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.)

Grilled Curried Chicken Breast and Peach Salad

When the Husband and I were forced to move from our last apartment, we decided to make a big leap and move a whole one and a half blocks down, on the same street.  We are nothing if not adventurous.

Surprisingly, even this small change of scenery meant we noticed things we had never registered before.  For example, the Indian/Pakistani takeout place in the basement next door.  It even had an amazing name, involving the word “sacrificial.”  Um, OK.  Because the first thing either one of us suggests when we get home from a trip is Indian food, we’re in.

Sadly, Sacrificial didn’t live up to our (mental) hype.  So when we don’t want to walk the whole five blocks to our normal Indian place (hey, DC is HOT in the summer!), we have to make our own.  Fortunately, this dish is so easy no one feels like they’ve sacrificed anything.  Recipe adapted from Real Simple.

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Grilled Curried Chicken Breast and Peach Salad

  • about 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2-3 peaches, sliced
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • arugula
  • avocado
  1. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, curry powder, hot sauce and garlic.  Set a little bit aside, for use as your sauce later.  Stick the rest of the mixture in a ziplock bag, put your chicken breasts in there, and make sure they’re coated thoroughly.  Go off on your merry/to work ways, and let marinate for about 8 hours.
  2. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium & coat with a little cooking spray.  Toss the sliced peaches with a little salt, pepper and olive oil; grill those about 3-4 minutes.  For the last minute or two, add your scallions.  Set aside and keep warm (I wrapped mine in aluminum).
  3. Remove the chicken from its marinade and add to to the grill, cooking about 4-5 minutes per side, or until done.
  4. Assemble your salad: arugula, avocado, chicken, peaches, & scallions.  Top with a little bit of reserved sauce.

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The Verdict:

I like to make a grilled peach, chicken and goat cheese salad that’s become a staple around here on those summer nights that we realize that we’ve eaten mostly ice cream, chocolate covered pretzels, and/or cheeseburgers.  This is a nice little update that delivers those same healthy-reset vibes, so you can get back to eating ice cream, chocolate covered pretzels, and/or cheeseburgers.

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.

Sausage and Veggie Calzones

Tomorrow, Husband and I are jetting off on a very big vacation.  For me, vacation means eating, drinking, and eating some more.  Husband is a little more taken with hiking and outdoor things.

However.  This vacation is my kind of vacation.  Destination: London and Paris.  In other words, by this time tomorrow, I will be chowing SO MANY baguettes.  (OK, to be technical, by this time tomorrow I will be drinking wine courtesy of Virgin Airlines.  But I digress).

Of course, we had to practice our eating, so last night, I made these calzones.  Just to forewarn: this is quite an endeavor – almost two hours.  But this recipe makes so many that unless you’re a member of the Duggar clan (YIKES), you’ll have leftovers, which you can freeze.  Which we have, and will eat the second we get off our return flight to DC.

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Sausage and Veggie Calzones

  • 2 pounds premade pizza dough, brought to room temperature
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped and divided in half
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • large handful fresh basil
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • about a pound (4 or so links) hot Italian sausage
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • about half a pre-washed bag of arugula
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add half of the diced onion, cook down a few minutes before adding garlic and tomato paste.  Cook down another few minutes and add tomato, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and sugar.  Stir together and cook for about ten minutes.  Add basil and thyme and keep the sauce warm over low heat.
  2. As the sauce cooks, prepare your filling.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and the other half of your diced onion.  Cook down a few minutes and add bell pepper, salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper (after all, we like it spicy around here).  Cook for a few minutes before removing sausage from casings; make sure to break it up in the pan.  Cook until the meat is completely brown.
  3. Divide your (room temp!) dough into eight sections and roll each out on a lightly floured surface – so they’re about 6 inches across and as close to round as they’ll get.  Let’s be honest: this is the hardest step.  Because my kitchen is tiny, I found it helpful to layer the rolled out rounds on a plate between sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and assemble the calzones: top each pizza dough round with a layer of sauce, sausage mixture, a sprinkling of mozzarella, and a small pinch of arugula.  Fold over and crimp the edges of the calzone together.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees F for 25 minutes and serve with an additional spoonful of sauce (and some salad, let’s keep it healthy!).  If you want to freeze any calzones – pull them out at the 15 minute mark, let them cool completely, and then wrap in aluminum foil before placing in a ziplock bag in your freezer.  To reheat, bake the frozen calzones at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

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The Verdict:

We love our calzones/stromboli around here – the Husband is a pro.  But as he carefully admitted last night, “these gave [his calzones] a run for his money, and that money is still running.”

PS: I won’t be posting for the next week or so.  There are just TOO MANY baguettes to chow!

Gorgonzola Sausage Burger

I was a “vegetarian” for about ten years (i.e., I focused only on consuming pasta and cheese, and found that adopting the mantle of “vegetarian” was helpful in my quest to avoid all foods that were not pasta and cheese).

Burgers put an end to that.

The year was 2002, the setting, a 4th of July BBQ at a high school friend’s house.  Two (vegetarian) friends and I, bowled over by the smell of the grill, steathily helped ourselves to a burger.  We made our way to the garage so no one could see us, and carefully passed the stolen burger between the three of us, sharing bites, until it was gone.  Incidentally, so was my vegetarianism.

Thirteen years later, I actually love vegetables and eat far more than pasta and cheese.  (Side note: YAY!) And at least once a summer, I get that BBQ smell wafting under my nose and I just know: tonight is burger night.  Thanks to Husband for always indulging me.

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Gorgonzola Sausage Burger

  • 1 pound high quality ground beef
  • optional but delicious: one hot Italian sausage link
  • big dash Worcestershire sauce
  • big handful crushed red pepper
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • cooking spray
  • to serve:
    • good buns, toasted
    • Sriracha mayo (i.e., one part Sriracha sauce to two parts mayonnaise, whipped together)
    • pickled onions and/or cucumbers – we used the basic method outlined here
    • sliced tomato
    • red onion
    • lettuce/arugula
    • avocado
    • potato chips!
  1. In a large bowl, mix your meat, Worcestershire, spices, onion and garlic together.  Form four large patties (don’t overwork the meat).  Note – the fattiness from the sausage and the ground beef will help to bind the patty together.  If not, add an egg and some breadcrumbs to help your cause!
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Add your patties – cooking two at a time, or so – and cook about four minutes per side.  I like to tent the pan with aluminum foil in order to help the middle cook through a bit.
  3. Prep your buns! Add Gorgonzola to the bottom of each bun – this will help it melt.  (You can also add to the top of the burger as it cooks, either way.)  Add the meat patty and your favorite toppings.  Obviously, don’t forget the chips.

The Verdict:

Dear Husband, who prepared these last night: these are even better than the garage burger. Now, if only we had a backyard grill…