Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.

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Homemade Granola.

Turns out when you’re pregnant, you wake up at night.  Repeatedly.  As far as I can tell, this is due to three main reasons:

  1. Baby throws all night “how hard can you thrash around” ragers.
  2. My bladder is now the size of a shelled pistachio.
  3. At some point around 4AM, my stomach realizes it hasn’t eaten in SIX WHOLE HOURS and the situation needs to be rectified, ASAP.

I have therefore spent far too many 4AM time slots contemplating what I will eat for breakfast.  After I made this for the first time, I’m happy to report my contemplation has changed from “what” I will eat, to “when” an appropriate time to go eat might be.

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Homemade Granola

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • slightly less than 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • big pinch of salt
  • about 1/3 cup honey
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup vegetable, canola or coconut oil
  • dash vanilla extract
  • you can customize anyhow you like, but for my part, I like slightly more than a 1/2 cup each of the following ingredients:
    • unsweetened shredded coconut
    • slivered almonds
    • dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside for a moment.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, and a dash of vanilla.  Slowly mix together with the dry ingredients, until all oats are coated.
  4. On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread the oat mixture in a thin, even layer.  Bake at 300 for 15 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together your add-ins: coconut, cranberries, and almonds, in my case.
  6. Remove the oats from the oven and gently mix in your add-ins, so they’re evenly distributed in the pan.
  7. Pop the whole thing back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown.
  8. Remove – and as hard as it is – let cool for about 10-15 minutes before stirring and breaking up the crumbles.  It’s worth it, trust me.

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The Verdict:

I can’t believe how late in life I came to this epiphany: granola is amazing.  Serve on top of a big bowl of plain Greek yogurt (I find the granola sweet enough) and berries, and watch your hunger dissipate for at LEAST 2-3 hours.

ALL the Go-Tos…AKA Showering Sasha.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the epic bridal shower my mom threw for one of her BFF’s daughters.  She made lobster paella and smoked salmon canapes.  We drank champagne and rose.  I left home feeling happy, full, and totally in awe.

So, it was sort of a hubris-filled idea to host a bridal shower for one of my BFFs this past weekend.  You will note from the picture below what was not on the menu: lobster paella or smoked salmon canapes.  (Obvi on the champagne and rose, though).

IMG_3833For everyone’s benefit (and so that I’d actually have something to feed 15 people), I stuck to some tried and true standards.  These are truly the go-tos in our house: I realized as I was posting this that every single item is something I’ve already posted about here.  Which tells you I’m either really uncreative, or just totally confident in these recipes.  Probably both.

(I think) it turned out beautifully.  And most important, my friend Sasha seemed really touched.

IMG_3844 I hope everyone went home happy and full.  Unfortunately, I was already home, which means I was also in charge of cleaning up.

Good thing I had lots of leftover champagne and rose.  And basil vodka lemonade.  (Main idea: create a basil-infused simple syrup by boiling 1 part water, 1 part sugar and 1 big handful basil.  Add to lemonade, another handful basil and a big old splash of vodka.  Start showering/TPing the bride/asking the embarrassing “how well do you know your future spouse” questions.)

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken

We are home.  And we are stuffed.

For the past week, we have eaten nothing but baguettes, cheese, croque madame, pain au chocolat, croissants, steaks and frites.  We have consumed bottle after bottle of champagne and red wine.  We bought ice cream cones for the express purpose of passing the time, standing in line for museums.  We were gluttons and we are not sorry.

Paris and London were in a word, amazing.  We climbed all the monuments (sort of atones for the food? maybe?).  We took boat tours down the Thames and the Seine, and toasted each other as the Eiffel Tower lit up the sky.  We looked at crowns and wandered through gardens.  We saw close friends and family; I wandered the grand flower store at the foot of our old apartment, where my father took me the day I turned 8 and let me pick out any flowers I wanted for a birthday bouquet.

We are stuffed – food-wise, but also joy-wise.  (I know, I’m cheesy, but it’s just the truth.)  In that honor, some stuffed chicken breasts I made before we left.

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Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 large ball mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons or so sundried tomatoes, julienned
  • about 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of water
  • about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  1. After you rinse and pat dry chicken breasts, rub with a little bit of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper.  Use a small knife to carefully make an incision in each chicken breast; take care not to cut it all the way in half (you want to create a little pocket for all your goodies).
  2. Place each chicken breast under a sheet of parchment and pound with a mallet or small pan.so they are each less than an inch thick.  Insert a layer of basil, mozzarella and a few sundried tomatoes into each “pocket” of the chicken breast.
  3. Dredge each chicken breast individually in the flour, shake off excess flour, coat in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in panko.  Repeat for each chicken breast.
  4. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Without crowding the pan, cook each chicken breast for about 3-4 minutes on one side.  Lower the heat and use tongs to carefully flip to the other side, cooking an additional 3-4 minutes.  Keep chicken warm while you cook the additional breasts.
  5. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread.

The Verdict:

This is a go-to in our house: that panko crust keeps the chicken juicy and crispy at the same time, while the cheese just oozes on to your plate.  And no one argues with oozing cheese.

The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need.

I neglected to write a “planning” post this week – whoops!  I actually DID plan out our meals, too…though with only a couple of nights of cooking needed (we are headed to MIAMI! this weekend), I took a bit of the easy way out.  We did a lot of recycling and reusing chez nous, and we’re still dining on leftovers.  For example, this pasta salad, which I made to bring to a friend’s impromptu BBQ on Sunday evening (another reason to love spring: impromptu BBQs).

This “recipe” is an absolute go-to.  I remember making it for the first time with my mom probably ten years ago, and it’s become a staple at the yearly beachside bonfire we host with a bunch of family friends.  Of course, the first time she made this, my mom was just using up vegetables she had in her fridge – I don’t get my propensity to throw things together and call it dinner from nowhere, you see.  There are, however, two secrets to elevating this from grocery store pasta salad to the kind of pasta salad to end all other pasta salads.  See if you can spot them.

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The World’s (well, in my humble opinion, anyway) Best Pasta Salad

  • 1 box curly pasta – my favorite is Cavatappi
  • 1/2 jar sundried tomatoes, in oil – coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (orange adds a nice pop of color!)
  • 1 can corn, drained, or ideally, 2-3 stalks of fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 small container cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • handful of spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • a goodly amount of Parmesan cheese
  • fresh herbs: cilantro provides a gorgeous zing, but parsley and/or basil also good options
  • dressing:
    • a good squeeze of anchovy paste (*leave out if making a totally vegetarian version*)
    • salt, pepper, crushed reds
    • balsamic vinegar
    • olive oil
  1. Boil water for pasta; while you’re waiting, prepare/wash/chop all of your veggies, and place in a LARGE bowl, EXCEPT for your sundried tomatoes.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  While the pasta is still warm, toss with the veggies – and then add your sundried tomatoes and a bit of the oil it comes in.  Give it a thorough toss.
  3. Whisk together your dressing and add to your pasta.  Finish off your salad with Parmesan and a generous dose of herbs.  Serve warm or chilled – it won’t last long either way.

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The Verdict:

This one’s a go-to for good reason.  I made an extra large batch on Sunday, taking most of it to the BBQ and leaving a bit behind for me and the Husband.  By Monday evening, I had (very generously) left him two (full!) strands of Cavatappi.  I am such a great partner, sometimes.

PS: You can obviously add olives to add brininess, and whatever else your little heart desires.  I have and enforce a strict no-olive policy chez nous.