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.

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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.)

Villa Pasta

I did not want to graduate from college.  College = three years (because the first one was a bust) of nonstop hanging out with my friends, beers on a Tuesday night, and late night pizza with ranch dressing.  What could be better?

Answer: Graduating, and recreating my college experience in an apartment building two miles from my university.  Only this time, I had a little bit of money in my pocket and no homework.  Plus I started (not so secretly as we imagined) dating my future Husband.

Unfortunately, post-college college life was only relevant Friday through Sunday.  In order to stave off Monday mornings, future-and-now-current husband, his roommate, my roommate (still one of my BFFs and now married to Husband’s BFF, life is grand) and I used to get together for “family dinners” on Sunday evenings.  Because a few bottles of wine will definitely make Monday feel a lot better.

My roommate had “studied” abroad in Florence, where she learned from her hosts at the Villa how to make this ridiculous pasta.  At the time of family dinner, it was the best thing any one of us could ever imagine making.  It is still ridiculously good.  Only last night, I added a few “healthy” things.  Because now that I’m old, I top my pizza with extra veggies instead of ranch dressing.  I am not nearly as cool as I was once.

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Villa Pasta

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • about 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • s+p
  • one small handful crushed red pepper
  • handful basil, chopped
  • 1 carton mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 bag pre-washed spinach
  • freshly ground pepper
  • approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I used mozz, but I PROMISE it’s better with Swiss)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other tubular pasta
  1. In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil and butter.  Cook onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning.
  2. When lightly browned, add both forms of tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.  Give it a toss and then cook, covered, for 25 minutes over low/medium heat. Toward the end of the 25 minutes, get (salted) water boiling for your pasta.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach, recover, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, or until mushrooms have cooked through.  Cook your pasta in the meantime.
  4. Add cream to the sauce and adjust seasoning.  Toss hot pasta with sauce and cheese.

The Verdict:

I forgot how long this pasta takes – nearly an hour, all said and done.  But jeez louise, it is still the best thing ever.  Seriously.  Try it.  Love it.  Tell me about it.

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…