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.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries

Lately, most of the dinners chez nous are a fairly consistent staple of Dairy meets Starch, they have Love Child.  This is because it’s easy, because it’s filling, and because I’d like my pre-ice cream meal to be complementary to the main event.  Obvi.

Even when the husband might be thinking we could incorporate some more meat or veggies, he’s smart enough to know not to comment.  Ever.  There are some definite perks to pregnancy.

However.  Every once in a while, you do crave the green stuff.  Ina here, to the rescue.

Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese & Cranberries 

(adapted from Ina Garten)

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  • 2 ripe pears
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • crumbled blue cheese
  • big handful dried cranberries
  • big handful nuts – walnuts, pecans, or almonds
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • if using apple cider and not apple cider vinegar, splash balsamic
  • big dollop of honey or 3 big tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • arugula (we used Bibb lettuce, but this would definitely be better with the bite from arugula)
  • salt, pepper (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Peel the pears and slice in half lengthwise; remove the core.  Cut just a small slice off the back – this will keep it steady on the baking pan.  Toss with about half the lemon juice and place in a small baking dish, core side up.
  3. Mix together the blue cheese, nuts, and cranberries in a small bowl and top the pears with the mixture.  Mix together the cider, balsamic, honey/sugar and pour over the pears, reserving a bit of the liquid.
  4. Bake pears for 25-30 minutes & pull from the oven.  Make a dressing by whisking together the rest of the lemon juice, the olive oil, and the reserved basting liquid.  Serve the pears on top of the arugula with the dressing.

The Verdict:

This is delicious.  Eat it.  Feel healthy.  And then, to the ice cream.

 

French Onion Mac + Cheese

Probably exactly what you need, right after the new year starts, is a recipe that combines two of the most wonderful, cheese and carb-laden treats known to humankind into one unholy meal.

Well, I can say that at least around here, “losing x pounds” didn’t make it to the resolutions list this year.  #pregnancyperks

I won’t lie to you: this recipe takes a while (about 2.5 full hours, from start to finish).  BUT, it’s worth it.  And not just if you’re pregnant.  So let’s get to it.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

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for the bechamel

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or cream, if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed reds
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

for the onion mixture

  • butter/olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (to make this veggie, obviously, just use veggie stock instead.)
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (you might want to tie these up into a bundle)
  • 1 bag arugula
  • 1 box pasta (I used cavatappi, which winds its way so delightfully around each onion slice, each delightful bite of cheese)

for the topping

  • about 1/2 cup panko
  • about 1/2 cup parmesan
  • (a little parsley, if you have it, would be nice right at the very end)
  1. Start your onions, which take the longest.  Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add onions, cover, and cook down, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  2. While the onions are going, start your bechamel.  Over low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir constantly to combine for 2-3 minutes.   Increase heat to medium, and slowly add the milk or cream; stir until thickened (this takes about 5-6 minutes; add more flour if you need).  Lower the heat, & season with s+p and the crushed red peppers.  Fold in the gruyere and cheddar until the sauce is melty and delicious – set aside and try not to eat.
  3. To the onion mixture, add garlic and dash honey.  Cook another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize.  Add wine and beef broth and stir, scraping up the bottom bits.  Add the thyme and let the mixture cook down, until the liquid is almost gone.
  4. The previous step will take a while, so this is is a good time to start your pasta water boiling and to cook according to directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a baking pan.  In the onion pot, mix together the arugula, pasta, onions, and bechamel.  Make sure it’s thoroughly combined before you pour into the baking pan – snag the bundled thyme as you do so.
  6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko and parmessan, and then spread this over the top of the pasta/onion mixture.  Pop the whole thing into the oven for 35 minutes.

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The Verdict:

You can taste how long this takes to make (in a good way, I promise).  It’s got serious flavor, from first bite to finish.  It’s two of the best meals ever, on one plate – how could you not love it?  Just make sure to serve with a side salad – you’ll want something a little…lighter.

 

Smoky Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables

Last week we spent four glorious days in Burlington, Vermont with our family.  In addition to hiking, eating, and puzzle-ing, this included one of the most epic LNDPs in which I’ve ever participated.  Lesson learned – the power of an LNDP is heightened through 1) a straight T. Swift soundtrack and 2) your mom/mom-in-law.

I also think the universe is trying to tell me something about New England.  The Husband and I got caught on “flypocalypse” on our way home – meaning we spent an extra two days in Vermont (there are worse places to be stuck).  And…this weekend I head BACK to Vermont for my BFF’s wedding.  I’ll just let that marinate.

Given our quick three days at home, not a whole lot of fancy cooking going on in our kitchen this week.  I bought some fresh herbs, veggies, and fruit – but other than that, we’re making do with what we have on hand.  Like this chicken, inspired by Bon Appetit.

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Smoky Chicken Breast with Roasted Vegetables

  • olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 handful smoked paprika
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 (small) handful cumin
  • 1 (small) handful crushed red pepper
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes
  • **2-3 portabello mushrooms, sliced (see below)
  • arugula
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix olive oil through salt/pepper in a small bowl, whisk together.  Pour about half of the oil mixture into the yogurt, mix thoroughly, and set aside.
  2. Rub the oil mixture into the chicken on both sides and then place on a baking sheet.  Toss the remaining oil with the tomatoes, chickpeas, and mushrooms and spread alongside the chicken.  Season again with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast everything for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Serve on top of arugula with yogurt and parsley.

The Verdict:

I got creative here with the addition of the mushrooms, but truth be told, this would probably be better without them – the roasting makes them release a lot of liquid, which then means the chickpeas don’t roast quite as well.  However, for a one pot meal, this is healthy, tasty, and easy.  The yogurt, says the Husband, is key.

Open-faced Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Toast

Because we spent exactly one week bopping about French cafes and chowing down in patisseries, I very badly wanted to call the following recipe “Eggplant Tartine” and get all fancy and French on you.  However, since tartines usually involve some sort of buttery, rich, spreadable topping, and more importantly, since Husband actually executed this recipe and would definitely not prefer to be known as the tartine-man, I will settle for calling these “open-faced.”  (Note, though, in the picture below that I did bring back a cheesy Paris metro map placemat, much to the Husband’s chagrin.)

You could substitute burrata for some sort of smoky gouda or mozzarella and really amp up the flavor here.

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Open-faced Grilled Eggplant and Burrata Toast

  • 1 eggplant, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2-3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 big handful fresh basil
  • handful arugula
  • thick sliced toast or bread
  1. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and spray with a little cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter and garlic together in a microwave; brush the mixture over the eggplant slices.  Season with salt and pepper and grill the egglplant about 3-4 minutes per side.  (You can grill your tomatoes, too, for extra points.)
  3. Meanwhile, toast your bread and brush with any remaining butter/garlic.  Place the burrata over the warm bread so that it melts, top with eggplant, tomatoes, basil and a little bit of arugula.  Drizzle with olive oil and season as appropriate.  Serve with a side salad.

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The Verdict:

A few reasons you should make these.  1: They’re ridiculously easy (see: Husband made these). 2. They take about 20 minutes, total.  3. They’re delicious.  Like, really, really good.