Week 44 – Baked Sweet Potatoes w/ Broccoli and White Sauce, Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Avocado Salsa, and Blackberry Chèvre Salad

Weekends are the best.  My taking Fridays off really helps too – get cleaning and errands done Thursday night/ Friday morning and then have the rest of the days for studying, hanging out, and cooking!

We got Fresh Stop this week, Matt picked it up while I was in class and there’s so much goodness in this month’s share.  We used the spring mix in our salad recipe for the week, and we remade the Garlic Butter Asparagus Pasta with the asparagus from our share.  That recipe is not only really good, but pretty quick too!

We have a few solid recipes this week – Matt was not the biggest fan of the sweet potato one, but that’s because he doesn’t like cooked broccoli (woops!).  When I was in Portland my friend Kaitlyn made it for dinner one night and I tried to recreate it this week.  I’ve never been a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but I could eat this recipe over and over again!  The Grilled Chicken was delicious and pretty, but I forgot to take a picture of it because we were at a friend’s house and in real life people don’t have to snap a picture of every meal before eating it 🙂  I’ll add a picture next time we make it (because there will definitely be a next time).  And the salad, ahhhhh SO stinking delicious, I can’t wait until tomorrow when we eat the rest of it!

Grilled Chicken with Pineapple Avocado Salsa (recipe from here)

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

For Salsa:

  • 2 cups diced pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

For Chicken:

  • 4 Chicken Breasts, pound to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. For the salsa: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Reserve.
  2. For the chicken: Brush the chicken on both sides with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165°, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Remove chicken and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Plate the chicken and top with desired amount of salsa.

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Blackberry Chèvre Salad  (recipe from here)

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 6 oz. fresh blackberries, rinsed
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp. honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the spiced nuts:

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground ginger
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (if you have it, we didn’t so we skipped it)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

To assemble:

  • Mixed salad greens
  • 2 oz. honey goat cheese
  • About 6 oz. fresh blackberries
  • Thinly sliced vidalia onion

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, place the berries in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much fruit puree as possible while removing the seeds.  In a liquid measuring cup or jar, combine the blackberry puree with the vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is well blended and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to use.
  2. To make the spiced nuts, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to heat for about 1 minute, then stir in the chopped nuts.  Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. To serve, plate portions of salad greens on salad plates. Top with crumbled goat cheese, fresh blackberries, vidalia onion and the spiced nuts as desired.  Drizzle lightly with the blackberry vinaigrette.  Serve immediately.

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Baked Sweet Potatoes w/ Broccoli and White Sauce

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 ½ cups Mexican cheese blend (seasoned)
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

  1. Roast the sweet potatoes – Heat oven to 400° F. Pierce each sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Make a slit in the top of each sweet potato.
  2. Cook the Broccoli – saute in a pan with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. About 5 minutes, until bright green and slightly cooked.
  3. Make the sauce – In a food processor, mix the cheese, white beans, and enough water to get the sauce to your desired consistency.
  4. Plate the dish – Slice a sweet potato in half and slightly smash before topping with broccoli and sauce. Enjoy!

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Week 33 – Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quinoa Salad, Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes , and Flourless Fudge Cookies

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I am so ready for Spring!  And it’s not because of the cold or the snow.  I grew up in Syracuse New York and lived in Chicago for the first 6 years of my adult life, I can do snow and cold.  It’s the fact that the DC area cannot handle snow.  At all.  I am so sick of having a 10 minute walk take 15 minutes because I have to go so slow because nobody understands the importance of putting salt on the darn sidewalks!  Again,  I lived in Chicago, I know it is possible for me to not feel like I’m going to wipe out with every step I take on the way to the train.  And then it snowed a whole 6 inches during the day on Thursday, was done by dinner, and somehow people still had nightmare commutes on Friday morning? I don’t get it.  I hope today’s 50 degree weather sticks around because the DC area NEEDS Spring.  For the safety of walkers everywhere.

We tried a few new recipes this week, and dang all of them were so so good!  We made the cookies because our small group had a dessert night this Wednesday and on Tuesday night we realized we needed to make something for it and this was the only recipe on my pinterest dessert board that we had all of the ingredients for.  These cookies are delicious, but SO rich.  And who knew that gluten free just means a buttload of powdered sugar?!  Not us… The salad and pasta were Saturday night’s dinner.  Pure deliciousness.  Matt looked in the bowl of the salad when I was making it and goes “that looks like a nightmare!”  But he tried it and then had some of the leftovers today, and I think this is another instance where he didn’t think he liked brussels sprouts, quinoa, or some other weirder healthier food, but he just needed to have it prepared deliciously (see the blue apron side salad here, the roasted chicken with veggies here, and the breakfast quinoa here).  The pasta was sooooo good and the cream sauce being made with almond milk instead of cream is healthy genius!  We didn’t even notice, and trust me, we’re the type of people who would notice.  In summary, all three of these recipes will definitely be made again and are highly recommended!

Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quinoa Salad (recipe from here)

Makes: 4-8 servings, depending on size

Ingredients:

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, rinsed and ends trimmed, then halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • orange vinaigrette (see below)

Orange Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix the dressing ingredients in a container until combined.
  2. Toss the dressing and all salad ingredients together until combined.

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Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (recipe from here)

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

Pasta Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces pasta
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (6-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped or julienned fresh basil, loosely-packed
  • creamy garlic sauce (ingredients below)
  • optional toppings: crushed red pepper flakes, extra Parmesan, toasted pine nuts

Creamy Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups Almond Breeze original unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in a large stockpot of (generously) salted water according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta water is heating, begin making your cream sauce – Heat olive oil (or butter) in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the flour, and saute for an additional minute, stirring occasionally.
  4. Slowly add in the almond milk, whisking to combine until smooth. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer and thickens.
  5. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese is melted.
  6. Reduce heat to low until pasta reaches al dente and you are ready to toss the sauce with the pasta.
  7. Once the sauce and pasta are cooked, toss them together with the chopped chicken breasts, sun-dried tomatoes and half of the fresh basil until evenly combined. Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining fresh basil and optional toppings (if desired).

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Flourless Fudge Cookies (recipe from here)

Makes: 20-30 cookies, depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process preferred*
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Or line with parchment, and grease the parchment.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the egg whites and vanilla. Or, to save time, simply stir together all of the ingredients until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again until smooth.
  3. Drop the soft, batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 3″ circles (for large cookies), or 2″ circles (for smaller cookies).
  4. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes (for smaller cookies), 8 minutes for the larger cookies. They should spread slightly, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool right on the pan. When they’re nearly cool, carefully loosen them from the pan with a spatula.

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Week 25 – Zuppa Toscana, Goat Cheese Biscuits, and Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

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What a crazy week.  It was back to work for me on Monday (Matt had to go back last Friday), but then Tuesday-Thursday we went up to Rochester to attend the wake and funeral for Matt’s grandma who passed away last weekend.  It was great to see everyone, we just wish it had been for a different reason.  And oh boy, the weather up there.  It was Chicago-style cold.  Just reaffirming our current location and how not ridiculous the winter is in DC (although you wouldn’t know based on how the city reacted to the whole 1 inch of snow dumped on them early Tuesday morning…it took us 2 hours to get out of DC on our drive to Rochester!)  Friday Matt went back to work and I took a vacation day because work is pretty slow and I have studying to do (see below #2).  The weekend was pretty uneventful, which we needed, just some more studying for me and hanging out.

Did anyone make new year’s resolutions?  I didn’t officially write anything down but I am trying a couple of things differently in the new year:

  1. Facebook only on Sundays.  That thing is a black hole with all the articles and meaningless updates that get posted and I am amazed at how much more time I have in my life (and how much less time I spend looking at my phone!)
  2. Pass the CFP exam this year.  I bought some books, signed up for a class and review class, and studying is how I spend most of my spare time.  Which really isn’t that bad because I’m a nerd and am learning about things that interest me.  The exam is only offered 3 times a year, I’m going to be taking it in late July.
  3. Meatless Mondays.  Which leads me to a couple of our recipes….

So we tried out a meatless pasta dish on Monday, accompanied by some biscuits.  Holy wow, those biscuits!  Can’t wait to have those again!  The pasta dish…not so much.  Matt did have seconds, but he said he was just hungry.  He has even recommended that I don’t even give you the recipe, and that I never get recipes from this one blog again (it was a new food blog find).  Instead, I will give you a link and some recommendations on how I think it would actually be quite delicious if Matt would allow me to try it again.  We also made a new soup recipe after our drive back from Rochester – quick, easy, and delicious.  Definitely going to make that one again.  And for the soup, definitely use Kale and don’t let your husband/eating partner try to convince you to use spinach instead.  Thankfully I won that argument and Matt admits the soup was quite delicious, even with Kale it in.  The cookies were a last minute ‘I want some chocolate’ thing.  They might be a little healthier because they use coconut oil instead of butter, but the recipe isn’t too different from the usual.  They tasted great, we’d make it again but it also wasn’t so amazing that we’re never making them the tollhouse way again.

Caramelized Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Garlic Butter Pasta (Full recipe is here)

Advice if you choose to make it (which you should, it would probably be delicious knowing these things now):

  1. Either double the pasta or cut the spinach and goat cheese amounts in half.  It was WAY too much of both.
  2. Use more shallots!
  3. The shallots do not need to cook for 10 minutes in the olive oil while covered.  They will burn after 5 or less, use your common sense when cooking those.
  4. Definitely eat immediately while it’s warm.  We’re also not convinced leftovers would be the best (we threw our 1 1/2 servings of leftovers away since we were going out of town) so good luck with that…

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7-Ingredient Zuppa Toscana (recipe from here)

Makes: 6+ Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground hot* Italian sausage
  • 2 small or 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (and stems removed, if desired)
  • 1 pound potato gnocchi (I used mini gnocchi)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • optional toppings: freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon

Directions:

  1. Add Italian sausage and diced onion to the large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cook over medium-high heat until the sausage is completely browned, stirring occasionally and breaking up the sausage with a spoon.  Drain out as much of the excess grease as possible.
  2. Add in the chicken stock and diced roasted red peppers, and bring the mixture to a simmer (still over medium-high heat). Once it reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and add the kale and gnocchi and stir to combine.  Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi are cooked through and tender.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve warm with desired toppings.

*Definitely use “hot” Italian sausage for this recipe.  With so few ingredients, the sausage is actually the ingredient that provides most of the seasoning for this soup.  And much of the heat will be dispersed over the multiple servings.  I don’t like too spicy of things and it was perfect in this recipe.

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Goat Cheese Biscuits (recipe from this book)

Makes: 12 biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter
  • 4 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ c grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F and place cast iron skillet (10″) into oven while it preheats.
  2. Pour flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Cut 4 Tbsp of butter into small pieces and add to the bowl, add goat cheese and yogurt.
  3. Stir until the mix is moistened, adding an extra Tbsp of yogurt if needed.
  4. Remove hot skillet from oven and place 1 Tbsp butter into it. When the butter has melted, divide the batter into 12 biscuits, and nestle them into the skillet.
  5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with 1 Tsp melted better and bake 15 minutes, or until browned.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the grated parmesan.

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Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from here)

Makes: 24 Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream together the softened coconut oil, sugars, egg, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt, and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Fold in (stir in) the chocolate chips by hand until just combined.
  3. Shape the dough into balls, and place them on a large plate. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough balls for 1-2 hours.
  4. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place chilled dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes , cool, and enjoy!

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Week 13 – Baked Eggplant Parm

Another week…In three weeks I’ll have more exciting things to write about but until then it’s work, work, work, a little sleep, and these highlights:

  1. Friday night – Matt and I have been good at making me not work too late on Fridays and spending some time together. This week that meant fajita ‘rita night and watching Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Modern Family.
  2. Saturday afternoon we went to the DC United (soccer game). Someone from church was selling tickets for a fundraiser to benefit engineers without borders so we figured ‘why not!’  James came too and it was a solid afternoon out and about.  A nice break in the middle of me working in the morning and at night.
  3. Sunday Brunch! Two of our friends from church, and their precious baby boy, are moving away for 7 weeks (work assignment).  So we had our small group over for brunch on Sunday after church.  I don’t care what time of year it is, I love having our place full of people and good food.  It was also a great excuse to use some of our lovely wedding gifts that are perfect for entertaining.  Good people, good food, good conversation.  My heart is full and life is good.

The recipe for this week has good things and bad things.  It’s eggplant parm.  The bad thing for me is that I don’t think I’m a huge fan of eggplant.  Matt liked it, but also launched into a discussion about how eggplant parm isn’t really a main dish (in his opinion).  I made a half recipe and it easily had 4 servings, probably closer to 6 (confession – due to my newfound non-preference for eggplant we didn’t finish it all, but Matt did have leftovers twice!).  It also walks you through making your own sauce, it was good but I need to get my mom’s sauce recipe and just make that next time.  The great thing is that you can make this meal ahead of time and during busy season, that is HUGE.  And it really is any other week night when it’s not busy season.  Saving time on a weeknight is big any time of the year.  America’s Test Kitchen actually just came out with a cookbook that’s just make ahead recipes.  After busy season I’m going to see if I can find that at a library and get some good recipes from it.   Side note on that – why is this month the first time I ever thought to get cookbooks from a library?!  Don’t get me wrong, I love our mini cookbook collection, but typically you just pick and choose the recipes and the rest is wasted.  Thus, the library being perfect!  Getting a library card is on the top of my ‘after busy season’ checklist.  Anyway…the original recipe is from here.  Big thanks to my friend Katie who made her version of it for one of our small group dinners and gave me the idea to make it this week when we had eggplant in our fresh stop share.

Baked Eggplant Parm

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 lbs eggplant (about 4 Japanese eggplants, you could use Italian eggplant too)
  • (2) 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 5 teaspoons minced garlic (about 5 cloves), reserve 2 for topping
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmigiano
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
  2. Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the slices over and repeat, so now both sides of the eggplant are oiled and salted. Roast until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 3 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Let cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to toast. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the sugar. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmesan, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Assemble the Eggplant Parm: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 cup parmesan and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. If the topping is not browning, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place under the broiler (keep an eye on it, it’ll brown quickly under there). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead: Make everything through Step 5. Cover the assembled Eggplant Parm with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to two days before serving. I prepped the panko topping as well and keep this in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake the dish, bring it to room temperature and continue with Steps 6 and 7.

photo (4)(See those adorable S&P shakers on the table – giant thanks to my mom for fall package 2.0 that included those!)