Shake and Bake Chicken Nuggets

IMG_1182

What do you do when you are carving McDonald’s chicken nuggets but are trying to eat healthy? Apparently, get some shake and bake?!

I’ve never used Shake and Bake– my only experience comes from watching Charlie’s Angels, so I was skeptical at first, but this chicken nuggets tasted like a chicken nuggets! They may not be the “chicken” from McDonalds but it tastes pretty good and is healthier.

Quincy definitely approved.

IMG_1184

Get the recipe here!

Corn and Rice Stuffed Peppers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let this be known as the summer that I went corn crazy.

I have always loved fresh corn off the cob, but the corn here in the midwest tastes so much fresher and sweeter than my corn from Texas that I can’t help but make dinner after dinner with corn. Originally, these stuffed peppers came out of necessity when I was cleaning out the fridge and pantry before we moved here, and they turned out to be better than I even expected and have been repeated multiple times.

These area  great vegetarian main dish for dinner, and serve as great leftovers for lunch the next day. And they keep my cravings for corn temporarily at bay. So this dish is a winner all around.

CORN AND RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

INGREDIENTS

4-5 poblano peppers
Salt and pepper
1 cup dried brown rice
1 tablespoon butter
4 green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 ears of corn
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place poblano peppers on grill and cook until blackened and charred, about 4-5 minutes per side. Place poblanos immediately into a ziploc bag and seal. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove peppers and peel skin off. Make a cut into on side of the pepper length wise. Remove seeds and membranes. Set aside.

Preheat broiler.

Cook rice according to instructions. Heat butter in a large skillet. Sauté green onions and garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in rice and corn. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into peppers. Place in baking pan.

Stir bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and brush with olive oil. Put into oven for 5 minutes (watch carefully so it does not burn).

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Lemon Couscous with Avocado, Currants, and Almonds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Earlier this semester I had a food challenge to meet: I needed a quiet dinner food.

Once a week I have a night class that is during and far past dinner, and the professor’s one request is that we bring in quiet food as to not disturb our classmates as we ate.  The first few classes I brought in salads, figuring there would be a little crunch, but I had cut my food into small pieces and used soft toppings- and my lettuce was often old and limp so quieter than it could have been.

Well, salad was deemed a little bit too loud, so I went back to the drawing board.  I sat down and took a moment to ponder: “what foods are quiet foods?”.  After some deep reflection, it came to me: avocado. Avocado: the ultimate quiet, delicious, and filling food.  Thus, this salad was born out of a desperation for solitude and has been eaten once a week during class ever since.

Although I often leave the almonds off because of the crunch factor.

LEMON COUSCOUS WITH AVOCADO, CURRANTS, AND ALMONDS
Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup dried couscous
1 teaspoon aloppa pepper (or cumin as alternative spice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 small avocados, diced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak currants in the water. Pour currants and water with onions and cook until liquid is evaporated. Set onion mixture aside.

Cook couscous according instructions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, aloppa pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in avocado (salt avocado if needed).

Serves 3-4.

Sausage & Apple Tater Tot Bake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cliche time: I can’t believe it is already November.  Last week I remember looking at my calendar and when I saw November was days away, I was certain that I was missing a page in my planner.  This semester has gone by so. fast.

But since it’s November, it means that Thanksgiving is that much closer! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays (only topped by the month long celebration of Christmas that follows).  It seems like a holiday made for food blogging: the entire day when you only think about food. If you are in the midst of planning your turkey day menu, keep an eye out this upcoming month while I share some favorites I tried for Thanksgiving last year and have been testing this past month.

While I count down the days until Thanksgiving break (21 days), I need good meals to help me through my work.  And sometimes you just need some tater tots in your life. So today let’s tot it up!

So everyone needs a good tater tot every now and then.  Even better for these cooler months is a tater tot bake that is a warm and filling dinner.  And this dinner is easy to boot (we got to start saving our energy for the big T-day this month).

And did I mention there is cheese involved here? Tater tots and cheese.  Now that I have you hooked in- let’s even add in some fall apples on top of that.  And sausage.  And green onion.  It’s warm, cheesey, and wonderful.

SAUSAGE & APPLE TATER TOT BAKE
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest via Baked by Rachel

INGREDIENTS

2 large Gala apples, sliced
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
5-6 cups frozen tater tots
~1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine apples, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, flour, and butter.

In a large skillet, brown sausage in pan. Combine with apple filling and set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, place tater tots in an even layer on the bottom. Top with apple sausage mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes in oven. Top with cheddar cheese and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5-9 minutes. Serve immediately

Serves 3-4.

Giardinara Pasta: Improv Challenge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today let’s talk about cheese.  What is there to say about cheese besides the fact that it is great?

When I was younger, I tried to give myself the nickname Chedder.  It never really stuck, so instead I used it into a code name for myself when I wrote stories (a whole ‘nother childhood thing there).  When I started typing my stories up, I realized I saw a lot of those red squiggly spell check lines, and I came to a sad realization that I was (am) not a good speller.  Apparently Chedder is spelled Cheddar.

But that revelation did not shake my fundamental believe that any cheese is great, no matter how you spell it.

Now let’s talk about pasta.  Another wonderful food, right?  This month’s Improv Challenge had us combine these two wonderful ingredients: pasta and cheese.  Given my (un)official nickname, I knew I had to create a cheese dish to impress.  It’s really hard to mess up any dish with pasta and cheese, but this Giardinara pasta was especially good for a quick dinner.

First pasta.  It’s chewy, tender, and wonderful. Here I used macaroni noodles because I’ve loved macaroni noodles since I ate the old-school blue box mac and cheese as a kid.  Second some veggies sauteed in buttah (yes, wonderful).  Salt them up good.  Then mix in some cheese and stir it up until it gets melty and delicious.  And voila: a wonderful dinner.

Pasta and cheese.  It makes the world go round.  It makes young babies smile.  It make people want to love and hug each other. Basically, pasta and cheese are magical.  Fact.

Another idea: put your pasta dish in a bakeable pan.  Top with lots of cheese and broil until melted with golden brown spots.  Genius.

GIARDINARA PASTA
Adapted from Cooking Light

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces elbow noodles
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 cups chopped asparagus
4 carrots, chopped
2 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup capers
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Cubed mozzarella or grated Parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon butter, asparagus and carrots.  Cook until browned, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms and onions.  Cook until tender, 4-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, fennel seeds, dried thyme, crushed red pepper, capers, red wine vinegar, and cooked pasta.  Bring liquid to a boil and cook until mostly absorbed, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and stir in mozzarella or Parmesan if desired.

Serves 3-4 as a main dished, 4-6 as a side dish.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting this challenge!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made.

S.O.S

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Who wants some shit for dinner?  Shit on a shingle to be exact.

Please do not click the x on your browser yet.

Not a lot of people will talk about their dinner as shit and then proceed to post it on a food blog.  But today let’s have a little visit to a place in the United States called the northeast.

I just got back from a  vacation with my mom to visit family in Delaware.   Lots of fun, but it was definitely too short and I am definitely not ready to return to reality.  I am now back home and about the start a new, busy semester.  My only way to to console myself is to make myself some northeastern food in my own kitchen (pity party with a RSVP for one). Then eat it while I sadly prep lectures, read articles, and write papers.

The northeast is home to my wonderful family and a wonderful array of foods we don’t eat that much in the south.  Cheesesteaks, subs, scrapple, and SOS to name a few.  I love when my parents introduce me to a childhood dish- I get the best of both of our culinary worlds. North meets south.

My parents culinary home is the land of shit on a shingle and scrapple.  Mmm.

S.O.S is basically a different version of the south’s biscuits and gravy.  Instead, you use chipped beef (or any other dried meat) in the gravy and smear it over toast.  Simple, quick, and easy.

Perhaps the Civil War could have ended sooner if they all shared a plate of S.O.S and biscuits and gravy together?

And yes, you could call this dish by it’s more kid-friendly names like Stew on a Shingle or Same Old Stuff, but where is the fun in that?  Then you can’t say you ate shit for dinner, and that is a huge part of the appeal of this dish for my inner childishness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

S.O.S: SHIT ON A SHINGLE
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

4-6 ounces chipped beef, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toast

DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a small saucepan (Feel free to add more butter but the recipe will work with this amount) over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and 1/2 cup of milk.  Cook for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Increase heat to medium high and whisk in remaining milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir in chipped beef and Worcestershire.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until sauce is thickened to your liking.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over toast.

Serves 2-3.

Individual Falafel Pie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I am so over this thing called “work” and “earning a paycheck”.  Especially when said paycheck technically puts me under the poverty level.  And when textbooks for one class total $138 (when finding the best deals used).  #Gradstudentlifeisfun

So I am particularly excited to head out of town with my mom and take a trip to the northeast next week. Excited as in my neurotic self has been planning/fantasizing for the past month.  We will be visiting family and hitting New York City for a few days.  And while in New York, one goal of mine is to eat lots of food, including falafel.

I have a confession. I use to hate hummus.

At gatherings people would often joyfully announce to us all “Guess what, I have hummus for us!”. Everyone would cheer and gush, and I would remain very quiet. I’d insist I wasn’t hungry or choose the other offerings, leaving the tan dip to those who could stomach it.

Well, I was a fool. Hummus is delicious. As is lots of Greek food.  Now I love to eat hummus on pita chips and carrots, but I also like to mix my hummus with falafel. Chickpea dip on chip baked chickpea balls? I reworked my baked falafel into this single size falafel pizza, mostly to just up the cute factor. This is for when you just want straight falafel and toppings with no pita bread to slow you down.

Also, it’s great if you are looking for a lighter meal- this is a healthy, vegetarian dinner that will leave you happy and satisfied.  I am trying to trim up a little before my vacation (without any actual exercise… because I am tired and/or lazy).  My thinking is that I can just return back to my equilibrium after going hog wild on vacation.  Logic FTW.

If the falafel in New York is good, I may never be coming home.  Mom, you’re okay with 100% supporting me in a listless New York life full of eating and relaxing, right?  Good.

So tell me, what do I need to see in New York? Where should I go? Most importantly, what should I eat?

FALAFEL PIE
Inspired by Heat Oven to 350

INGREDIENTS

For the Falafel:
1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 red onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, roasted
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup all purpose flour
Olive oil, for brushing

For the Toppings:
Hummus
Tzatziki
Kalamata olives, halved
Grape tomatoes, halved
Cucumber, chopped
Sweet pickles, chopped
Feta cheese crumbles
Goat Cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the Falafel:

Pour dried chickpeas into a large bowl. Cover with water. Let soak at least 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In the food processor, combine chickpeas, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, coriander, salt, lemon juice, and water. Pulse until mixture forms a paste. Fold in baking powder and flour, until mixture stays together. Add more flour if needed.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide falafel mixture into four portions and form into 5-6 inch circles. Brush tops with olive oil. Bake for 20-23 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Top with any mixture of desired toppings. My favorite way is to spread a layer of hummus on the falafel pie and top with olives, tomatoes, cucumber, pickles, and goat cheese. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Makes four falafel pies.

Chicken Souvlaki

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Why is grilling a summer event?  Is it logical  to stand in front of a big metal contraption that is 100+ degrees when it is already 100+ degrees outside? And then you have to run in and outside, thus making your AC fight an even harder uphill battle to keep your house somewhat cool/bearable. And mosquitoes?  It takes approximately 5.3 seconds for my to get 6 separate mosquito bites, 3 of them in places that I swear was covered with clothing.  So basically grilling leads to me getting felt up by mosquitoes…and it’s the most action I have gotten in a while.

So you’ll see me this winter in my long underwear (…I promise to wear real pants too) grilling defiantly.  And these summer months you will see me inside standing in directly front of my AC vent in an attempt to get somewhat cool. (Except I won’t be grilling at all since I don’t have a grill, but that is another story entirely.)

Moral of this complaining rant: use a grill pan so you have AC in summer and heat in the winter and grill marks on your food.  Unless you want to stand outside in the heat.  Now that I have solved that problem, let me tackle that one little issue called world peace.

This chicken is light and refreshing, perfect for summer.  Warm, grilled chicken pairs well with cool yogurt and crispy cucumbers.  It will taste wonderful whether you grill it inside or outside. You can go through the entire process of marinating and such, but I won’t lie, sometimes I just splash a mix of the marinade in the pan while I cook the chicken and call it a day.

And looking back at this post I think I may understand why I am single and get those desperate spam e-mails for online dating: I complain a lot, get felt up by mosquitoes, and wear long underwear.  But I can cook! Come and get it, boys.

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken:
1-1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into approximately 4 ounce pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Tztaziki Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Special tools: cheesecloth/tea towel

For Serving:
Wild Rice
Green onions, sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Chicken:

In a large ziploc bake or baking sheet, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dill, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken and shake/stir to cover completely.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight).

Prepare your grill.  Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through (will depend on the thickness of your chicken breast).

For the Tzatziki:

Secure a cheesecloth over a measuring cup.  Spoon yogurt on top.  Refrigerate and let yogurt drain for at least 3 hours.

Place cucumber on a layer of paper towel.  Salt cucumbers and let sit for at least 20 minutes.  Transfer cucumbers to a tea towel and squeeze to remove water.  Transfer drained yogurt from cheesecloth to a large bowl.  Add cucumbers, red wine vinegar, dill, and garlic.  Mix to combine.  Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For Serving:
Place chicken on top of rice.  Spread Tzatziki sauce on top.  Garnish with green onions.
If desired, put remaining marinade in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Serve on top of chicken.