a bowl, leaving any drippings in the pot.
- Add the onion to the pot of drippings. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the spice blend and all but a pinch of the orange zest; cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, raisins and cooked beef. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until reduced.
- Remove from heat; stir in the spinach and orange supremes and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the meat sauce simmers, in a separate, medium pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Whisk in the flour and remaining orange zest. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until golden brown and fragrant. Slowly whisk in the milk and ¼ cup of water until no lumps remain. Cook, whisking frequently, 4 to 6 minutes, or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
- Spread a thin layer of meat sauce onto the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish. Evenly distribute a layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with a layer of béchamel sauce. Repeat layering until the dish is filled. Sprinkle with the feta cheese. Cover the lasagna with an oiled sheet of foil. Bake 9 to 11 minutes, or until hot. Remove the foil and bake 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving. Enjoy!